Supreme Court to Consider Cities' Powers to Address Homelessness
The United States Supreme Court will decide whether homeless individuals have a constitutional right to camp on public property when they have no alternative place to sleep. This comes in response to appeals from city officials in California and the Western U.S., challenging decisions by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Martin v. Boise that deemed it cruel and unusual punishment for cities to deny homeless people a place to sleep. The 9th Circuit rulings have led to increased legal challenges for public officials dealing with homelessness in California and other Western states. Governor Newsom and city attorneys from various cities urged the Supreme Court to restore their authority over sidewalks and parks. They argue that the 9th Circuit rulings have worsened the homelessness crisis in the West Coast states. The Supreme Court will hear arguments in April and issue a ruling by the end of June.

Transportation Ballot Measure Qualifies for San Diego County Ballot
San Diego voters will consider a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation projects in the county, following the qualification of a citizens' initiative for the November ballot. Regional officials have sought infrastructure funding through a sales tax increase since 2016 when a similar measure was rejected by voters, falling short of the required two-thirds majority. Tax increases proposed through citizens' initiatives require only 50% approval, making it a strategic choice for transportation proponents. The initiative allocates funds with 50% for transit projects, 27% for highway improvements, 12% for transit operations and 7% for local road improvements, giving the San Diego Association of Governments' board control over the money. While facing challenges, including past scandals and controversies, supporters highlight potential benefits, job creation and the ability to subsidize transit fares for specific groups. Opponents, such as Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey, express concerns about the initiative circumventing state law and question spending priorities.

Caltrans Seeks Proposals for Applying Artificial Intelligence to Transportation Planning
The California Department of Transportation, in collaboration with other state agencies, has invited technology companies to propose generative AI tools by January 25 to address traffic issues and enhance road safety. The move reflects California's efforts to harness AI for government services amid concerns about potential risks associated with rapid technological advancements. Governor Gavin Newsom's executive order in September and a subsequent report emphasized the benefits and risks of using AI in state government. The state, equipped with valuable data from traffic sensors and cameras, seeks AI solutions to swiftly analyze diverse data forms and improve traffic flow. Generative AI is seen as a tool to brainstorm solutions faster than human workers, tackling reasons for traffic jams such as crashes, debris, events and recurring congestion issues. The technology could also help achieve zero road fatalities by 2050 by analyzing crash sites, lighting conditions and traffic patterns. Despite the expected changes in job roles, the state underscores that AI won't entirely replace human involvement, and the request for AI proposals involves evaluating solutions and potential contracts.

Terner Center Analyzes New Economics of Homeownership in California
California's housing market, previously more aligned with other states, has become notably pricier, hindering homeownership for its residents, with less than 45% owning homes in 2021 compared to almost 60% nationally. A UC Berkeley Terner Center for Housing Innovation report reveals that California's "age of prevalence" for homeownership hit 49 in 2021, significantly higher than the national average, marking a stark increase from 1980's 32 years old. Over time, California's housing price surge outpaced residents' wealth growth, rendering homes unaffordable for many; only 38% of 35 to 45-year-olds can afford a home in the state versus 56% nationally. This disparity has led to a significant decline in homeownership rates, especially among Black and Hispanic households, dropping from nearly 50% to 23% and 52% to 30%, respectively, between 1980 and 2021. Moreover, even among California homeowners, a small fraction, only 26% aged 60 to 75, have paid off their mortgage, partly attributed to zoning laws suppressing housing construction since the 1960s.

CP&DR Coverage: Fulton: It's Time to Build Housing -- But Can We?
California is gradually swallowing the zone changes and other requirements to meet the extremely challenging Regional Housing Needs Assessment targets in the sixth cycle of housing elements. The Department of Housing and Community Development reports that two-thirds of cities and counties in the state now have adopted housing elements. Appeals have been denied; lawsuits have been shot down. Local jurisdictions that are out of compliance are mostly accommodating the builder’s remedy applications that have come their way. Despite some ongoing skirmishes, California’s communities appear mostly ready to accommodate lots more housing. The question, according to CPD&R's Bill Fulton, now is whether the private market will build it. And if not, what does that mean for cities and counties around the state that have vastly expanded their housing capacity in their new housing elements?

