Land use planning
Land use planning affects everyone in a community or region.

Why did we need Measure G?

Why did we need Measure G when State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) spends most of his time planning how we will all live? Since his SB 50 failed in the Legislature, he’s back with SB 902. SB 902 allows city councils to override local voter approved initiatives and allow 10 units per parcel in “transit rich areas,” “job rich areas,” and “urban infill areas.”

    • Transit rich areas: within half a mile of train stations.
    • Job rich areas: offer high opportunity, lots of jobs, or enable shorter commute distances.
    • Urban infill areas: empty city lots surrounded by developed lots.

Sound familiar?

The bill does not specify how large a “parcel” has to be. Most city councils will like SB 902 because it gives them more power over those pesky voters. It would be great if our city council would pass a resolution opposing SB 902, but they will probably embrace it because it fits with their plans.

SB 902 sailed through committee with no opposition. Our State Senator Mike Morrell did not vote on this bill.

Here is the text of the bill:

An act to add Section 65913.3 to the Government Code, relating to land use.

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

SB 902, as amended, Wiener.

Planning and zoning: housing development: density.

The Planning and Zoning Law requires a city or county to adopt a general plan for land use development within its boundaries that includes, among other things, a housing element. Existing law requires an attached housing development to be a permitted use, not subject to a conditional use permit, on any parcel zoned for multifamily housing if at least certain percentages of the units are available at affordable housing costs to very low income, lower income, and moderate-income households for at least 30 years and if the project meets specified conditions relating to location and being subject to a discretionary decision other than a conditional use permit. Existing law provides for various incentives intended to facilitate and expedite the construction of affordable housing.

This bill would authorize a local government to pass an ordinance, notwithstanding any local restrictions on adopting zoning ordinances, to zone any parcel for up to 10 units of residential density per parcel, at a height specified by the local government in the ordinance, if the parcel is located in a transit-rich area, a jobs-rich area, or an urban infill site, as those terms are defined. In this regard, the bill would require the Department of Housing and Community Development, in consultation with the Office of Planning and Research, to determine jobs-rich areas and publish a map of those areas every 5 years, commencing January 1, 2022, based on specified criteria. The bill would specify that an ordinance adopted under these provisions is not a project for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act.

This bill would include findings that changes proposed by this bill address a matter of statewide concern rather than a municipal affair and, therefore, apply to all cities, including charter cities

Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: yes. State-mandated local program: no.

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:

SECTION 1.

Section 65913.3 is added to the Government Code, to read:

65913.3. (a)

(1) A local government may pass an ordinance, notwithstanding any local restrictions on adopting zoning ordinances enacted by the jurisdiction, including restrictions enacted by a local voter initiative, that limit the legislative body’s ability to adopt zoning ordinances, to zone any parcel for up to 10 units of residential density per parcel, at a height specified by the local government in the ordinance, if the parcel is located in one of the following:

(A) A transit-rich area.

(B) A jobs-rich area.

(C) An urban infill site.

(2) An ordinance adopted in accordance with this subdivision shall not constitute a “project” for purposes of Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code.

(b) For purposes of this section:

(1) “High-quality bus corridor” means a corridor with fixed route bus service that meets all of the following criteria:

(A) It has average service intervals of no more than 15 minutes during the three peak hours between 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., inclusive, and the three peak hours between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., inclusive, on Monday through Friday.

(B) It has average service intervals of no more than 20 minutes during the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 a.m., inclusive, on Monday through Friday.

(C) It has average intervals of no more than 30 minutes during the hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., inclusive, on Saturday and Sunday.

(2) (A) “Jobs-rich area” means an area identified by the Department of Housing and Community Development in consultation with the Office of Planning and Research that is high opportunity and either is jobs rich or would enable shorter commute distances based on whether, in a regional analysis, the tract meets both of the following:

(i) The tract is high opportunity, meaning its characteristics are associated with positive educational and economic outcomes for households of all income levels residing in the tract.

(ii) The tract meets either of the following criteria:

(iii) New housing sited in the tract would enable residents to live near more jobs than is typical for tracts in the region.

(iv) New housing sited in the tract would enable shorter commute distances for residents, relative to existing commute patterns and jobs-housing fit.

(B) The Department of Housing and Community Development shall, commencing on January 1, 2022, publish and update, every five years thereafter, a map of the state showing the areas identified by the department as “jobs-rich areas.”

(3) “Transit-rich area” means a parcel within one-half mile of a major transit stop, as defined in Section 21064.3 of the Public Resources Code, or a parcel on a high-quality bus corridor.

(4)) “Urban infill site” means a site that satisfies all of the following:

(A) A site that is a legal parcel or parcels located in a city if, and only if, the city boundaries include some portion of either an urbanized area or urban cluster, as designated by the United States Census Bureau, or, for unincorporated areas, a legal parcel or parcels wholly within the boundaries of an urbanized area or urban cluster, as designated by the United States Census Bureau.

