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New Clean Water "WOTUS" Rule Covers Vernal Pools

The federal government issued its long-awaited “Waters of the United States,” or WOTUS, definition yesterday, extending federal authority to California’s vernal pools and other naturally forming pockets of water. However, the new rule does not regulate groundwater nor many subsurface flows and states it will maintain existing provisions for stormwater systems and some ditches.

However, business and Congressional opposition to the rule remains fierce. The Association of California Water Agencies expressed disappointment with the rule, saying "ACWA remains concerned that the final rule is too broad and our requests that water conveyance systems and water infrastructure adjacent to 'navigable waters' be excluded from the proposed rule was not met."

Developers and local officials as well as agricultural and industrial businesses had sought to limit the "Waters of the United States" definition for fear it might impose Clean Water Act permitting processes on construction and water management proposals that had hitherto required only local approvals. The rule does make concessions to concerns from business, real estate and rural local governments that existing drainage systems and permit exemptions might be disrupted. California voices were very much included in this pattern, and many California local governments expressed anxiety about their stormwater discharge permits.

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Napa Uncorks New Downtown to Tap Tourist, Wine Industries

Although it shares a name with the ritzy wine-making region, the City of Napa has long been a mostly blue collar city with only weak links to the big-dollar wine and tourism industries. But downtown Napa, home to professional offices and mom-and-pop stores that close before dark, is about to become a player in the business of wine tourism, which brings 5 million visitors a year to Napa Valley.

Legendary winemaker Robert Mondavi chose a 12-acre site on the eastern edge of downtown Napa for th...

Cal Supremes Won’t Review Dump EIR, Hotel Conversion

In state Supreme Court action, the court declined to review a landfill EIR, and, in an unrelated case, the court said it will not decide a San Francisco hotel conversion case that had already been briefed.

In the landfill case, a Fourth District Court of Appeals decision to uphold an environmental impact report for the giant Eagle Mountain landfill in Riverside County will stand. Only two of the seven justices, Joyce Kennard and Ming Chin, voted to review the decision in National Parks & Cons...

Adult Business Ruling Stands

The Fourth District Court of Appeals has denied the City of Anaheim’s petition for rehearing in a case in which the court ordered Anaheim to approve permits for an adult cabaret.

The court did modify its opinion in Badi Abraham Gammoh v. City of Anaheim, 1999 Daily Journal D.A.R. 6685, (CP&DR Legal Digest August 1999), but the modifications did not alter the judgement against the city.

The court had ruled that Anaheim’s actions in denying permits for Gammoh’s Funtease theater did not pass ...

Padres Stadium Election Upheld

In an unpublished opinion, the Fourth District Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit over the November 1998 ballot measure approving financing for San Diego’s new baseball stadium.

Ballpark opponents, led by former City Councilman Bruce Henderson, argued that the city should have prepared an EIR ahead of time, that the measure required a two-thirds vote, and that Proposition C should have specified that the city would incur $225 million of new debt. The unanimous three-judge panel rejected al...

Lessee Doesn’t Get Eminent Domain Payment

The operator of a golf course on leased property was not entitled to compensation when a public agency condemned part of the property to accommodate a trolley line, the Fourth District Court of Appeals has ruled. The unanimous three-judge panel said the San Diego Metropolitan Transit Development Board (MTDB) was correct when it compensated the owner of the real estate, not the lessee.

NEPA: Ninth Circuit Rejects Novel Baseline Argument

In renewing federal hydropower licenses, The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission does not have to consider the hypothetical question of what the environmental conditions would be if the dams in question were never built, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled. The Ninth Circuit also ruled that while FERC must consider environmental concerns raised by the Interior and Commerce Departments, the commission has final discretion to address those concerns.

But in writing the unanimous ...

Species Flys In Face of Continued Development

Ever since the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly was listed as an endangered species in 1993, it has been a poster child for opponents of the federal Endangered Species Act. Now, the fly is the latest endangered species to take center stage in the continually urbanizing Inland Empire.

Other controversial endangered species, such as the Quino Checkerspot Butterfly and the gnatcatcher, can at least win support for aesthetic reasons.

