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The Man Who Changed the Way We Think About Parking

Back in 2010, when I was Mayor of Ventura, the city installed parking meters downtown for the first time in 40 years. Not for every parking space, of course. The meters covered only 300 or so prime spaces on Main Street and a few popular side streets. Thousands of other downtown spaces – both onstreet and off – remained free.

 The problem we were trying to solve was a pretty typical one: Demand was so high for the prime spaces that people were cruising up and down Main Street, causing a constant traffic jam, in search of a space. The spaces themselves were hogged by merchants and their employees. It was hard to enforce the existing two-hour time limit, and the parkers gamed the system with such familiar tricks as wiping the meter maids’ chalk of their tires. Meanwhile, a half-block away, parking lots and a parking garage sat empty.

Groundwater Pump Charges Not Subject To Propositions 13 and 26, Court Rules

United Water Conservation District may charge urban water users higher groundwater pumping fees than agricultural users, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled. The court concluded that the fees are not property-based and therefore not subject to Proposition 13. In addition, the court concluded that the pumping fees fall under one of Proposition 26’s exceptions, saying that the pump fees represent “payor-specific benefits” not subject to Prop. 26’s requirements. 

The City of Ventura sued United over the fact that the district charges the city fees that are three to five times that of agricultural users, as permitted in the state Water Code. United manages groundwater in a large area in western Ventura County. Historically, United relied on property tax revenue water delivery charges. But after the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978, United began charging customers for pumping the groundwater. Pump charges are governed by Water Code Section 75522, which permits United to charge different rates for agricultural and non-agricultural users and also permits United to separate its service area into different zones. 

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Bay Area Big Winner as SGC Greenlights 54 Projects for Full Proposals

The Strategic Growth Council has given the green light to 54 potential projects to prepare full applications for funding under the newly created Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program. The 54 projects are seeking $301 million in funding -- about 2 1/2 times as much as the $120 million program has to dole out.

Final applications must be completed by April 20 and SGC plans to select the winners by July. Only the 54 applicants on the finalists' list will be given access to the online application.

Of the 54 applications going forward, 44 (worth $235 million) have affordable housing setasides and 37 (worth $229 million) are located in disadvantaged Census tracts -- the definition of which was the subject of considerable debate last year.The finalists represent a diverse array of communities in 22 counties.

CP&DR News Briefs, March 16, 2015: AHSC Grant Process Progresses; Calif. Transportation Plan Released; and More

Strategic Growth Council staff are currently finalizing the review of submitted concept proposals for Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities grand program. All AHSC applicants will be notified of the results of the concept proposal reviews by no later than Monday, March 16th. The full application will be posted on or before Wednesday, March 18th. The due date for the full applications will be extended to April 20, 2015. Applicants will be notified when the full application is available via email.

Another Legal Win For Redevelopment Agencies

The Third District Court of Appeal has ruled that two “re-entry agreements” between Sonoma County and its former redevelopment agency are valid under the redevelopment wind-down law. The case marks the second time this year that the Third District has upheld re-entry agreements, suggesting that local governments are beginning to get the upper hand against the state Department of Finance in post-redevelopment litigation.

The case involves the county’s desire to retain $14 million in tax-increment funds for two projects: street and sidewalk upgrades on Highway 12 north of Sonoma, and a mixed-use project on the site of an abandoned shopping center in the Roseland neighborhood of Santa Rosa. 

As with the other recent case from Emeryville, the case turned in part on whether AB 1484, a 2012 law which eliminated re-entry agreements, should somehow be used to invalidate reentry agreements made before the law took effect. In addition, DOF made a series of narrow legal arguments that the Third District did not buy.

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Sacramento Did Not Commit to Downtown Arena Ahead of EIR, Appellate Court Rules

In a ruling critical to moving forward Sacramento’s downtown basketball arena, the Third District Court of Appeal has given the City of Sacramento a clean win in a wide-ranging CEQA challenge brought by a group of individual environmentalists.

Most significantly, the appellate court found that the city did not violate the California Environmental Quality Act by committing itself to a downtown arena site prior to the completion of the environmental impact report and did not have to consider the site of the existing Sleep Train Arena in Natomas in its alternatives analysis.

SANDAG Case Accepted by California Supreme Court, SD County CAP Case Declined

The California Supreme Court has accepted Cleveland National Forest Association v. SANDAG, the controversial case that raises the question of whether a governor's executive order must be taken into consideration in CEQA analysis.

With Decline of Williamson Act, SALC Represents New Hope for Ag Preservation

The new Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) program only has $5 million so far, but land preservation and farm groups greeted approval of its opening guidelines with enthusiasm – especially given the fact that the Williamson Act was defunded in 2009.

The California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) gushed: "Applause erupted yesterday in response to the unanimous vote of the Strategic Growth Council..." Then it quoted Natural Resources Secretary and SGC member John Laird: "All speakers essentially said yes to the program, only sooner and bigger."

Ag preservation optimists are looking past that opening $5 million at the strong possibility that SALC has permanent dibs on 1% of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which is expected to swell from new cap-and-trade auction proceeds.