(B) A site in which at least 75 percent of the perimeter of the site adjoins parcels that are developed with urban uses. For the purposes of this section, parcels that are only separated by a street or highway shall be considered to be adjoined.

(C) A site that is zoned for residential use or residential mixed-use development, or has a general plan designation that allows residential use or a mix of residential and nonresidential uses, with at least two-thirds of the square footage of the development designated for residential use.

(c) The Legislature finds and declares that ensuring the adequate production of affordable housing is a matter of statewide concern and is not a municipal affair as that term is used in Section 5 of Article XI of the California Constitution. Therefore, this section applies to all cities, including charter cities.

Departure Platform
A train departs the station.

FOR’s Recommendations for Transit Villages EIR

Friends of Redlands sent suggestions to the City regarding the Environmental Impact Report for the proposed “transit villages” around the 3 Redlands stations serving the train to San Bernardino.  Here are our suggestions:

  1. Provide for increased policing and fire protection in proportion to the expected future increase in population due to apartment living, and to increased foot traffic due to the Arrow commuter train stations.
  2. Since the purpose of an EIR is to “be aware of the quality of the human environment,” consideration should be given to the increased population density and possible need for social distancing in planning for any future pandemic.
  3. Account for taxpayer cost to modify the infrastructure to satisfy the need for increased water usage. Can this infrastructure be completed at an acceptable cost?
  4. Account for taxpayer costs due to the impact of increased population on Redlands’ failing sewer treatment plant. Can this infrastructure be completed at an acceptable cost?
  5. The aesthetic of the Downtown Historical District is a significant cultural and identity asset and has a major influence on the uniqueness of downtown Redlands. Any structures built in the Transit Villages Area should enhance this identity and be constructed in proportion to existing structures. A prime example is the old Santa Fe Station.
  6. Ensure that the increased traffic caused by the additional population will not degrade the existing Level of Service (LOS C) and allow for easy access on and off the I-10 Freeway.
  7. Downtown Redlands has always suffered for lack of adequate parking. With the loss of the mall parking where will people park for events like Market Night, the Bicycle Classic and Redlands Bowl events? Assure that there is ample automobile parking due to the increase in population (and cars) in the Transit Villages area.
  8. Provide mitigation for the increased noise due to the increase in traffic and the Arrow commuter train.
Downtown Parking Structure
Design of recently approved downtown parking structure.

The Future of Redlands–Parking Downtown

Friends of Redlands has been studying the City of Redlands’ General Plan, Downtown Specific Plan and the Transit Villages Specific Plan Draft (here after designated TVSP). The parking component of the TVSP is insufficient for the success of downtown.

As TVSP states, “Sufficient parking is essential to the success of downtown.” We do not believe TVSP provides for enough parking, not only in the short term but also in the long term. The plan relies heavily on bicycling and therefore less parking will be needed for the automobile. That begs the question, “ How convenient is it for a person to carry a day’s shopping on a bicycle in 100-degree summer heat?”

For decades parking in historical downtown Redlands
has been problematic.

It is our opinion that TVSP will make the situation worse. In the TVSP, the Redlands Mall is to be replaced with apartments and the current 900-plus parking spaces (includes Citrus Ave. lot), near to downtown, will be gone. During the day these spaces are used by shoppers, store owners and employees. On weekends, and in the evening, these spaces are used for entertainment venues like the Bicycle Classic, Redlands Bowl Performances, commencement and Market Night. Where will these people park? The plan suggests that a 200-400 space parking garage be built by the developer of the mall property. This will be totally inadequate for this area.

The parking garage near the Santa Fe Station will have 167 spaces allocated to store owners, employees, and store patrons. This garage will not be convenient to the Redlands Bowl. There are two other parking garages planned: a 160-space garage next to Ed Hales Park and another on Seventh Street near the railroad tracks. Since the City of Redlands does not have the money, construction of these two garages will depend upon public funds in the form of bonding, parking fees, or higher taxes. There is no guarantee either will ever be built.

What will be the fate of current on-street parking
under the TVSP?

The TVSP states that “parking management strategies” will be used. For example, riding the Arrow commuter train will reduce the number of parking spaces needed as well as biking and using Omnitrans. Bus loading zones are to be integrated into existing street parking downtown (each loading zone will consume a minimum of 8 diagonal parking spaces). The TVSP states that “time limits combined with prices will encourage turnover” of parking spaces and “as demand for free parking spaces approaches capacity … it is reasonable to implement paid parking programs.” These programs could be in the form of in lieu fees, paid parking programs, valet parking, and parking permits.