But a fly? Few people are easily convinced of the redeeming value...

AG’s Opinion: Conflict of Interest Allowed for Committee

Members of a redevelopment agency’s project area committee who own property within the project area do not have a conflict of interest that prevents their participation, according to an attorney general’s opinion.

The opinion, written at the request of Los Angeles City Attorney James Hahn, says that statutes and case law regarding project area committees makes clear that an exception is warranted to the normal conflict of interest rules.

Government Code § 1090 says government representati...

Santee Voters Get Choice: Higher Taxes or Houses

In the San Diego suburb of Santee, it’s the old houses versus open space controversy — but with a twist. In November, Santee voters will decide the fate of a 2,988-lot subdivision already approved by the City Council. The twist comes in the form of an advisory measure on the same special election ballot that asks if the City Council should try to buy the property as permanent open space.

Peace in Burbank?

Burbank city leaders and the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority have announced a new agreement that would lead to expansion of the crowded Burbank Airport and end a four-year legal battle.

The deal allows the airport to build a terminal nearly twice the size of the current terminal but retain the same number of gates — 14. The airport would close concessions and services from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily and phase out noisier Stage 2 jets. If the airport convinces federal regulators to approve a 1...

Growth Initiatives Grow in Number; Measures Head for Ballot This November, Next Year

Stimulated by the success of Ventura County’s SOAR initiatives, citizens — and some City Councils — throughout the state are placing growth restrictions on the local ballot in increasing numbers.

Four growth-control initiatives are scheduled for the November ballot, including three sponsored by the Citizens’ Alliance for Public Planning, or CAPP, a Pleasanton-based citizen organization active in the Tri-Valley area of eastern Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Up to eight measures may appear n...

Taxes: Streetlighting District Passes Prop. 218 Test

A streetlighting assessment district created prior to Proposition 218 is exempt from the tax-limiting initiative, the Fourth District Court of Appeals has decided.

The court held that the City of Riverside’s Street Light Assessment District is exempt because it provides revenue to operate streets, which was a specific exemption in the 1996 initiative. The July ruling was a blow to the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Paul Gann’s Citizens Committee, two statewide organizations that ba...

Schools Soar Above Initiative: AG Says Schools Exempt From Local Land-Use Rules

An elementary school proposed for agricultural land is not subject to a Ventura County initiative intended to preserve farmland and open space, according to an attorney general’s opinion.

A school district board of trustees, by a two-thirds vote, may exempt itself from local land use regulations, according to the opinion prepared by Deputy Attorney General Gregory Gonot. He quoted extensively from City of Santa Clara v. Santa Clara Unified School District (1971) 22 CalApp.3d 152, in which t...

Silicon Valley Housing Crunch Gains Attention; San Benito County Is Newest Bedroom For High-Tech Workers

The row crops and cattle ranches of San Benito County are remarkably similar to those of Santa Clara County during the pre-Silicon Valley era. But, just as the computer chip has transformed Santa Clara County into one of the world’s great industrial centers, it is now exerting influence on rural San Benito County, where land remains available and relatively inexpensive.

San Benito’s predicament is the result of Santa Clara County’s well-known jobs-housing imbalance. And the disparity only ge...

The Imaginary Cyclist’s Guide to the New Portola

I have found myself studying, of all things, a site plan of a bicycle path in the City of Portola. Why would a small-town bike path be interesting, particularly one that exists only on paper? Perhaps because site plans, like all maps, seem so static, while the dotted line that represents the bike trail suggests movement and freedom. It is easy to imagine ourselves as tourists on bicycles in this small mountain town in the Sierra Nevada, tooling through the historic district, and then crossing the bridge...

Adult Businesses: Court Says Anaheim Must Approve Proposed Strip Joint

The City of Anaheim’s attempts to bar a proposed adult cabaret from an industrial area were unconstitutional and the city must approve the business’s permits, the Fourth District Court of Appeals has ruled.

According to the unanimous appellate court decision, three city actions failed constitutional muster: an attempt to prevent "secondary effects" of an adult business, a retroactive amendment to the zoning ordinance, and denial of the strip club to protect the city’s image. Presiding Justice David Si...