Category Archive: Regional and Local Updates

  1. When Process Is Politics: 2018 California Primary Election Recap

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    When California adopted a primary system that advanced the top two vote-getters regardless of party to the November election, advocates anticipated that moderate candidates with broader appeal would benefit. Yet, news coverage leading up to and following the primary, which took place June 5, was dominated by concerns about the system’s real effect: splitting votes. In addition, same day registration and a glitch in Los Angeles County’s voter rosters added to concerns about how the voting process might impact the races.

    State Office

    Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) beat out two fellow Democratic contenders, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and California State Treasurer John Chiang, with 33.4% of the vote and will run against San Diego businessman John Cox (R), who earned 26.2% of the vote November. If elected, Newsom states he will focus on increasing investments in affordable housing, promote the use of Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts to fund infrastructure projects, and work with the private sector to create workforce housing. Cox aims to repeal the gas tax increase and reduce regulations on businesses as a path to stimulating economic growth.

    Two Democrats, Eleni Kounalakis and Ed Hernandez, will advance to the general election for lieutenant governor. Kounalakis, who previously served as the U.S. ambassador in Hungary, edged out Hernandez, a former state Assemblymember and Senator, as the top vote-getter. Prior to her appointment as ambassador, Kounalakis held the position of President of her family business, AKT Development, which develops housing for middle-class families.

    Secretary of State Alex Padilla, Controller Betty Yee, and Attorney General Xavier Becerra all advanced to the general election. Fiona Ma (D), who received 43% of the vote, will compete against Greg Conlon (R) to succeed John Chiang (who lost his bid to become Governor) as California State Treasurer.

    State Assembly

    Senate Democrats no longer hold the supermajority necessary to pass tax and fee increases following the defeat of Josh Newman, who lost the 29th District seat over a vote to raise gas taxes. Republican Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang will now hold the office representing Orange County.

    U.S. Senate Races

    California Senate President pro Tempore Emeritus Kevin De Leon (D) advanced to the November election despite receiving only 11.3% of the vote against incumbent Sen. Diane Feinstein (D), who received 43.8% of the vote in a crowded field of 19 candidates. Feinstein has backed legislation to expand the definition of homelessness so that more children and families who currently do not qualify would have access to federal housing assistance.

    De Leon served as pro Tempore last year when Gov. Brown signed the historic housing package, and was one of the authors of SB 1206, which asks voters to approve the use of Mental Health Services Administration bond funds for the No Place Like Home program, which aims to dedicate $2 billion for permanent supportive housing for individuals with severe mental health issues who are experiencing or at risk of chronic homelessness.

    U.S. House Races

    In the Bay Area, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D) advanced easily to the general election in San Francisco (12th District) finishing ahead of Lisa Remmer (R) and five other candidates. Pelosi has a long history of supporting Low-Income Housing Tax Credits, the redevelopment of public housing, and programs that provide housing for individuals experiencing homelessness, especially those with HIV/AIDS. Remmer is running on a platform of school choice for parents, cutting H1B visas, and securing the nation’s borders to prevent illegal immigration.

    Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-11th District) also easily advanced to the November election, where he will face John Fitzgerald (R) to represent Contra Costa. DeSaulnier supports permanently expanding tax credits for low-income homebuyers, as well as programs to provide housing for homeless veterans and students.

    In San Mateo, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-14th District), who received 77.7% of the vote, will face Republican challenger Cristina Osmena in November. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-15th District) of Hayward-Livermore, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-17th District) of Fremont-Milpitas, and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-18th District) of Silicon Valley-Santa Cruz will all face Republican challengers in November Rep. Barbara Lee (D-13th District) ran unopposed in Berkeley-San Leandro, as did Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-19th District), who represents San Jose.

    In the Los Angeles area, two Democrats are vying against each other in two races. Rep. Judy Chu is running against Bryan Witt in the San Gabriel Foothills (27th District). The closest runner-up to Rep. Nanette Barragan to represent South Los Angeles-Compton (44th District) was Compton Mayor Aja Brown who dropped out of the race in April. Barragan has supported efforts to protect seniors from losing their homes and introduced the Housing Homeless Veterans Act.

    Republicans finished first in two primary races. Rep. Steve Knight (25th District) is running against Katie Hill (D) to retain his seat, and Ryan Downing is challenging Rep. Linda Sanchez (38th District) in Eastern Los Angeles. Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-32nd District) of the San Gabriel Valley ran unopposed.

