In Brief: Watsonville Compromise Permits School In Coastal Zone

A new high school in Watsonville’s coastal zone won the approval of the California Coastal Commission during the panel’s March meeting. Also in this month's roundup of news: New Army Corps of Engineers wetlands regulations; Ahmanson Ranch battle continues; temporary logging rules adopted; Antioch says the commute is fine; federal property rights bill advances.

Diverse Entity Starts Work on Sacramento River Habitat Program

One of the most difficult parts of making environmental changes is bringing all the parties to the table. Sometimes it takes lawsuits, sometimes it takes political pressure. In the case of the Sacramento River in California’s Central Valley, it has taken 13 years of meetings among environmentalists, government officials and farmers to gain consensus and cement ties for a group to coordinate a river restoration project along a huge portion of the 373-mile river.

The best-known and most conte...

Local Slow-Growth Measures Fare Poorly in March Election

Everybody always complains about growth but nobody ever does anything about it.

That, at least, is one way to view the March 7 election returns. According to most polls, sprawl tops many lists of community problems these days. But voters in almost a dozen California communities rejected the opportunity to use "ballot-box zoning" to stop growth and development. And it will be interesting to see whether that trend continues in the November election — when some very big anti-growth initiatives ar...

Builder Becomes San Diego’s $50 Million Man

Everybody in San Diego seems amazed that developer Doug Manchester is willing to guarantee the city $50 million in tax revenues from his yet-to-be-built hotel. Even he seems amazed.

"I challenge any reputable developer to step forward and say he or she would do the same deal," Manchester wrote in an Op-Ed piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune last October. At that time, he was offering to guarantee $5 million annually for two years, not the same amount for 10 years, as he would later agree to. ...

Redevelopment Proposed for Massive Strech of ‘The Valley’

An 11-square-mile portion of the northeast San Fernando Valley could become the City of Los Angeles’ largest redevelopment project area. Planners have been at work on the project for about three years, and the City Council is expected to decide whether to create the project area this summer.

However, the area is so large — and suffers from such widespread decay — that some people wonder whether a redevelopment project can provide meaningful change.

While other cities have giant redevelopment ...

San Diego Addresses Zoo Expansion in a Finite Park

A proposal to expand the San Diego Zoo has forced city officials, civic activists and the Zoological Society to reexamine the zoo and its relationship to Balboa Park, where the facility is located. San Diegans consider both the zoo and the park civic treasures, and finding a compatible mix is proving to be a time-consuming and politically sensitive project.

Although the issues are complex, the questions are relatively simple — how large to make the zoo, and how to solve traffic congestion and p...

Complete Local Land-Use Election Results from March 7

Alameda County

Livermore: Voters overwhelmingly approved Measure K, a plan to modify the urban growth boundary to allow construction of 1,500 houses and preservation of some 2,000 acres of farmland and undeveloped property.

Pleasanton: More than 63% of voters supported a $50 million bond issue to purchase land in the city which is owned by the City of San Francisco and slated for development. But that was not enough to win the two-thirds majority required for Measure I approval.

Contra Costa

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 ...