Headline Story

Newport Beach's Banning Ranch Approval Upheld by Appellate Court

The Fourth District Court of Appeal has upheld the City of Newport Beach’s decision to “approve” a development project on Banning Ranch, saying that the city complied with both the California Environmental Quality Act and its own general plan. A trial judge had ruled that the city complied with CEQA but violated its own general plan. 

The project is still pending before the Coastal Commission.

It was the second time in less than three years that the Fourth District upheld Newport Beach’s action on the Banning Ranch project. In December 2012, the court ruled that the city’s EIR had properly analyzed the impact of the project on adjacent parks. 

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Another Legal Win For Redevelopment Agencies

The Third District Court of Appeal has ruled that two “re-entry agreements” between Sonoma County and its former redevelopment agency are valid under the redevelopment wind-down law. The case marks the second time this year that the Third District has upheld re-entry agreements, suggesting that local governments are beginning to get the upper hand against the state Department of Finance in post-redevelopment litigation.

The case involves the county’s desire to retain $14 million in tax-increment funds for two projects: street and sidewalk upgrades on Highway 12 north of Sonoma, and a mixed-use project on the site of an abandoned shopping center in the Roseland neighborhood of Santa Rosa. 

As with the other recent case from Emeryville, the case turned in part on whether AB 1484, a 2012 law which eliminated re-entry agreements, should somehow be used to invalidate reentry agreements made before the law took effect. In addition, DOF made a series of narrow legal arguments that the Third District did not buy.

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Sacramento Did Not Commit to Downtown Arena Ahead of EIR, Appellate Court Rules

In a ruling critical to moving forward Sacramento’s downtown basketball arena, the Third District Court of Appeal has given the City of Sacramento a clean win in a wide-ranging CEQA challenge brought by a group of individual environmentalists.

Most significantly, the appellate court found that the city did not violate the California Environmental Quality Act by committing itself to a downtown arena site prior to the completion of the environmental impact report and did not have to consider the site of the existing Sleep Train Arena in Natomas in its alternatives analysis.

SANDAG Case Accepted by California Supreme Court, SD County CAP Case Declined

The California Supreme Court has accepted Cleveland National Forest Association v. SANDAG, the controversial case that raises the question of whether a governor's executive order must be taken into consideration in CEQA analysis.

With Decline of Williamson Act, SALC Represents New Hope for Ag Preservation

The new Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) program only has $5 million so far, but land preservation and farm groups greeted approval of its opening guidelines with enthusiasm – especially given the fact that the Williamson Act was defunded in 2009.

The California Climate and Agriculture Network (CalCAN) gushed: "Applause erupted yesterday in response to the unanimous vote of the Strategic Growth Council..." Then it quoted Natural Resources Secretary and SGC member John Laird: "All speakers essentially said yes to the program, only sooner and bigger."

Ag preservation optimists are looking past that opening $5 million at the strong possibility that SALC has permanent dibs on 1% of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which is expected to swell from new cap-and-trade auction proceeds.

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CP&DR News Briefs, March 10, 2015: L.A. Football Stadium Seeks Public Approval; Claremont Seeks Taking of Water Agency; Redlands Rail EIR Approved; and More

Proponents of a stadium that would jointly host the relocated Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers in Carson put together a ballot initiative to seek local approval for the project. The measure would approve the creation of a public authority in Carson, akin to the arrangement the 49ers used to build their new stadium, that would own the stadium and lease it back to the teams.

Split Decision on Oil Measures, Redondo Beach Development Plan Loses

Local voters in California gave oil a split decision on Tuesday. Voters in La Habra Heights shot down an anti-fracking ballot measure, while voters in Hermosa Beach rejected a ballot measure that would have permitted E&B Natural Resources to construct 34 onshore wells in the city. Meanwhile, Redondo Beach voters rejected a development plan that would have included razing the power plant that has long occupied a critical spot near the beach.

Cal Supremes Strengthen CEQA Categorical Exemptions in Ruling on Large Berkeley House

By a 5-2 vote, the California Supreme Court has issued a complex ruling that tends to support CEQA exemption for a large house in Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley (Logan)

Monday’s opinion is largely favorable to computer industry pioneer Mitch Kapor, founder of the Lotus software company, and Freada Kapor-Klein, who have been trying since 2009 to build a large house in the Berkeley hills. Their proposed single-family house and garage together would measure nearly 10,000 square feet, on a lot that is itself much larger, but that is situated on a steep slope reached by a small road. Berkeley applied two categorical exemptions from CEQA to the project: single-family and infill. Project opponents argued that the house was so big that it presented "unusual circumstances" and should be denied the safe harbor of a categorical exemption. Among other things, the issuance of the ruling will permit another CEQA “unusual circumstances” Supreme Court case to move forward.