    Democrats finished first in six of seven races and will run against Republicans in the general election. Candidates include Rep. Adam Schiff (28th District) of Burbank-Glendale, Reps. Tony Cardenas (29th District) and Brad Sherman (30th District) of the San Fernando Valley, Rep. Ted Lieu (33rd District) of Coastal Los Angeles, Rep. Karen Bass (37th District), and Maxine Waters (43rd District).

    In the San Diego region, Diane Harkey (R) will advance with 25.5% of the vote in a bid to fill Rep. Darrell Issa’s seat in the 49th District. Harkey, who has represented Southern California as a member of the State Board of Equalization since 2014, emphasized streamlining tax laws and regulations during her campaign.

    Currently Democrats Mike Levin and Sara Jacobs are vying for the second spot, trailed by Democrat Doug Applegate and Republicans Kristin Gaspar and Rocky Chavez. Levin’s priorities include sustainable energy and environmental protection, providing affordable health coverage, and fighting for campaign finance reform. Jacobs’ platform include expanding access to affordable housing and protecting individuals from housing discrimination.

    Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-50th) also advanced with nearly 50% of the vote, and will defend his seat against Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar (D) in November. A former Labor Department official with the Obama administration, Campa-Najjar worked to expand the nation’s apprenticeship program and help small businesses secure federal contracts.

    In Central and South San Diego County, Reps. Juan Vargas (D-51), Scott Peters (D-52), and Susan Davis (D-53) each won their races with more than 55% of the vote. All will likely face Republicans in the general election.

    Local Races

    In San Francisco, the Mayor’s race was still too close to call with ballots yet to be counted as long as they arrive by Friday, June 8. As of Wednesday evening, Mark Leno led Board of Supervisors President London Breed by less than a percentage point in the bid to replace Ed Lee as Mayor through ranked choice voting. Breed briefly held the position of Acting Mayor of San Francisco following Lee’s unexpected death in late 2017.

  2. Riverside City Council Adopts Housing First Strategy

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    The Riverside City Council voted unanimously on March 13 to adopt a Housing First strategy that aims to shift City resources from managing homelessness to ending it by increasing the availability of supportive housing options for people experiencing  homelessness. As part of the plan, the City adopted the Housing First model, made recommendations for operationalizing the model, and identified potential sites for development in each ward. The Housing First strategy builds on the region’s success of functionally ending Veteran homelessness in 2016 and lessons learned, including using Housing First, ensuring leadership, and acting with a sense of urgency. The City Council also authorized partnerships with the following entities:

    1. County of Riverside Department of Behavioral Health to be the applicant for No Place Like Home bond funds from the State to fund housing and support services to homeless individuals.
    2. County of Riverside Housing Authority to make 389 County-administered Housing Choice Vouchers available within the City for future Housing First developments.
  3. LA City Council Pledges to Build Housing for the Homeless in Each District

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    The Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0-1 in March to approve a pledge wherein each council member agrees to build 222 units of supportive housing in his or her district by July 1, 2020. The pledge, although not binding, is a public declaration in support of building supportive housing throughout the city. This is significant in Los Angeles, where a project cannot receive City funding for homeless or low-income housing until it receives a “letter of acknowledgement” from the council member in the corresponding district. This comes over a year after Los Angeles voters approved Measure HHH by 76%, approving the bond measure that will generate $1.2 million in bonds to house the homeless.

  4. Fruitvale Village Study Highlights TOD Benefits

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    A new study of Oakland’s Fruitvale Village conducted by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative showed that transit-oriented development enhanced residents’ socioeconomic well-being without resulting in the displacement of Latino residents. The study highlights how BART worked with the local Unity Council to create a community-driven transit-oriented development plan that resulted in improved education outcomes and higher incomes and home ownership rates as compared to similar communities within the region and statewide. The study provides valuable insight for other jurisdictions planning transit-oriented development projects to address the housing crisis.

  5. Around the State

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    San Diego

    San Diego EDC Launches Inclusive Economic Growth Initiative

    In February, the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC) launched an  inclusive growth initiative to address growing concerns about the risks to San Diego’s economic development as employees and companies choose more affordable regions due to rising unaffordability and demographic shifts. The initiative aims to bring together stakeholders from government, education, business, and philanthropy to conduct research, discuss key issues, and make recommendations to local leaders. Jennifer LeSar, CEO of LeSar Development Consultants, will serve on the initiative’s steering committee in the role of a local employer and housing markets expert.

