Headline Story

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.

»   Please Login or Subscribe to view this article.

LAFCO: 9th Circuit Overrules District’s Election Conducted in 1977

The Novato Fire Protection District detached the former Hamilton Air Force Base in 1977, but last month the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the detachment was an illegal attempt to tax the federal government. The court said the fire district is obliged to serve the former base, now occupied by the Navy, the Coast Guard, other federal agencies and even some private entities.

The unanimous three-judge appeals court upheld Northern California District Judge Fern Smith’s ruling that the detachme...

Retailers Top List of Favorite City Developments; Study Finds Far Less Interest in Affordable Housing, Industry

A new survey has documented what many planning and public policy experts have long suspected: California city managers prefer retail projects in their community over any other type of land use, and they least favor multi-family housing and heavy industrial projects.

The survey — part of a study of land use and sales tax issues by the Public Policy Institute of California — was released just as the California Legislature considers a bill that would require cities that lure large retailers ac...

EIR Delays Earn Civil Rights Suit: City Can’t Blame Applicant for Document’s Tardiness

A city has an obligation to complete an environmental impact report and may not just continually reject an EIR prepared by a developer’s consultant, the Fourth District Court of Appeals has ruled.

The court also ruled that foot-dragging on an EIR by the City of Redlands gives the developer of a proposed housing complex a right to seek damages under the federal Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The City of Redlands three times rejected a proposed draft EIR prepared by consultants of a ho...

A Roundabout Way of Solving Congestion

It was bound to happen. The neo-traditionalist planning movement is making inroads into the most doctrinaire of planning dynasties – Caltrans. Late last year, in a little-noticed but potentially monumental policy shift, the state road bureaucracy issued Design Information Bulletin Number 80, thereby granting guarded approval of modern roundabouts as part of California’s highway design toolbox.

Now it’s up to local governments to press ahead with a back-to-the-future concept: intersections where...

TMDLs: The Revolution is at Hand

The next big thing in water quality management — measuring specific pollutants in bodies of water and setting limits for those pollutants — is likely to impact land use and planning, but the exact ramifications remain unclear.

After years of delay, federal and state agencies are developing definitions to show how much pollution can be allowed in a water body before it becomes polluted. These definitions are known as total maximum daily loads, or TMDLs.

Section 303(d) of the federal Clean Wat...

Second Diablo Grande EIR Rejected by Superior Court

Opponents of a 5,000-unit subdivision and golf resort in the western foothills of Stanislaus County continued their courtroom winning streak when Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Donald Shaver ruled a supplemental environmental impact report was inadequate.

In a July decision, Shaver said the county "failed to adequately evaluate the environmental impacts and the cumulative impacts, failed to accurately describe one portion of the project and failed to recirculate the SEIR."

In the fi...

Movies as Economic Development? Dream On


Economic development and motion picture development are not alike. Economic development is a slow, often bureaucratic, process involving the collaboration of many people, including government, real estate interests, and big employers. Motion picture development, on the other hand, is dominated by a handful of powerful personalities, predominately studio heads, who can simply axe a project if they have...

Coastal Act: Lot Line Adjustment Qualifies as Coastal Act Development

A proposed lot line adjustment constitutes a development under the Coastal Act of 1976, even though the proposal would not result in more parcels, the Second District Court of Appeals has ruled. The decision means the Coastal Commission has jurisdiction over the proposed lot line adjustment.

The unanimous three-judge appellate panel upheld the decision of Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Yaffe, who compared a lot line adjustment to a lot split. "In either case, the reconfigurat...

Met Reorganizes, Slashes Expenses

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has embarked on a major reorganization and a series of cost-cutting measures, partly in response to cost overruns for the construction of Eastside Reservoir in Riverside County.

In July, MWD’s new general manager, Ronald Gastelum, unveiled the first phase of a series of organizational reforms, calling for $10 million in immediate cost savings and perhaps as much as $100 million in cost savings in the coming years.

Like the Calfed negotiations, ...

Judge Stalls SD Stadium Pending EIR Completion

Efforts to build a new ballpark for the San Diego Padres hit a snag when historic preservation advocates won a round in San Diego County Superior Court, potentially jeopardizing the project’s targeted completion date of February 2002.

Superior Court Judge Judith McConnell ordered the City of San Diego and its downtown redevelopment agency to halt eminent domain proceedings, land assembly and the awarding of a $50 million contract for infrastructure improvements until an environmental impact ...

Coastal Commission Alters UCSB Housing Plan

University of California, Santa Barbara, officials proposed building 200 dorm rooms a little too close to wetlands, the California Coastal Commission had decided. The commission approved the student housing but ordered the university to keep the planned construction at least 100 feet from a slough, coastal pools and other wetlands.

The decision requires a major redesign of the San Rafael housing addition and will delay the project by a year, according to Tye Simpson, UCSB director of physical and env...

Adult Businesses: Court Extends ‘Baby Tam’ Tp Permit Suspension Process

The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled the City of San Diego’s method for suspending and revoking nude dancing licenses is unconstitutional because it allows an adult business to be closed down while the business appeals the city’s action.

The Ninth Circuit said adult businesses have the right to prompt judicial review of suspensions and revocations. The court also ruled businesses that engage in protected speech, such as nude dancing clubs, must be allowed to stay open until a ju...

Calfed Preferred Alternative Named; But Massive Report Postpones Peripheral Canal, Storage Issues

State and federal officials early this summer released a “draft preferred alternative” for the Calfed Bay-Delta Program, which officials inside the process contend will overhaul the plumbing system on which most California residents, farms and businesses rely.

Many observers outside the program, however, struggle to determine how significantly Calfed will alter water and land use policies. Although the full plan weighs in at 40 pounds, it is light on some crucial details that might have major implicat...

San Bernadino County Extends Its Influence Near Cities

San Bernardino County has adopted a policy that calls for the county to assume more control over land use in unincorporated areas within incorporated cities’ spheres of influence. The policy concerns leaders of many cities in San Bernardino County who fear the county may compete with cities for desirable development and approve substandard projects that cities eventually must serve.

The policy, which the Board of Supervisors adopted as a general plan amendment in June, is the latest in a se...

Schools Use SB 50 To Hike Impact Fees

A 1998 law that builders hoped would keep a lid on school impact fees is instead becoming a tool for some districts to charge far higher fees than builders envisioned.

The 1998 measure, known as SB 50, capped school fees at $1.93 per square foot. The Legislature passed SB 50 as part of a deal in which developers then agreed to support a $9.2 billion school facility bond on the November 1998 state ballot. Voters subsequently approved Proposition 1A. (See CP&DR June 1999.)

However, SB 50 al...

Voters Approve New L.A. Charter; Bay Area Projects, Ventura Redevlopment Defeated

Community empowerment appears to have been the overriding theme during June’s local elections. Los Angeles voters approved a new city charter that calls for area planning commissions, Pleasanton and Scotts Valley voters rejected separate city council-approved subdivisions, and Ventura voters defeated a redevelopment area backed by the City Council. Meanwhile, school bond proposals had mixed results, with bonds in Northern California generally doing better than those in Southern California.

Passage of ...