Headline Story

Insight: Does Supply Create Its Own Demand?

A couple of weeks ago, the satirical newspaper The Onion reported that the City of San Francisco was looking to relocate because its current location had become too expensive. Funny though this was, I expected the follow-up story to focus on the economic development incentive package being put together to keep San Francisco where it is. 

A week or so later, Gabriel Metcalfe – head of the respected San Francisco urban planning organization SPUR – published a provocative piece in CityLab blaming the city’s affordability crisis on progressive politics – especially progressive politics of the no-growth kind. Progressive San Francisco, he argued, “had a fatal, Shakespearean flaw that would prove to be its undoing: It decided early on to be against new buildings. It decided that new development, with the exception of publicly subsidized affordable housing, was not welcome.”

All up and down California – especially in the expensive coastal enclaves around San Francisco and Los Angeles – community activists have been lately decrying how the rising cost of housing is making it impossible for normal people with normal incomes to live in these towns. Yet, as Metcalf points out, most of the time these same community activists are arguing that the trend toward high housing cost must be countered with... less housing construction. Or at least less market-rate housing construction. 

Planner Pleads No Contest in Rail-Cycle Case

Valery Pilmer, a former San Bernardino County land use services director, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of stealing a public document. Under the plea agreement with the county district attorney’s office, Pilmer was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and retired from county employment effective October 15.

Pilmer was indicted earlier this year on four felony counts relating to hiding, altering or destroying public records and lying about it in a sworn statement. The charges stem f...

Paseo Pasadena: A Retail Mall Turns Urban Village

Architects and planners like to think they are building "for the ages." Recent experience, however, suggests the very opposite. The culture, the economy and fashions in urban design all appear to be in a rapid state of change. Perhaps the Internet and advances in telecommunications are shortening the half-life of cultural events. Perhaps we’re just getting older and the world seems to be getting faster. Notwithstanding, buildings that exemplified urban life only 20 years ago are rapidly becoming obsolet...

Infill Receives CEQA Exemption: In FIrst Published Ruling, Court Makes Guidelines Retroactive

A 5,855-square-foot retail and office building proposed for downtown Mill Valley is exempt from environmental review under revised California Environmental Quality Act Guidelines, the First District Court of Appeals has ruled.

The court ruled that buildings of up to 10,000 square feet proposed for an urban area may be exempt from CEQA review. In the Mill Valley case, the court concluded that the project opponent did not prove the existence of any "unusual circumstances" that would preclude the exempti...

Incorporation: City of Shasta Lake Entitled to Proposition 172 Revenue

A six-year dispute between Shasta County and the new City of Shasta Lake regarding tax revenue has been decided in favor of the city.

The Third District Court of Appeals upheld nearly all aspects of a ruling issued during binding arbitration by retired Siskiyou County Superior Court Judge James Kleaver. The appellate court said the city, which incorporated on July 2, 1993, has the right to receive Proposition 172 sales tax revenue and that the Proposition 172 revenue should offset the amount the count...

Court Makes DFG Adfd CEQA to Stream Permit Reviews

Forced by a lawsuit to incorporate the California Environmental Quality Act process into the way it issues streambed and lake alteration permits, the California Department of Fish & Game has issued new procedures that will require more property owners to do greater environmental review before they undertake such projects.

Every permit (often called a "1600" for a section of the Fish and Game Code) will be examined to see how CEQA applies, according to Jim Steele, a DFG program manage...

Governor Leaves Mark on 1999 Legislative Session : Redlands ‘Doughnut Hole’ Bill, Marks-Roos Reform Earn Vetoes

In his first year as governor, Gray Davis has gained a reputation as a chief executive quick to wield the veto pen — and the field of planning and development legislation proved to be no exception.

Even though the Legislature passed only small and incremental bills — opting against sweeping change in any area — Davis vetoed one-third of all planning and development bills that reached his desk.

"I think he actually striped the middle pretty well," said Clyde McDonald, Assembly Local Governme...

Tulare County Dairy Suits Settled

Two lawsuits Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed against Tulare County regarding approval of giant dairies have been settled. The county agreed to add an animal waste management element to its general plan and to complete a program EIR by the end of the year.