    Inclusive Economic Growth Luncheon Hosted by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation

    The EDC recently published a study, Future of Growth in San Diego: The Economic Case for Inclusion, outlining three specific challenges the initiative will address: the minority attainment gap, the housing affordability crisis, and the difficulty small businesses face attracting talent and remaining competitive. The EDC and the Steering Committee will meet regularly over the next year to develop its recommendations, and will provide research and progress updates on the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation website.

    Los Angeles

    Image of the Los Angeles County Affordable Housing Action PlanLos Angeles County Board of Supervisors Approves Housing Policy Recommendations

    LDC and its affiliate, Estolano LeSar Advisors, created an Affordable Housing Action Plan (AHAP) for the County of Los Angeles in late 2017.  At its February 20th meeting, the County of Los Angeles Board of Supervisors approved four of the housing policies recommended in the AHAP:  Affordable Housing Preservation; Inclusionary Housing; Homeless Housing; and, Streamlining for certain Multifamily Developments. The Affordable Housing Preservation policy would include measures to prevent the conversion of affordable housing to market rate housing, and generate funding to provide for the rehabilitation of low-income housing. Inclusionary Housing would require developers to either build affordable housing as part of their project, or pay an in-lieu fee. And, the Streamlining policy would allow for multifamily developments to be allowed by-right in certain zones.

    Bay Area

    Berkeley Builder First to Employ New Streamlining Law

    In early March, a subsidiary of Blake Griggs filed an application with the City of Berkeley for streamlined approval of a 260-unit multifamily development, becoming the first developer to invoke Senate Bill 35. The law, which went into effect January 1, 2018, allows for streamlined approval of projects in cities that have not met their regional housing needs. The City is subject to SB 35 because it has permitted less than 4% of its low-income housing as required by the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development. SB 35 aims to boost the production of affordable housing statewide by streamlining the approval process in jurisdictions that have not produced adequate housing to meet population growth projections. The law has also sparked controversy about the decline of local control over housing.

  6. Around the State

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    Bay Area

    Factory OS Tour

    On January 30, LDC staff toured Factory OS, a new company specializing in the off-site construction of pre-fab modular homes. Co-owned by well-known developer Rick Holliday of Holliday Development and Larry Pace of Cannon Contractors, the company aims to speed up the production and reduce the costs of building both market rate and affordable multifamily housing. A recent San Francisco Chronicle article reported that Factory OS is already slated to produce more than 1,700 total units for five projects in the cities of Oakland, Emeryville, Mountain View, and Union City. The Mountain View project developed for Google owner Alphabet Inc. will produce an estimated 300 modular apartment units for Google employees. See more photos from the Factory OS tour.

    The Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley recently launched a research project to understand how the cost of building affects development and what the public and private sector can do to reduce these costs to boost housing supply. So far, the series has examined the drivers of San Francisco’s housing costs, which include specific challenges related to lengthy and complex permitting and development processes, building codes and design requirements, workforce and procurement rules, and environmental regulations.

    Los Angeles

    Mariachi Plaza station, serving the Metro Gold Line in Los Angeles

    In late January, the Metro Board of Directors approved executing Exclusive Negotiation Agreements for the joint development of two properties. The first is with the East LA Community Corporation (ELACC) for a 60-unit affordable housing complex for households earning 30 to 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) at the Mariachi Plaza Station site. The development will also include retail and dining space, a Mariachi Cultural Center, bicycle spaces, and a park and community garden. ELACC hopes the units will house some of the mariachis who are struggling to live in the area amid higher housing costs. The second project will also provide 60 units for households earning 30 to 50 percent AMI, as well as 25,000 square feet of retail/grocery space, a community park, and parking space. The project will be developed by Abode Communities at Cesar E. Chavez Avenue and Fickett Street in Boyle Heights, according to the StreetsBlog.

    The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority has approved the “Twenty-Eight by ’28” Plan, which aims to promote and accelerate the development of key road, transit, and bicycle projects ahead of the 2028 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Projects include new bus rapid transit corridors, a river bike path and mobility hub in the San Fernando Valley, and the acceleration of the South Bay Light Rail Extension and the Gold Line Eastside Extension to Whittier or South El Monte.

    The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) reported on January 25 that they anticipate a $13.2 million shortfall in annual funding for families experiencing homelessness, according to a January 26th report from Southern California Public Radio. Clients have been entering the system at five times the rate of the previous year, and LAHSA may need to consider whether to reallocate funding from other programs to address the increased need.

