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CP&DR News Briefs August 8, 2017: SANDAG In Hotter Water; Tahoe Report Card; and More

Noemi Wyss on
Aug 7, 2017

Reports Point to Further Cover-Ups over Misleading SANDAG Ballot Measure
In an investigative series, Voice of San Diego reports that the San Diego Association of Governments misled the public on two separate ballot measures. An internal document discussed in November 2016 suggests that agency staff knew that a 2004 ballot measure to increase county sales tax included misleading language but declined to publicly admit the deception. As reported by Voice of San Diego last month, SANDAG misled by telling voters the tax would raise far more funds than the agency actually expected. SANDAG staffers offered the SANDAG board members and the public explanation for its ongoing scandal that they knew were false or incomplete. Agency staffers had multiple opportunities to disclose this information to the board or public and repeatedly withheld the information. The TransNet ballot measure has been running an extreme revenue shortfall, it was predicted to bring in $14.2 billion but now is closer to $9 billion. Now the Voice of San Diego contends that staff at SANDAG took steps to hide public records and delete official documents last year after the major errors in revenue forecasting were revealed.

Lake Tahoe Report Card Indicates Warming, Record Precipitation
UC Davis’ Tahoe Environmental Research Center released the report, “From Treetops to Lake Bottom, Tahoe’s Annual Report Card.” In 2016 the lake saw the hottest temperatures on record as well as unprecedented levels of rain and snow. The report looks at the ongoing, decades-long measurement programs as well as what autonomous underwater vehicles are finding in the lake. Key findings include the record numbers of dead and dying trees due to drought stress, insect attack and disease. Climate change has led to the warming of the lake 0.5 degrees per year, longer summers, and increased algae growth in the water. The annual report is aimed informing non-scientists about the most important factors affecting lake health and the influence on decisions about ecosystem restoration and management within the lake basin.

Court Strikes Down Sonoma County Climate Action Plan 
Judge Nancy Case Shaffer rejected the environmental document supporting Sonoma County’s Climate Action Plan for reducing GHG emissions, finding it does not adequately account for emissions generated outside the county. Shaffer said the plan adopted by supervisors last year is based on insufficient information and violates CEQA. The California River Watch sued the county and the Regional Climate Protection Authority over the plan. Supervisor David Rabbitt says the county and its nine cities are among the first in the nation to initiate such a progressive policy and access River Watch of halting growth. The county now will have to amend the plan or start over.

CEQA Suit over Inland Empire Highway Goes to Appeal
The Center for Biological Diversity and other environmental groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals over concerns of environmental impacts of a proposed 16-mile highway corridor intended to link San Jacinto and Perris. The suit arguing the project is a waste of taxpayer money, will not solve traffic problem, will break up neighborhoods and wildlife habitat. In May, U.S. District Judge George Wu ruled in favor of the proposed Mid County Parkway. The $1.7 billion project is jointly involving the Riverside County Transportation Commission and the Federal Highway Administration. The project is still in the design phase, but RCTC has already initiated the process of identifying how to mitigate impacts related to construction of an interchange in Perris.

Greenhouse Gases Fell 0.3 Percent in 2015
California’s greenhouse gas emissions have fallen 0.3 percent in 2015, meaning the state will most likely reach 1990s levels by 2020, according to the California Air Resources Board's annual greenhouse gas inventories. However, more distant goals may be more difficult to meet. The data shows emissions from electrical plants fell in 2015, largely due to the growth of solar facilities, but the amount of GHG from planes and cars increased. The largest source of greenhouse gases in the state is transportation, contributing around 39 percent of the state’s emissions. Since peaking in 2004 at 489 million metric tons, California’s emissions have fallen 10 percent to 440.

Quick Hits & Updates
The Trump administration rolled back controversial regulations for wetlands imposed during the Obama presidency. Now the State Water Resources Control Board plans to adopt its own regulations that could protect more of the state’s wetlands from being plowed, paved, drained or otherwise damaged.

In March, Los Angeles Metro approved track alignments and funding increase for LinkUS – the estimated $2.75 billion project that would convert Union Station from a stub-end to a run-through station. In July, the Metro Board Planning and Programming Committee introduced an above-grade concourse which would be circular with escalators and stairs down to the train platforms. In October, Metro is expected to released an RFI/Q/P to clarify how LinkUS could potentially proceed with additional private development onsite. The study is currently evaluating possible bike/walk connections between the station and the planned LA River multi-use path.

The group leading Sacramento’s bid for a Major League Soccer team has begun pre-construction activities at the site of its planned 19,621-seat stadium. The team’s goal is to complete the first phase of construction before winter. Republic FC officials say the stadium is on a realistic timeline to be completed in time for the 2020 MLS season. The area around the stadium, a former railyard, will also include a Kaiser Permanente hospital complex and 10,000 homes.

Anti-abortion protesters have targeted the San Francisco Planning Commission for its recent approval of a Planned Parenthood Center on Bush Street. Protestors have shown up at four of the commissioners’ homes and have written messages in chalk on the sidewalk.
According to the San Luis Obispo Tribune, some county officials and residents are concerned about the increased number of wells being drilled by cannabis farms in the area. The region has little water, which is very shallow and salty, and the spike from two wells drilled in 2015 to 20 in 2016 is alarming to some. Some county officials are not confident about the current water supply and some lawsuits have been filed against cannabis growers for their potable water wells being drained for cannabis cultivation.

According to ApartmentList, the city of San Francisco added one new home per 8.2 jobs between 2010-2015. Census data shows a ratio closer to 10 jobs per home for the City. The ApartmentList numbers come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and US Census survey of building permits. The analysis shows that rents are up 43 percent since 2005.

Google has bought roughly four dozen properties in Sunnyvale around Moffett Park for approximately $800 million. The buildings provide around 2.3 million square feet of space and will be part of the downtown San Jose campus the tech company has planned. More than 11,000 employees could potentially work in these buildings.

Plans were revealed for one of the largest redevelopments in the county in recent memory: a $1-billion redevelopment of the 20-acre Orange County Register newspaper property in Santa Ana. The project, named 625IVE, calls for 2.35 million square feet of offices, multifamily residential units, retail space, and a hotel. The tallest of the proposed towers would have a maximum height of 493 feet.

 San Diego’s real estate department sent city officials the appraisal it commissioned of the Qualcomm Stadium and found the land to be worth $110 million. If the SoccerCity initiative is successful, it would require investors to pay fair market value for the land. This may be the boost Mayor Kevin Faulconer needs to keep alive his push for a special election.

 Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 617, aimed at improving air quality in disadvantaged communities. The law imposes new requirement to monitor and reduce pollution near oil refineries, industrial facilities and freight corridors.

The City of Newport Beach City Council approved, 7-0, changes to the zoning code and local coastal program to give homeowners in single-family zones the opportunity to construct accessory dwelling units or convert existing space within a structure into livable facilities. Approximately 13,126 homeowners could construct new units on their property and 18,836 are eligible to repurpose existing space. Both cases would require administrative approval and must meet city building codes.

 According to a survey from construction analysts finds that the number of cranes at work in Los Angeles has jumped to 36 at the beginning of July. Only Seattle has more cranes in the U.S., and Toronto has 72 cranes.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced he will file another motion in an antitrust lawsuit to stop Valero Energy Corp. from purchasing a Martinez oil terminal, which he says could raise gas prices. The oil terminal is currently owned by Plains All American Pipeline, which imports and exports petroleum. According to Becerra, if Valero acquired the property all three “critical” Northern California terminals would be owned by refineries.