In summary, the loss of the current mall parking cannot be made up by the TVSP parking garages and will not fulfill the TSVP’s stated objective of “sufficient parking for the success of downtown.” The current free parking downtown would end up being some form of paid parking. With the exception of the mall and Arrow parking garages the others may never be built unless the residents of Redlands are willing to support bond measures, higher taxes and a variety of parking fees.

Friends of Redlands urges the City Council and City Planning to revise the parking component of the Transit Villages Specific Plan to meet the real needs of the city.

The Redlands Mall
The Redlands Mall currently has one tenant.

The Redlands Mall

During the 1970’s the Redlands mayor decided the historic downtown area was broken and he knew just how to solve the problem. His solution was to build a mall as was being done in many other communities at that time. Powerful state laws allowing “redevelopment” were in effect and the mayor used that weapon to take a wrecking ball to all the many commercial buildings west of Orange Street and build the Redlands Mall.

The Redlands Mall had problems from the outset. It was considerably smaller than other enclosed malls built about the same time, such as Riverside’s Tyler Mall and the two malls in San Bernardino. Three different tenants operated in the anchor space at the west end of the mall; all three failed in that location.

Today enclosed malls are not what business owners and their customers want. Virtually all retail sales in the Redlands area occur in the freestanding structures north of the freeway (the Donut Hole).

The former mayor did not want a grocery store in the smaller anchor space in the east end of the mall. Yet several groceries have successfully prevailed as the east end anchor and remain successful to this day.

What about the building itself?

The mall building itself is a concrete block structure which lacks character or architectural interest. However, it is very well built and could likely last thousands of years. The mall has over 900 parking spaces plus the large underground parking. The interior has vast open spaces and very high ceilings which would allow non-bearing interior modifications. Using non-bearing walls would be an inexpensive way to transform all or part of the mall into virtually any other type of non-residential use.

Like the earlier mayor, the present mayor has ideas about how to level the mostly vacant mall and replace it with other improvements. Over the past ten years several firms have owned the mall, yet none have taken any action to make the vacant areas a viable part of downtown Redlands.

Part of the problem is that tearing down the mall and hauling it to the landfill one dump truck load at a time would be extremely expensive. More importantly, a developer needs to have a “commercially viable” end product to be able to finance and build the replacement improvements. Isn’t it time to explore “commercially viable” solutions?

"Transit Village" housing in Montclair, CA.

Know Your Housing

The state legislature of California has passed a lot of housing bills you should know about. Here’s a short summary of the most important ones.

These laws parallel Measure G. They essentially take away local control over cities, neighborhoods, and housing. They will affect housing values, water usage, sanitation systems, traffic, parking, security and established city cultures. These laws could create crowded, unlivable residential neighborhoods and large city density, creating conditions for the spread of illnesses.

AB 1482 – Rent control

SB 330 – Limits all cities’ ability to impose new building standards that drive up construction costs. It will be effective from 2020-2025. Limits downzoning, or reducing the number of housing units that can be built in a particular space. This has been proactively adopted by Redlands City Council after the defeat of Measure G.

AB68 – Authorizes a local agency to provide, by ordinance, for the creation of accessory dwelling units in single family and multifamily residential zones. Deletes ordinances on lot coverage or requirements on minimum lot size and parking. This is the so called “Granny Flat Law.” Allows for 2 additional units on a lot.

AB 113 – Authorizes $331 million from the state’s General Fund to the National Mortgage Special Deposit Fund. It is a planning and zoning law that requires a city to adopt a land use plan that has a housing element. The law requires that the Department of Housing and community Development determine if the housing element is in compliance with that law. If not, a judgment can be brought against that city. If in compliance, then that city is eligible for financial assistance and incentives. The Redlands General Plan has a Housing Element.

AB 2923 – Authorizes the BART board of supervisors to rezone and BART-owned land within a half-mile of a BART station to set the lowest permissible limit for height, density and floor area ratio and highest permissible parking minimums. Local jurisdictions must then adopt conforming zoning laws.

AB 1763 – Creates enhanced density bonus options, including a potential 80% increase in base density and unlimited density bonuses for qualifying projects within a half-mile of a major transit stop. This bill has relevance to Redlands and the planned “transit villages.”

Density Bonus: provides an increase in allowed dwelling units per acre, floor area ratio or height

AB671 – Requires local governments to include in their housing plans to incentivize and promote the creation of affordable ADUs (additional dwelling units).

*SB 50 – Gives cities and counties two years to develop plans to boost development in their communities before state mandates for greater housing density takes effect. It would allow mid-rise apartment complexes near transit and fourplexes in single-family neighborhoods. This law would force cities to relax housing laws to allow for apartments where only single family homes are currently permitted. Note: * SB 50 did not pass. However, State Senator Scott Wiener (D – San Francisco) is working on similar bills, such as SB 902, that would allow triplex or fourplex projects on existing residential land.