    San Diego

    Georgette Gomez
    District 9 Councilmember
    City of San Diego

    On January 18, the Metropolitan Transit System unanimously elected San Diego City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez to serve as its new chair. Gomez, a leading environmental justice advocate prior to her election to City Council, seeks to expand ridership by improving services and facilities and by providing free or discounted passes to youth. She will oversee the implementation of the Mid-City Centerline project, efforts to increase bus frequency, and a pilot program to test Zero Emission Buses.

    San Diegans for Managed Growth announced January 22 that they are sponsoring a “Save Our San Diego Countryside” ballot initiative that would require county voters to approve large housing developments in unincorporated areas. The initiative’s backers argue that existing zoning guidelines provide adequate land for development, while developers and other argue that current laws allow for general plan amendments to adapt to the changing needs of the population and local communities. Opponents also expressed concerns that the process could impede efforts to expand the supply of housing in the region.

  7. Alameda County Housing Bond Funding Now Available

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    In October 2017, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to approve the first four permanent financing resolutions using funds from Measure A1, a November 2016 bond measure to create and preserve affordable housing. In Oakland, the Fruitvale BART project will receive $6.35 million to build 94 units and the EMBARK homeless housing project will receive $2.7 million to build 70 units. The East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation and the Unity Council will develop the Fruitvale project with the EMBARK units under development with Resources for Community Development. In Pleasanton, the Kottinger Gardens II project will receive $4.6 million for Mid Pen Housing to develop 54 units in Pleasanton. In addition, the Grayson Street project in Berkeley will receive $691,394 for Satellite Affordable Housing Associates to develop 24 affordable units.

    As in other parts of the state, affordable housing is badly needed in Alameda County.  HUD’s 2017 annual assessment found that 5,629 people are homeless, including 68.6 percent who are unsheltered, the fourth highest unsheltered rate in the nation.

    In November 2016, nearly three-quarters of Alameda County voters cast their ballots in favor of Measure A1, which will raise $580 million to provide affordable local housing and prevent displacement for low- and moderate-income households, veterans, seniors, and people with disabilities. Funds will also be allocated to permanent supportive housing, and to assist low- and middle-income households in purchasing homes.

    Liz Tracey is an expert on affordable housing and community development finance using tools such as the Low Income Housing Tax Credit and New Markets Tax Credits. For information about affordable housing and community development financing resources, contact Liz Tracey, Senior Principal, LDC at



  8. How Will the 2017 Housing Package Affect 2018?

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    Colorado Court Apartments, affordable housing in Santa Monica, CAOf the 130 housing-related bills introduced last year, 15 were approved and signed into law by Gov. Brown.  As we look forward to 2018, we’ve examined how some of these bills might be catalysts for change in 2018.  In particular, we examined SB35, Senator Wiener’s streamlining bill; SB40, Senator Roth’s Workforce Housing Opportunity Zone (WHOZ) bill; and, AB1397, Assemblymember Low’s bill addressing housing element inventory.

    SB35 (Wiener) is a measure that streamlines certain multifamily housing project approvals, at the request of the developer, in jurisdictions that have not met their Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) requirements or have not submitted housing elements for two consecutive years.

    Qualifying developments must meet the following requirements: (1) be in an urbanized area (population of 50,000 or more) or an urban cluster (population 2,500 – 50,000); (2) have at least 75 percent of its perimeter adjoining parcels that are already developed as urban uses; and, (3) be zoned residential or mixed-use, with at least 2/3 of the square footage dedicated for residential use. Several exclusions, including excluded land use designations, apply.

    SB 540 (Roth) establishes “Workforce Housing Opportunity Zones” (WHOZs).  Jurisdictions that opt in will encourage the development of affordable housing near jobs and transit by creating zones where planning, environmental review, and public input is completed through Specific Plans.  Developments within Specific Plan areas will benefit in that they will require neither CEQA review nor discretionary review. In 2018, we’ll see jurisdictions begin to develop specific plans in order to take advantage of this program and incentivize the development of affordable housing.

    AB 1397 (Low) makes changes to how governments comprise their housing element site inventories.  For instance, parcels must have sufficient water, sewer, and utilities in order to be counted.  Sites that are now vacant will now need to overcome certain restrictions in order to be included.  And, sites must be “available” for residential development, or show that they have “realistic and demonstrated” potential to be developed.

    Artemis Spyridonidis covers housing policy issues, including structural solutions to the housing affordability crisis, consolidated plans, housing elements, accessory dwelling unit policy implementation, and regional issues across the state of California.