Quick Hits & Updates

The governor's office released details of their Adaptation Planning Grant Program, part of the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program, for communities grappling with the increasing impacts of climate change, including extreme heat, flooding, wildfires, drought, extreme weather events and sea level rise. A lack of capacity, tools, guidance and resources hampers their ability to effectively plan for and respond to these climate impacts, hindering the development and implementation of resilience-building plans and the reduction of future risks.

San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston asked the Department of Housing and Community Development to investigate Mayor Breed's delay of an affordable housing project in Hayes Valley. The project site, Parcel K, is currently a temporary community space called Proxy and residents are divided over whether to keep it that way or proceed with affordable housing construction.

The governor's office introduced a $21.7 million funding initiative in the first round of the Regional Resilience Grant, part of the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program. The grant will support 16 regional partnerships, bringing together public entities, California Native American tribes, Community-Based Organizations and academic institutions to address climate-related challenges. The funding includes planning and implementation grants for projects tailored to the unique challenges of each region.

A new study in Cities magazine explores how proximity to employment centers in the Los Angeles region affects commuting distance for low- and high-income workers. Findings reveal that increasing proximity to the nearest employment center reduces commuting distance, but the impact varies based on the attributes of the employment centers and the income groups of the commuters. The research contributes to the understanding of the location and characteristics of employment centers that influence commuting patterns, utilizing longitudinal data from 2002 to 2019.

Nearly 1,000 acres of private land, known as the Thomas Creek project, has been transferred to the Mendocino National Forest, creating a vital wildlife corridor for the ecosystem. The Wilderness Land Trust purchased the property for just over $2 million, preventing potential residential development and protecting critical habitat for species like spotted owls, martens, mountain lions and the rare Anthony Peak lupine plant.

Beverly Hills is appealing a Los Angeles County Superior Court judgment that would restrict its ability to approve new building permits until it meets California's housing requirements. The court ruled that the city failed its duty to plan for future housing needs and if the ruling takes effect, Beverly Hills would be temporarily unable to issue building permits for projects not adding to the overall housing stock until its Housing Element plan gains state approval.

San Francisco supervisors Aaron Peskin and Connie Chan are considering a lawsuit against the state due to perceived unequal treatment in housing policies, particularly legislation championed by Senator Scott Wiener. Wiener contends that San Francisco requires extra assistance to address housing shortages, highlighting the city's lengthy permitting process as a major obstacle to new housing construction.

A new federal bill introduced by Democrats aims to ban hedge funds from owning single-family homes in the US, requiring them to sell off such properties over a decade while imposing tax penalties. The legislation, if enacted, intends to increase availability for individual buyers and counter the trend of corporate-backed investment, which has surged housing prices and limited access for many Americans.

A group of 18 California children, ages 8 to 17, has filed a new constitutional climate case against the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in federal court, alleging the agency's allowance of planet-warming pollution from regulated sources has harmed children's health and welfare. The lawsuit, Genesis B. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, follows a successful youth climate case in Montana and seeks to hold the EPA accountable for violating the US Constitution and misusing its authority. The plaintiffs contend that the EPA, over its five-decade history, has knowingly permitted significant planet-warming emissions, leading to detrimental impacts on children's lives, and are seeking a trial to address these issues.

Amid California's pandemic-induced population decline, recent census data indicates a net loss of nearly 9,000 residents with advanced degrees between 2021 and 2022, marking a shift from previous years where this group tended to move into the state. Factors like high living costs and remote work opportunities contributing to relocation are affecting not only lower-income residents but also highly-educated individuals, impacting the state's population dynamics.