Headline Story

JPA Can Be Used To End-Run Vote Requirement, Fourth District Rules

The Fourth District Court of Appeal has rejected arguments from San Diegans for Open Government that the City of San Diego improperly created a joint powers authority in order to avoid a two-thirds vote requirement for issuing sale-leaseback Marks-Roos bonds.

San Diegans for Open Government – a plaintiff frequently used by watchdog lawyer Cory Briggs – sued the city, claiming that a joint-powers authority between the city, the San Diego Housing Authority, and the city’s successor agency did not have the power to issue the bonds for several reasons. SDOG attempted to distinguish the situation from the facts of Rider v. City of San Diego (1998) 18 Cal.4th 1035, a California Supreme Court ruling which held, essentially, that the city could end-run the two-thirds requirement by creating a JPA. 

The Fourth District found that the situation in this case was distinguishable from Rider in some ways but these distinctions didn’t matter. “Rider made clear that for purposes of the debt limitation provisions, when a financing authority created to issue bonds ‘has a genuine separate existence from the City,’ ‘it does not matter whether or not the City “essentially controls” the [f]inancing [a]uthority,” wrote Acting Presiding Justice Richard A. Huffman for a unanimous three-judge panel.

Mello-Roos: Excuse for Failing to Pay Annual Tax Wins No Support

For the second time in less than a year, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled against Riverside County landowners whose property was foreclosed upon because of nonpayment of special taxes.

The court ruled that taxes levied under the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act (Government Code §53311) are special taxes, not special assessments, and that failure of the government to use Mello-Roos bond proceeds as promised does not excuse nonpayment of those special taxes.

Late last year, i...

‘Never to Late’ for CEQA Study: Court Sends Stern Message to City of Fresno, Developer

In one of its rare published opinions, the Fifth District Court of Appeal rebuked the City of Fresno and a developer for violating the California Environmental Quality Act. Specifically, the unanimous three-judge appellate panel rejected the argument that the court cannot require an environmental impact report because the disputed project was built during litigation.

"The corporation apparently made a calculated business decision to go forward with the project in spite of protests by residential...

Federal Land Grants: Federal Court Says Lot Line Dispute Belongs in State Court

A lawsuit challenging a county’s decision on parcel status does not belong in federal court, even though the owners acquired the land through federal patents and acts of Congress, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled.

"Federal land patents and acts of Congress do not provide bases for federal question jurisdiction," the unanimous three-judge panel ruled.

Edward Virgin Sr. and his family claimed to own 1,240 acres in San Luis Obispo County. The holdings included seven parcels crea...

Ontario, Chino Plan Growth As Dairy Cows Move North

Large-scale urban development will soon replace the San Bernardino County Dairy Preserve. Last December, the city of Ontario completed its annexation of more than half of the 15,000-acre swath of farmland, and the City of Chino either has annexed or plans to annex the remainder. Ontario’s plans for what the city has tabbed the "New Model Colony" call for development of 31,000 homes, 5 million square feet of retail space and 5 million square feet of industrial space.

Stormwater Runoff Limits Tightened by Water Boards

Recent actions by two water boards signal a movement in the state towards greater regulation of non-point water pollution. The new regulations could start a trend in California of tightened development standards, which have already taken hold elsewhere in the country.

The biggest step was taken in Los Angeles, where the local Regional Water Quality Control Board voted in January to set measurable numerical standards for treating stormwater runoff in new development throughout Los Angeles Co...

Coastal Builders Have Rough Time at Commission: Appointments, Decesions, Budget Point Toward Resource Protection

With more funding headed its way and a stated emphasis on protection of natural resources, the California Coastal Commission appears to be tightening its control over development.

Gov. Davis’s proposed budget contains more money for enforcement and assisting with Local Coastal Plan implementation. Davis also replaced Coastal Commissioner Nancy Fleming, the pro-development mayor of Eureka, with Humboldt County Supervisor John Woolley, an appointment that pleased environmentalists. Commissioners ...

New Partnership Tackles Bay, Valley Growth Questions: IRP Urges Better Jobs-Housing Coordination in 5-County Region

A five-county "Inter-Regional Partnership" between the Bay Area and the Central Valley is taking more tangible form. The Partnership will ask the Legislature this year for a pilot project to designate housing and job "incentive zones" — similar to enterprise zones — that would include a re-distribution of existing property tax revenue and streamlined environmental review to encourage better jobs-housing balance. The Partnership is also seeking $625,000 in state funding to integrate computer mappin...