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CP&DR News Briefs, March 10, 2015: L.A. Football Stadium Seeks Public Approval; Claremont Seeks Taking of Water Agency; Redlands Rail EIR Approved; and More

Proponents of a stadium that would jointly host the relocated Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers in Carson put together a ballot initiative to seek local approval for the project. The measure would approve the creation of a public authority in Carson, akin to the arrangement the 49ers used to build their new stadium, that would own the stadium and lease it back to the teams.

Split Decision on Oil Measures, Redondo Beach Development Plan Loses

Local voters in California gave oil a split decision on Tuesday. Voters in La Habra Heights shot down an anti-fracking ballot measure, while voters in Hermosa Beach rejected a ballot measure that would have permitted E&B Natural Resources to construct 34 onshore wells in the city. Meanwhile, Redondo Beach voters rejected a development plan that would have included razing the power plant that has long occupied a critical spot near the beach.

Cal Supremes Strengthen CEQA Categorical Exemptions in Ruling on Large Berkeley House

By a 5-2 vote, the California Supreme Court has issued a complex ruling that tends to support CEQA exemption for a large house in Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley (Logan)

Monday’s opinion is largely favorable to computer industry pioneer Mitch Kapor, founder of the Lotus software company, and Freada Kapor-Klein, who have been trying since 2009 to build a large house in the Berkeley hills. Their proposed single-family house and garage together would measure nearly 10,000 square feet, on a lot that is itself much larger, but that is situated on a steep slope reached by a small road. Berkeley applied two categorical exemptions from CEQA to the project: single-family and infill. Project opponents argued that the house was so big that it presented "unusual circumstances" and should be denied the safe harbor of a categorical exemption. Among other things, the issuance of the ruling will permit another CEQA “unusual circumstances” Supreme Court case to move forward.

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Stadium Foe Takes Page from Paranoia Playbook

I don’t like the idea of building an NFL stadium, presumably for the relocated St. Louis Rams, in Inglewood. You know who really doesn’t like he idea? Anschutz Entertainment Group. But do you know who does like it? ISIS. Or al-Qaeda. Or the Taliban. I’m not really sure, but, apparently, one of those groups hates the stadium so much that they're going to want to blow it up. 

CP&DR News Briefs, March 2, 2015: Google Presents Plan for New HQ; SF May Outsource Affordable Housing; Fresno Approves Water Plan; and More

Google unveiled a “whimsical" proposal for a massive new headquarters in Mountain View designed by architect Frank Ghery.

Cases That Could Broaden Railroads' Path Through CEQA Gather Steam

Considering their importance, the public hasn't heard much about Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority and Kings County v. Surface Transportation Board. The two cases, respectively before the California Supreme Court and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, could end California environmental review of public rail projects in California – most notably the High Speed Rail project and might indirectly affect private rail operations including oil trains.

The cases shaped up this winter into tests of whether the Surface Transportation Board (STB) can block environmental reviews of rail projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The STB and two state rail agencies contend that CEQA review crosses onto the STB's exclusive regulatory turf under the 1995 Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. §10101 et seq. 

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CP&DR News Summary, February 24, 2015: Home Values, Rental Rates Rise; Sacramento Streetcar Moves Forward; Shared NFL Stadium; and more

A new report [pdf] released by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that California’s housing market continues to recover from its low at the beginning of 2012. Median home values in the most populous counties have increased by 39 percent since 2012, though they remain 20 percent lower than they were at the market’s peak in 2006-2007. The report also shows that the housing recovery has caused a problem for some less affluent residents, as “increasing prices place housing out of reach for many Californians.” It finds that homeownership rates in California have fallen more sharply than the rest of the nation, with California falling to 53.8 percent as compared with a 64.7 percent nationwide.

 

Another report released by NYU’s Furman Center describes the percentage changes in rental populations in major US cities from 2006 to 2013. Los Angeles and San Francisco rank among nine cities where more than 50% of the population rents, as of 2013. San Francisco scored in the top five increasing rental populations, with 22% more San Franciscans renting since 2006; Los Angeles’ rental population increased by 11%.

 

Is It Time to Bury the Gas Tax?

In recent weeks, we’ve seen a lot of moves that suggest it may be time to change the way California funds transportation, including the following:

  • Board of Equalization Member George Runner has been touting a 21% cut in the gas tax as part of the “fuel tax swap” formula from a few years ago.
  • A committee headed by former San Diego City Councilmember Jim Madaffer is looking at how to implement a mileage tax as an alternative to the gas tax.
  • Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins has proposed a $52 annual fee on most drivers as a way to raise almost $2 billion for road repairs.

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Sprawl Depends on More Than Just Density

In the ever-lasting debate over sprawl, the most enduring argument centers on the definition of sprawl itself. The latest entrant is, perhaps, the oldest entrant: density. 

As reported by Richard Florida in his CityLab column this week, NYU doctoral student Thomas Laidley has introduced a new method to measure sprawl. Laidley's "Sprawl Index" uses the following methodology: 

"Laidley uses these aerial images to estimate sprawl at the Census block level, the smallest level available, estimating the share of metro population in those blocks below three key thresholds: 3,500, 8,500, and 20,000 persons per square mile. His index is based on the average of these three values, with higher scores reflecting higher levels of sprawl."