Constitutional Law: Federal Courts Upholds State Limits on Referenda

Citizens have no right under the federal constitution to seek a voter referendum of a city’s land sale, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.

In a case from Arizona, the federal appellate court dismissed arguments that the Tenth Amendment establishes the right to a referendum. The state constitution sets the rules for referenda, the court determined.

"It is the power of the federal government which is constrained by the Tenth Amendment, not the power of the states," the court...

Property Taxes: Super Williamson Act Constitutional, AG Says

A 1998 law that takes Williamson Act property taxes breaks for agricultural land one step further is constitutional, according to a state attorney general’s opinion.

The opinion, written by Deputy Attorney General Gregory L. Gonot, (Attorney General’s opinion No. 98-1106, filed March 10, 1999) concludes the "Super Williamson Act" approved by the Legislature does not violate state constitutional requirements that all property be taxable at the same percentage of fair market value. Farm interests said t...

Public Agency Must Pay for Value of Aggregate

When taking real estate by eminent domain, a public agency must pay the landowner for the value of unmined aggregate on the property, the Second District Court of Appeals has ruled.

The unanimous three-judge panel ordered the Ventura County Flood Control District to pay owners of 67 acres $2.6 million to compensate for the owners’ loss of the aggregate resource. The value of mineral deposits, including sand, clay and gravel, is an element in determining fair market value, which the public agency is re...

Court Rejects Local Costal Plan: State Costal Act Prohibits Building on ESHA, Wetlands

The Coastal Act does not allow destruction of a designated environmentally sensitive habitat area simply because the destruction is mitigated off-site, the Fourth District Court of Appeals has ruled. The court also determined that residential development of wetlands and removing a pond to build a road were not permissible under the Coastal Act.

The decision stems from the 25-year controversy over Bolsa Chica, a 1,588-acre area of wetlands and coastal mesas near Huntington Beach where developers have s...

Lawmakers return to Public Bonds; Bills to Link Water, Planning Stalled by Builders, Wet Winter

General obligations bonds to rehabilitate California’s crumbling infrastructure and build new public facilities are rising toward the top of the state Legislature’s agenda now that Gov. Davis’ education reform package is complete. The bonds, which could start hitting the ballot as soon as next March, would pay for everything from roads and water systems, to parks, libraries and homes.

Lawmakers have introduced $30 billion worth of general obligation bond proposals. Some of the proposals compete with o...

Regulators Cast a Huge Net For Rare Butterfly

The Quino Checkerspot Butterfly is the latest endangered species to cause confusion and controversy in Southern California, joining such famed animals as the Stephens kangaroo rat, the California gnatcatcher and the Delhi sands flower loving fly.

The butterfly was at first thought to live only in a few regions of Riverside and San Diego counties, where colonies have been found. But the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service issued a map in January showing potential Quino Checkerspot habitat in parts o...

The Difficult Birth of a Transit Village


One of the ongoing issues of modern architecture — and one of the story lines that keeps modern architecture interesting after so many false starts and blind alleys — has been the struggle to arrive at a consensus on what exactly is the "right" form for new types of buildings.

Imagine the situation of architect and urban planner a century ago. They had never dreamed of a gas station, a drive-in restaurant or a multiplex theater. Here is Henry v...

Lancaster, Palmdale Stall New Departments

Concerned about an apparent increase in interest from apartment developers, the Antelope Valley cities of Lancaster and Palmdale are both moving toward moratoria on multi-family units. Their moves appear to be part of a growing trend among exurban communities to reassess their policies on multi-family construction.

In Lancaster, where the City Council adopted a moratorium in January, officials say they will use the moratorium period to examine whether Lancaster has an over-supply of apartment units or...

MIll Reuse Program Offers Rural Towns Another Chance

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields redevelopment program is geared toward inner cities, but state officials would like to bring Brownfields aid to rural areas where timber mills have closed.

For more than 100 years, timber companies erected sawmills all over northern and central California. However, as nature and government regulators restricted the timber supply, many of those sawmills closed, leaving a huge hole in the economy of the rural towns that grew up around the m...

Envirnomental Impact Report required for Mitigation Bank

The Metropolitan Water District must complete an environmental impact report before creating a mitigation bank that MWD and private developers would use to offset building on habitat for endangered species, the Fourth District Court of Appeals has ruled.

The ruling reverses a trial court judge’s decision that allowed plans for the multiple species reserve in western Riverside County to go forward with only a mitigated negative declaration. The appellate court backed San Bernardino Valley Audubon Socie...

Approval Process: Landowner Loses Subdivision for a Second Time

Completing the subdivision application process twice, and having the project rejected both times, does not qualify as an exhaustion of the administrative process, The First District Court of Appeal as ruled.

In a case from the Town of Ross, a unanimous three-judge panel said a landowner’s taking claim was not ripe because the landowner had not used up all administrative remedies. The court also said the "futility exception" was not available because the landowner had filed only two applications, both ...

Trustee Agencies Must Get Negative Declaration Notice

Failure of a county to send a copy of a mitigated negative declaration to the state Department of Fish & Game is a big enough oversight to require setting aside the mitigated negative declaration and a subsequent rezoning, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled.

In interpreting Public Resources Code §21005, the unanimous three-judge panel ruled that the lack of notice given to a trustee agency "deprived the county of information necessary to informed decision making and informed public participa.

Court Defines Environmental ‘Baseline’: Conditions Allowed By CUP Serve As Starting Point

A county considering the environmental impact of a proposal to expand a mine may use full-capacity operation of the existing facility as the environmental "baseline" even if the facility is operating at less than full capacity, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled.

SF Lawyer Named Director of OPR

Loretta Lynch, a San Francisco lawyer with solid Democratic credentials, is the new Office of Planning and Research director.

Gov. Gray Davis in mid-March named Lynch to the top job at OPR, which provides technical assistance to local planners and runs the State Clearinghouse for project review. The 37-year-old Lynch has been a partner in Keker & Van Nest since 1991, where she represented small and large companies in securities trading matters.

Lynch is a graduate of University of Southern California ...

Rent Control: Court Upholds City Board’s Denial of Requested Increase

Carson’s mobile home rent control board acted properly in granting a mobile home park owner a rent increase of only $58 per month rather than the $160-170 that the park owner requested, the Second District Court of Appeal has ruled. The court also ruled that the city’s formula for granting rent increases is constitutional even though it is vague.

The city board reduced the rent increase by determining that the mobile home park should amortize the cost of remediating contaminated wetlands over...