Under terms of a settlement reached in August, the Airosa Diary agreed to suspend its 3,600-cow expansion of a dairy near Pixley until the county completes the EIR and reviews the expansion. An October settlement of a second lawsuit places the sa...

County Wins ERAF Suit

Sonoma County has won the first round in its lawsuit over the state’s 1993 shift of property taxes from counties and cities to school districts.

Sonoma County Superior Court Judge Laurence Sawyer ruled that the Educational Revenue Augmentation Fund (ERAF) shift was unconstitutional because "the shift of local property taxes compels the counties to accept financial responsibility in whole or in part for a program that was required to be funded by the State." Fifty-three counties joined the lawsuit, whi...

LAFCO Skirts Proposition 218

The Proposition 218 requirement for public elections regarding property-based taxes does not apply to areas annexed into a jurisdiction that already has such taxes, according to an Attorney General’s opinion.

The opinion issued in October by Deputy Attorney General Gregory Gonot says that a Local Agency Formation Commission may require that taxes levied by the jurisdiction be imposed on the newly annexed parcels, even though those landowners did not vote on the taxes. The proposition was not intended ...

Fremont Project Meets Demand For High-Tech Business Space

Although it may not receive as much attention as high-tech powerhouses such as San Jose, Santa Clara and Mountain View, Fremont has attracted numerous small and medium-sized technology companies in recent years. Now, Fremont — in southern Alameda County about 12 miles north of downtown San Jose — is poised to become an even bigger player.

Catellus Development Corporation has received nearly all the government approvals necessary for 8.25 million square feet of commercial developm...

Mello-Roos Foreclosure Upheld

Delays in constructing roads and utilities funded by Mello-Roos bonds do not absolve property owners of paying Mello-Roos assessments, the Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled in a recently published opinion.

In a case from Riverside County, the unanimous three-judge panel found that property owners have an obligation to bondholders that is independent of any dispute over how bond proceeds are used.

The County created Community Facilities District 88-8 under the Mello-Roos Community Faci

Court Upholds 9-Year-Old Neg Dec As Adequate Study

The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has rejected a takings claim and request for a jury trial filed by a property owner in Washington who disputed a zoning decision made under that state’s Growth Management Act of 1990.

It was the Ninth Circuit’s first takings decision since the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold a takings decision and jury award of damages in May. In City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey Ltd., 119 S. Ct. 1624, the high court broke new ground by allowing an aggrieved...

State Treasurer Wants to Influence Growth Patterms: Policies for Housing Tax Credits, Infrastructure Financing Are Tools

Four months after making a sweeping proposal to re-orient the state’s infrastructure investments around "smart growth" principles, State Treasurer Phil Angelides — a former "New Urbanist" developer -— is moving forward with at least three different proposals to change the selection criteria in state bond and tax credit financing programs.

"It’s a new way of thinking for the state and the public finance community," Angelides said. "But it’s not irresponsible and it is creditworthy."

Angelides has al...

A Foreign Concept for Planners to Consider

It’s no surprise that Ephrain Corona didn’t have time to talk when I called. The immigrant owner of a five-store Mexican roasted chicken chain based in Oxnard was too busy growing his business. What Corona undoubtedly realizes is that the time is ripe to cash in on California’s fastest growing consumer segment: foreign immigrants. Joining this growing group of entrepreneurs are a few developers and a handful of planning departments – mainly redevelopment agencies – all of whom may have found the...

Public Transit Advances in Congested Bay Area

Silicon Valley's job boom has underscored gaps in the transit systems in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has renewed calls to extend BART, the costly regional transit system that was once supposed to ring San Francisco Bay.

But while construction continues on a $1.5 billion extension of BART from northern San Mateo County to San Francisco International Airport, other plans to extend BART have received mixed receptions. A ballot initiative to extend BART south of the airport through S...

Sonoma Voters Reject Resort

An initiative to prevent hotel and resort development on 60 acres of city-owned land in Sonoma passed with 77 percent of the vote during a Sept. 21 special election that attracted 59% of registered voters. A Mexican investor had proposed an upscale, 100-room resort for the hillside above Sonoma Plaza. Project opponents said they wanted to preserve open space and a scenic view.