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Stadium Foe Takes Page from Paranoia Playbook

I don’t like the idea of building an NFL stadium, presumably for the relocated St. Louis Rams, in Inglewood. You know who really doesn’t like he idea? Anschutz Entertainment Group. But do you know who does like it? ISIS. Or al-Qaeda. Or the Taliban. I’m not really sure, but, apparently, one of those groups hates the stadium so much that they're going to want to blow it up. 

CP&DR News Briefs, March 2, 2015: Google Presents Plan for New HQ; SF May Outsource Affordable Housing; Fresno Approves Water Plan; and More

Google unveiled a “whimsical" proposal for a massive new headquarters in Mountain View designed by architect Frank Ghery.

Cases That Could Broaden Railroads' Path Through CEQA Gather Steam

Considering their importance, the public hasn't heard much about Friends of Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority and Kings County v. Surface Transportation Board. The two cases, respectively before the California Supreme Court and the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, could end California environmental review of public rail projects in California – most notably the High Speed Rail project and might indirectly affect private rail operations including oil trains.

The cases shaped up this winter into tests of whether the Surface Transportation Board (STB) can block environmental reviews of rail projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The STB and two state rail agencies contend that CEQA review crosses onto the STB's exclusive regulatory turf under the 1995 Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA), 49 U.S.C. §10101 et seq. 

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CP&DR News Summary, February 24, 2015: Home Values, Rental Rates Rise; Sacramento Streetcar Moves Forward; Shared NFL Stadium; and more

A new report [pdf] released by the Public Policy Institute of California shows that California’s housing market continues to recover from its low at the beginning of 2012. Median home values in the most populous counties have increased by 39 percent since 2012, though they remain 20 percent lower than they were at the market’s peak in 2006-2007. The report also shows that the housing recovery has caused a problem for some less affluent residents, as “increasing prices place housing out of reach for many Californians.” It finds that homeownership rates in California have fallen more sharply than the rest of the nation, with California falling to 53.8 percent as compared with a 64.7 percent nationwide.

 

Another report released by NYU’s Furman Center describes the percentage changes in rental populations in major US cities from 2006 to 2013. Los Angeles and San Francisco rank among nine cities where more than 50% of the population rents, as of 2013. San Francisco scored in the top five increasing rental populations, with 22% more San Franciscans renting since 2006; Los Angeles’ rental population increased by 11%.

 

Is It Time to Bury the Gas Tax?

In recent weeks, we’ve seen a lot of moves that suggest it may be time to change the way California funds transportation, including the following:

  • Board of Equalization Member George Runner has been touting a 21% cut in the gas tax as part of the “fuel tax swap” formula from a few years ago.
  • A committee headed by former San Diego City Councilmember Jim Madaffer is looking at how to implement a mileage tax as an alternative to the gas tax.
  • Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins has proposed a $52 annual fee on most drivers as a way to raise almost $2 billion for road repairs.

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Sprawl Depends on More Than Just Density

In the ever-lasting debate over sprawl, the most enduring argument centers on the definition of sprawl itself. The latest entrant is, perhaps, the oldest entrant: density. 

As reported by Richard Florida in his CityLab column this week, NYU doctoral student Thomas Laidley has introduced a new method to measure sprawl. Laidley's "Sprawl Index" uses the following methodology: 

"Laidley uses these aerial images to estimate sprawl at the Census block level, the smallest level available, estimating the share of metro population in those blocks below three key thresholds: 3,500, 8,500, and 20,000 persons per square mile. His index is based on the average of these three values, with higher scores reflecting higher levels of sprawl."

Homeless Case May Move Forward on Equal Protection Grounds

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the City of Sacramento’s ban on camping in public parks – and allowing only limited camping on private property -- may move forward because the plaintiffs have stated a valid equal protection argument, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled.

In response to concerns about the homeless, Sacramento adopted an ordinance banning camping on public property and in public parks and permitting camping on private property for only one consecutive night. In 2009, the city cracked down on a group of homeless people who were camping in a fenced lot on private property with the property owner’s permission. Several times in September of 2009, the homeless people were arrested and their belongings were seized even though they were camping on private property. 

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CP&DR News Briefs, February 15, 2015: S.D. Fights $271 Million Stadium 'Claw-Back;' Sacramento Arena EIR Questioned; Bill Would Streamline CEQA; S.F. Street Trees; and More

The demise of redevelopment may leave the city of San Diego with a monstrous bill: $271 million to cover the development of its downtown stadium, Petco Park. When the stadium’s financing plan was approved in 1998, general obligation bond funds were to be routed through the Center City Development Corp., one of the city’s redevelopment agencies.

CP&DR News Briefs, February 9, 2015: California's Share of Obama Budget; Transbay Mello-Roos Protests; SLO Quarry; and More

President Obama’s proposed 2016 budget, announced last week, includes several nods to development and transportation in California to the tune of over $1 billion.