Lancaster, Palmdale Approve Truce in Retail Dispute

The cities of Lancaster and Palmdale have agreed to bury the hatchet — and, for once, not in the other jurisdiction’s back. Early this year, both city councils adopted "anti-piracy" resolutions in which they pledged not to offer incentives to businesses located inside the other’s borders.

For years, the two cities have engaged in classic battles over retail businesses. But some recent changes on the Palmdale City Council and the business community’s leadership appear responsible for the removal ...

Central Valley Project: Court Orders Feds to Build Agricultural Irrigation Drain

The Interior Department is obliged to build an agricultural drain for land irrigated by the San Luis Unit of the Central Valley Project, the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled. The 40-year-old San Luis Act called for a system in which water, after being used for irrigation, would drain to the Bay Delta. But the Interior Department never completed the drain, a situation that created the environmental crisis that killed or maimed thousands of birds at Kesterson Reservoir during the 1980s....

Adult Bookstore Application Process Fails Before Ninth Circuit

A City of Las Vegas ordinance regarding adult bookstore permits has been declared unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The ruling in the case, known as Baby Tam II, came despite amendments to city ordinance, state law and court rules of practice that were intended to cure defects of an earlier law that the Ninth Circuit declared invalid in 1998.

Cal Supremes Return Pool Hall Hours for New Review

The California Supreme Court has directed the Fourth District Court of Appeal to vacate a 1999 ruling in which the City of Riverside’s requirement that poolrooms be closed from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. was declared unconstitutional.

In January 1999, a Fourth District panel ruled 2-1 that the Riverside ordinance violated poolroom owners’ equal protection rights. (See CP&DR Legal Digest, March 1999.) The court said the city’s law, which the owner of Mr. Cue’s Family Billiards challenged, was "arbitrary an...

Orange County Flavors Plan for West Sacramento

I recently had one of those "aha!" moments that gives us special insight into the deeper nature of things. The magic moment came during a recent exercise in home buying, when I was fluttering back and forth between two different houses on two different streets. One house stood on a street with sidewalks and gutters, while the second house stood on an equally nice street, or nearly so, but without sidewalks.

I assumed that the house with sidewalks would cost more because of the added amenity. M...

Costly Options Presented to Remedy the Salton Sea

The Salton Sea is sometimes referred to as Southern California’s Lake Tahoe, and while efforts to save the northern lake took shape 20 years ago, officials only now are making big decisions about the future environmental health of the southern water body.

The Salton Sea (which is also sometimes called a lake) has been in a downward environmental spiral in recent years. Rising salinity, warnings about eating its fish, oxygen depleting algal blooms, and the deaths of thousands of birds and fish ...

Swap of Sales Tax for Property Tax Will Get Hearing: Assembly Speaker’s Commission, Others Support Finance Reform

A commission appointed by Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa has recommended local governments swap sales tax revenue for a bigger cut of property taxes. The proposal is one of several intended to reduce city and county dependence on sales tax. However, it remains unclear whether lawmakers and Gov. Davis will take meaningful steps toward altering the complex fiscal system this year.

It is a two-handed situation. On the one hand, recommendations of the Speaker’s Commission on State and Local G...

San Jose’s Montgomery Hotel: An Expensive Souvenir

The preservation of the Montgomery Hotel in the City of San Jose could be likened to a brick rescued from a burning house by its owners. By itself, the brick would have little or no value. As a souvenir of a vanished house, however, the brick becomes a treasured relic.

That analogy might help outsiders understand the rationale behind the extraordinary labor and expense that the San Jose Redevelopment Agency has devoted to saving what is, by all accounts, a handsome but rather ordinary buildin...

Failed Sale of Highway 91 Toll Lanes Refuels Debate

A proposed public bailout of the owner of Highway 91 toll lanes in Orange County has died amid allegations of financial improprieties. The experience with the 91 Express Lanes, which even privatization supporters call a "fiasco," appears to put a damper on what little interest remains in constructing private highways.

"This is not something that anyone should expect to become the dominant mode of highway building," said Marlon Boarnet, a University of California, Irvine, planning professor who ...