A note to readers

Dear CP&DR Readers,

By now, you may have heard that I have decided to move on from my current job as Planning Director of the City of San Diego to become the Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston. (See http://kinder.rice.edu/content.aspx?id=2147485438&blogid=306.) I’m writing this short missive to reassure you that I remain committed to California Planning & Development Report – and, in fact, I’ll have more motivation and bandwidth to devote to CP&DR than I have had in recent years.

Promise of $130m draws out a specialists' debate on getting sustainable development right

It's only $130 million. That's all the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) program has to spend this coming year. Spread out statewide, it's enough money to help steer some projects toward the prescribed goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through environmentally responsible development. It's not enough to build a lot from scratch.

CP&DR News Summary, August 12, 2014: Legislators, Brown, give themselves more time to finish $7.2 billion water bond; the whittling-down of Ponte Vista; 'boomerang funds', and more

August 11 would have been the deadline for California's statewide ballots to go to press, but state legislators pushed that date back as they continued to work on a water bond deal with Governor Jerry Brown. According to Ben Adler of Capitol Public Radio, details emerged late in the day of a plan calling for almost $7.2 billion in spending -- most of it in new bond funds -- of which $2.5 billion would support surface water storage projects.

A Beachhead Against Placelessness

It’s no secret that Walmart stores have caused the entire economies of small towns to decamp for some highway strip and, ultimately, wind up in Bentonville. But at least you know a Walmart when you see it – from miles away, no less.

A similarly insidious trend toward generic placelessness has been taking place in smaller-scale communities, even in many of the places that progressive planners hail as attractive, functioning communities.

California Supreme Court's Tuolumne ruling: direct adoption of initiatives does not require CEQA review

The California Supreme Court has ruled that an initiative is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act even if it is adopted by a local elected body rather than placed on the ballot.

“Because CEQA review is contrary to the statutory language and legislative history pertaining to voter initiatives,” wrote Justice Carol Corrigan for a unanimous court, “and because policy considerations do not compel a different result, such review is not required before adoption of a voter initiative.”

OPR's new traffic draft rethinks congestion

In a sweeping new set of recommendations, the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research has proposed that traffic congestion no longer be considered a significant environmental impact under the California Environmental Quality Act, and that expanded roadways in congested areas be assessed for possible growth-inducing impacts.

CP&DR News Summary, August 5, 2014: Sacramento arena ruling appealed; Legislature is back; SF looks at Prop M office construction cap

Petitioners in the Saltonstall CEQA challenge to the Sacramento Kings arena project filed a notice of appeal July 31, but the Sacramento Bee reports the Kings began demolition at the downtown site anyway. The Saltonstall petitioners lost an injunction petition last week in superior court. The Bee reports the Kings' counsel argued that the NBA could purchase and move the team if the arena failed to open on time in October 2016. See http://bit.ly/1s7rraV and http://bit.ly/1saO6AV.

Court review announcements: Priceline hotel case goes to State Supreme Court, and more

The California Supreme Court has agreed to review an appellate ruling that Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity and similar "online travel companies" (OTCs) did not have to pay San Diego hotel tax on income they derived using a "merchant model" approach to marketing local hotel rooms. The Second District ruled that if an OTC contracts with a hotel for a block of rooms at a fixed wholesale rate, and then retails them to guests at higher prices, then city hotel tax is due only on the wholesale rate, not the difference the OTC receives.

High-Speed Rail bond authorization upheld

Fresh from its major Atherton win (see Bill Fulton's writeup at http://www.cp-dr.com/node/3540), the High-Speed Rail Authority won another key ruling July 31 that upheld the validity of its authorization to issue bonds for the project and said the project's preliminary funding plan did not need to be redone.

Fourth District rules special 'electorate' not OK for San Diego's special hotel tax

California's Fourth Appellate District on Friday struck down a special hotel tax that San Diego hotel operators had willingly imposed on themselves, as members of an unusually defined special district, to raise money for the city's convention center expansion. The court ruled that the tax required a two-thirds citywide popular vote for approval.

Under Proposition 13 as broadened in 1996 by Proposition 218, special taxes must be approved by a two-thirds vote of "the qualified electors" of the affected district, also expressed as "the electorate" of the district.

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Insight: What comes next after LOS?

The Governor’s Office of Planning & Research is a month late in issuing its final recommendation on whether to replace “level of service” as the measurement of significant transportation impacts in transit priority areas under the California Environmental Quality Act. But there’s not much mystery: OPR has sent clear signals that it is going to propose replacing LOS with vehicle miles traveled, or VMT.

Courts and OPR may revise CEQA sooner than the Legislature

CEQA's future has been in holding patterns across all California's branches of government this summer. But while big things are expected any day in the administrative or judicial branch, CEQA is a sore and sour subject in the Legislature.

Third District upholds high-speed rail EIR over Peninsula towns' objections

In the latest decision on a long series of legal challenges by Peninsula cities and environment groups to the California High Speed Rail project, the Third District Court of Appeal has upheld the final programmatic environmental impact report for the portion of the project that calls for a route from the Central Valley over the Pacheco Pass into Bay Area suburbia.

Westlands Water District contracts found exempt from CEQA

California's Fifth Appellate District on July 3 upheld the Westlands Water District's 2012 interim renewal contracts for Central Valley Project water from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, finding the changes they represented were exempt from CEQA review sought by environmental groups.

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