San Francisco won't require EIR on tech commuter shuttles

National and local writers have been all over the San Francisco Supervisors' April 1 decision to grant a Class 6 categorical exemption from CEQA to a pilot program for tech industry commuter shuttles, so instead of retelling the whole saga here we've gathered some links to CEQA and policy aspects of the story:

The city's pilot program has been allowing the "Google Bus" and other tech industry shuttles to pick up and drop off employees at public bus stops in exchange for a payment to the city of $1 every time a bus makes a stop.

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Rodeo's CEQA exemption allowed despite alleged creek pollution risk

An appellate court has upheld a CEQA exemption for the 2011 deputy sheriffs' charity rodeo at the Santa Cruz County fairgrounds in Watsonville. Although it was the first rodeo held there in a generation, the court held a categorical exemption was proper for the event on the grounds that, environmentally speaking, the rodeo was much a "normal operation" as any other livestock or equestrian event at that venue.

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CP&DR News Summary, April 1, 2014: expanding Clean Water Act's application; bills that could save Jurupa Valley's incorporation

A rule proposed March 25 by the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers could broaden the definition of "waters of the United States" subject to Clean Water Act regulation. Among much else, that could expand the areas where developers need Section 404 permits from the Corps to go forward, in a parallel permitting process in addition to local government.

Contentiously briefed Tahoe dispute rests with the court now

A challenge by dissident conservationists to the Lake Tahoe Regional Plan Update is in the hands of U.S. Judge John A. Mendez following oral arguments in Sacramento March 26.

The arguments put a bookend to a fierce, prolonged exchange of court papers heavy with mutual exasperation, between parties who may disagree more utterly than most.

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CP&DR News Summary, March 25, 2014: Newhall Ranch wins a few, water board eases flow a little, and more

The proposed 60,000-population Newhall Ranch development began a recent winning streak with an LA Superior Court ruling Jan. 31 on water supply adequacy and greenouse gases in the project's Phase 1 EIR – as reported in a Santa Clarita Valley Signal news story whose comments section reflects fierce local debate:

CEQA Makes Us Lazy

We’re pretty sure at this point that the California Environmental Quality Act does not apply to itself. ( But we’re still not quite sure whether CEQA applies “in reverse.” Does it require developers to consider not just their projects' effects on the environment, but also the potential effects on their projects from environmental hazards like landslides, earthquakes, or rising sea levels?

Cities providing water for development, if not for lawns

A generation ago, moratoriums on new water hookups were important to the statewide land use picture in bad drought years. During 1991, new hookups were banned in some large southern and coastal California cities and all of Marin County. Santa Monica made developers mitigate new hookups by buying low-flush toilets for existing users. The Metropolitan Water District suspended annexations.

Not so in 2014.

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Cap and Trade roundup: debate over revenues continues

With $1.54 billion already spent on California carbon emission rights, debate continues on whether the state's cap-and-trade auction process is valid and what the auction proceeds are for.

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Healdsburg wants Toronto and New York to know its faucets are fine.

[This item has been updated with CDPH comment.]

Officials of Healdsburg and at least three smaller water districts have been trying to shed unwanted status as poster children for the California drought.

In a January 28 press release at, the Department of Public Health issued a list of 17 communities that it said were at risk for running out of drinking water. Since then, Healdsburg City Manager Marjie Pettus has been insisting she doesn't know why.

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EIR found deficient on Kern Water Bank

In a pair of decisions March 5, the Sacramento County Superior Court's Judge Timothy Frawley invalidated parts of the EIR that has been allowing the Kern Water Bank, a major groundwater reserve near Bakersfield, to function under its current legal framework. The water bank's physical operations and environmental safeguards were at issue, against a background that includes conservationists' criticism of influence in the bank's governance by entities associated with food and farming investor Stewart Resnick.

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LA grading permit ordered despite no tract map

A Saudi prince's Los Angeles family compound plan in Benedict Canyon has won an appellate court's order clearing the way for a grading permit across a large hillside area, even though the sponsors did not file a tract map.

Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel of the Second District Court of Appeal, Justice Victoria Gerrard Chaney upheld the trial court's order, which found no tract map is required where the land in question will not be subdivided.

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Court defers to local officials, geography on 11ft variance in Del Mar

In a dispute between tenacious neighbors in Del Mar, the Fourth Appellate District upheld a variance for plans to tear down and rebuild a house at its existing distance from the street although it did not meet a local 20-foot front yard setback requirement. The court said property owner Jon Scurlock's right to seek a variance for his "complete remodel" was independent of the old building's existing nonconformity, and it found substantial evidence for local officials' decision that granting the variance would be fairest to the property owner while serving local planning goals.

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HOA's members need not testify about their own side's strategy meetings

Lawyers for organizations may feel both shudders and relief on reading a recent appellate decision protecting attorney-client privilege for the members of a La Jolla homeowners' association. Shudders, that a local court's discovery order would have required individual homeowners to recount group strategy meetings held by their HOA's lawyers. Relief, that the Fourth District Court of Appeal has blocked the order.

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Property owners can't "walk away from" coastal development conditions

Ruling for the Coastal Commission against property owners represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, California's Second Appellate District cited the doctrine of collateral estoppel to find that an easement condition on a coastal development permit, once final, cannot be contested in a second permit application.

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The Hollywood earthquake fault: geology as a matter of opinion

In a case that could reset the parameters of reality, the developer of a mixed-use development under construction in Hollywood has asked the state geological service to change the earthquake map of Los Angeles.