CP&DR News Summary, March 25, 2014: Newhall Ranch wins a few, water board eases flow a little, and more

The proposed 60,000-population Newhall Ranch development began a recent winning streak with an LA Superior Court ruling Jan. 31 on water supply adequacy and greenouse gases in the project's Phase 1 EIR – as reported in a Santa Clarita Valley Signal news story whose comments section reflects fierce local debate: http://www.signalscv.com/section/36/article/113952/.

CEQA Makes Us Lazy

We’re pretty sure at this point that the California Environmental Quality Act does not apply to itself. (www.cp-dr.com/node/3395). But we’re still not quite sure whether CEQA applies “in reverse.” Does it require developers to consider not just their projects' effects on the environment, but also the potential effects on their projects from environmental hazards like landslides, earthquakes, or rising sea levels?

Cities providing water for development, if not for lawns

A generation ago, moratoriums on new water hookups were important to the statewide land use picture in bad drought years. During 1991, new hookups were banned in some large southern and coastal California cities and all of Marin County. Santa Monica made developers mitigate new hookups by buying low-flush toilets for existing users. The Metropolitan Water District suspended annexations.

Not so in 2014.

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Cap and Trade roundup: debate over revenues continues

With $1.54 billion already spent on California carbon emission rights, debate continues on whether the state's cap-and-trade auction process is valid and what the auction proceeds are for.

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Healdsburg wants Toronto and New York to know its faucets are fine.

[This item has been updated with CDPH comment.]

Officials of Healdsburg and at least three smaller water districts have been trying to shed unwanted status as poster children for the California drought.

In a January 28 press release at http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/NR14-012.aspx, the Department of Public Health issued a list of 17 communities that it said were at risk for running out of drinking water. Since then, Healdsburg City Manager Marjie Pettus has been insisting she doesn't know why.

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EIR found deficient on Kern Water Bank

In a pair of decisions March 5, the Sacramento County Superior Court's Judge Timothy Frawley invalidated parts of the EIR that has been allowing the Kern Water Bank, a major groundwater reserve near Bakersfield, to function under its current legal framework. The water bank's physical operations and environmental safeguards were at issue, against a background that includes conservationists' criticism of influence in the bank's governance by entities associated with food and farming investor Stewart Resnick.

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LA grading permit ordered despite no tract map

A Saudi prince's Los Angeles family compound plan in Benedict Canyon has won an appellate court's order clearing the way for a grading permit across a large hillside area, even though the sponsors did not file a tract map.

Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel of the Second District Court of Appeal, Justice Victoria Gerrard Chaney upheld the trial court's order, which found no tract map is required where the land in question will not be subdivided.

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Court defers to local officials, geography on 11ft variance in Del Mar

In a dispute between tenacious neighbors in Del Mar, the Fourth Appellate District upheld a variance for plans to tear down and rebuild a house at its existing distance from the street although it did not meet a local 20-foot front yard setback requirement. The court said property owner Jon Scurlock's right to seek a variance for his "complete remodel" was independent of the old building's existing nonconformity, and it found substantial evidence for local officials' decision that granting the variance would be fairest to the property owner while serving local planning goals.

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HOA's members need not testify about their own side's strategy meetings

Lawyers for organizations may feel both shudders and relief on reading a recent appellate decision protecting attorney-client privilege for the members of a La Jolla homeowners' association. Shudders, that a local court's discovery order would have required individual homeowners to recount group strategy meetings held by their HOA's lawyers. Relief, that the Fourth District Court of Appeal has blocked the order.

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Property owners can't "walk away from" coastal development conditions

Ruling for the Coastal Commission against property owners represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, California's Second Appellate District cited the doctrine of collateral estoppel to find that an easement condition on a coastal development permit, once final, cannot be contested in a second permit application.

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The Hollywood earthquake fault: geology as a matter of opinion

In a case that could reset the parameters of reality, the developer of a mixed-use development under construction in Hollywood has asked the state geological service to change the earthquake map of Los Angeles.

HUD's OIG Joins California Redevelopment Wake

HUD's in-house auditor has joined the chorus asking what now becomes of assets funded through California redevelopment agencies. 

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CP&DR News Summary, March 18, 2014: Delta water decisions, Legislative Analyst updates

March 13 was a bad day for big water in California. A state appellate court blocked preliminary studies for the Delta water tunnel on takings grounds, and the federal Ninth Circuit threw its weight against California's existing southbound hydraulics on behalf of the tiny Delta
smelt.

Studies for Delta tunnel project found to be takings in themselves.

Slow Train to Los Angeles: Book Review of 'Railtown'

Had it been written about, say, Shanghai or Dubai, Railtown would have been scarcely longer than a page. Autocracies have a knack for infrastructure development.

ABAG, MTC Settle Plan Bay Area Lawsuit With BIA

The Bay Area’s regional planning agencies have settled a lawsuit with the Building Industry Association over Plan Bay Area – the regional sustainable communities strategy.

In the settlement, the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission agreed to focus more on finding residential locations within the Bay Area to accommodate expected future growth, rather than assuming a certain amount of in-commuting from the Central Valley and Monterey County.