    To learn more about LDC’s policy services, contact Artemis Spyridonidis, Senior Associate, at

  9. City of Los Angeles Passes Motel Conversion, Permanent Supportive Housing Ordinances

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    In its last session of 2017, the Los Angeles City Planning Commission passed two ordinances to facilitate the development of transitional and permanent supportive housing. The Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Ordinance would streamline the production of permanent supportive housing by establishing standard criteria and removing regulatory barriers. To qualify as a permanent supportive housing project, all units would be required to be affordable with half or more of those units designated for persons who are homeless. All projects would be linked to onsite or offsite supportive services, require a 55-year affordability covenant, and ensure one-to-one replacement of any existing affordable units.

    If passed by the Los Angeles City Council, the PSH Ordinance would allow new developments to be built at higher density, because units are typically designed for individuals, and would exempt them from mandatory parking minimums. Project would still be required to meet the height and floor area limitations that apply under the existing density bonus program to ensure that the scale of buildings would be similar to a typical affordable housing project.

    The second, the Interim Motel Conversion Ordinance, would streamline the approval process for converting existing motels and hotels to supportive and transitional housing for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. This would allow for transitional housing to be developed on a faster timeline than would be required to construct new units.

    Both ordinances will be forwarded to relevant City Council Committees for consideration and to the City Attorney for review before they can come to the City Council for a vote.


    Winnie Fong, Senior Associate, provides research, analysis, writing, and project management leadership in support of various consulting projects, especially ELP’s role as Executive Director for the Westside Cities Council 

    of  Governments. For more information, contact Winnie Fong, Senior Associate, at

  10. Celebrating the 1/3 Point Progress with CASA – The Committee to House the Bay Area

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    Sen. Scott Wiener Speaking to CASA

    CASA is a year-and-a-half long convening of diverse, multi-disciplinary Bay Area leaders to create a regional housing implementation plan that commenced in June 2017 and will wrap up in October 2018.  Led by representatives from local and regional government, business, the social equity community, labor, private and affordable housing development, philanthropy, and finance, CASA is one-third of the way toward developing the plan, which aims to dramatically change the housing production paradigm and enable the Bay Area to meet its housing needs and protect its most vulnerable residents.

    As the CASA facilitator, I have had the opportunity to work closely with the Co-Chairs and Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) leadership to guide the process for both its Steering Committee and Technical Committee. By December, the group had held five Technical Committee meetings and one Steering Committee meeting, and had completed a significant portion of its preliminary work. You can download the meeting agendas to learn more about the group’s work, but here’s a quick recap of where we have been and a forecast on where we are going:

    • June: 50 members of the Steering and Technical Committees shared the impacts of the housing crisis, key obstacles faced by their organizations and constituents, and actions they were taking in response to the lack of affordability and availability of housing.
    • July: Key themes from the June meeting and a literature review on the Bay Area crisis and relevant statewide, national, and international thought leadership were shared.  A work plan strategy map was presented.
    • September: The three Co-Chairs presented preliminary ideas corresponding to our Actions Strategy focusing on housing production, the preservation of affordable housing stock, and the protection of vulnerable residents and communities. We also debuted our governance frameworks and action ideas templates, and received an overview of MTC’s funding sources (new vocabulary for housing and social equity folks!). Using our Gradients of Agreement decision-making system, we scored the protection and production action ideas.
    • October: We scored the last of the three prongs of our work – the preservation ideas, and we reviewed the scoring from the September meeting to determine where we had general agreement and/or lack of consensus.  We also had detailed presentations on distinguishing between gentrification and displacement, understanding the underlying pressures and strategies to strengthen the resilience of communities, and understanding the financial realities of building housing.
    • December: We held our first workshop to begin building the key elements of our regional housing framework, and to gather feedback on our community engagement strategy.  Detailed presentations identified the amount of publicly owned land that could be available for transit-proximate housing development, and we received an update on MTC’s work on its housing actions from its Plan Bay Area 2040.

    2018 will bring continued focus on articulating our framework to ensure that the plan is equitable, inclusive, and impactful, and that it puts the Bay Area on a trajectory to meet the needs of its current and future residents. Please follow our progress as we build out and vet our action ideas through our Technical and Steering Committees, community meetings, and CASA members’ networks. If you are interested in adapting and building upon this process for your region or local community, please reach out to Jennifer at

    With more than 30 years of experience in the real estate development and investment banking industries, Jennifer LeSar brings a diverse background to her work in community development and urban revitalization. Her technical expertise spans from policy and program development to the origination and underwriting of complex investments in equity funds, multi-family portfolios, and historic and low-income tax credit properties utilizing federal and state financing programs.

    For more information about innovative approaches to address our housing crisis, contact Jennifer LeSar, President and CEO, at