A Public Policy Institute of California survey of Central Valley residents found strong opinions regarding urban growth and the environment. When asked to name the most important issue facing the 18-county region, 15% of residents said population growth, tying for first place with electricity. In third place was the economy (13%), but the next four issues in descending order were water quality and availability, air pollution, loss of farmland, and traffic and transportation. All of those issues rated ahead of schools, crime and drugs in the survey, which PPIC and the Great Valley Center released in March.
At least 75% of respondents said they support proposals to protect farmland and wetlands, expand public transit, and build freeways. Interestingly, 56% said they favor a regional growth plan rather than letting each city and county decide.
"Problems associated with growth and development create big worries today and cloud an otherwise rosy view of what's ahead," said PPIC Statewide Survey Director Mark Baldassare.
The economy provided a point of contrast within the region. Residents in the North Valley (from Sutter County to Shasta County) were four times as likely to rank the lack of well-paying jobs as an issue than Sacramento-area residents, who cited traffic congestion as a major concern. The survey is available at www.ppic.org
Only a week before PPIC and the Great Valley Center released their survey, the Minnesota-based Metropolitan Area Research Corporation and the Great Valley Center released a report on social and development trends in the Valley. The study identified rising social disparity and inefficient growth patterns as key issues.
The report, written by MARC's Myron Orfield, lists three factors preventing the region from addressing these issues: the concentration of poverty in core urban areas and outlying rural communities; a "highly fragmented system of local finance and economic development;" and the lack of structure for regional leadership.
"We can choose to address the existing disparities and invest in strong central cities with good schools, or we can continue to treat our communities like they are disposable," said Great Valley Center President Carol Whiteside.
The report is available at www.greatvalley.org
The Rail Cycle saga in San Bernardino County appeared to conclude when the developer of a proposed garbage dump reached a settlement with a neighboring landowner who opposed the project. In March, Waste Management announced it would pay $6 million and give 7,000 acres to Cadiz, Inc. in exchange for Cadiz dropping state and federal lawsuits.
Rail Cycle was a giant dump proposed by Waste Management for the desert east of Barstow. (see CP&DR, November 2000, October 2000, November 1999, March 1999). The project fell apart, but in October of 1998, the county grand jury indicted Waste Management and five employees for a variety of white-collar crimes. Prosecutors contended Rail Cycle proponents tried to ruin Cadiz Inc. All criminal charges were dropped or expunged late last year, and Waste Management agreed to pay the county $7.7 million in fines and restitution.
Cadiz had filed civil suits regarding the adequacy of the dump's EIR and claiming Waste Management officials tried to manipulate the price of Cadiz stock. Cadiz owns 27,000 acres in the desert, from which it hopes to pump groundwater for sale to the Metropolitan Water District.
Cadiz officials expressed satisfaction with the March settlement, while Waste Management attorney John Newell told the Los Angeles Times the settlement "is really for us just a cost justification."
The downtown Los Angeles site of a controversial proposed industrial development has been optioned to an environmental group and could become a park. Developer Majestic Realty has offered 32 acres of the "Cornfield" to the Trust for Public Land, which agreed to accept the property while state funding is lined up for the purchase.
Majestic had proposed an industrial project that won the endorsement of Mayor Richard Riordan and was approved by the city's Central Area Planning Commission last year (see CP&DR Economic Development, September 2000, January 2000). But Friends of the Los Angeles River sued on behalf of environmental and neighborhood groups, alleging inadequate environmental review. They groups say the area needs parks and community facilities more than warehouse jobs.
The opponents' case received a boost when the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it would withhold a $12 million subsidy for cleanup of the site until the city completed a more thorough environmental analysis. The site is an abandoned rail yard where corn once grew.
Closure of the deal requires the park coalition to come up with $30 million by November 30. Proponents hope to get funding earmarked in the state budget and from Proposition 12 park bonds.
Temecula city officials have blocked from the ballot a referendum regarding the Wolf Creek development, a 2,022-home project that the City Council approved on a 3-2 vote in February (see CP&DR Local Watch, February 2001). Project opponents needed only 16 days to gather what appeared to be more than enough signatures to qualify a referendum. But City Attorney Peter Thorson said the referendum was invalid because its backers did not show petition signers the entire Wolf Creek development plan. Litigation now appears likely.
The San Jose City Council in March approved a plan to redevelop six neighborhood shopping center scattered around town. The city plans to spend about $5 million on landscaping, streets and building upgrades at the shopping centers to generate tax increment for poor neighborhoods. However, the project threatens to bring to a head the long-simmering feud between the city and Santa Clara County, which has suggested the city uses redevelopment simply to divert tax revenues.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized its designation of "critical habitat" for the threatened red-legged frog in March. The designation covers 4.1 million acres in 28 counties, down from 5.4 million acres the agency proposed last year (see CP&DR Environment Watch, December 2000). Environmentalists generally were pleased with the decision, but development and farming interests were outraged. They said the designation — and the additional reviews it sets off — will needlessly slow projects.
The Transportation Committee of the Southern California Association of Governments has voted against the City of Los Angeles's expansion plans for the Los Angeles International Airport. The committee said the growth of air traffic should be spread among airports in the region. The vote was a major victory for cities near LAX that oppose expansion, and for proponents of a new airport at the closed El Toro Marine Corps base in Orange County. Voting members of SCAG are scheduled to resume consideration of the air transportation plan this month.
Correction. A brief in January's edition improperly characterized a lawsuit settlement between the Sonoma County Housing Advocacy Group and the county. The county must adopt a valid housing element by August, but whether more land will need to be rezoned for multi-family residential development is unknown. The county has some land zoned for multi-family projects, and the judge's order in the case does not state that more is needed. Also, the 2,500 units mentioned in the story referred to the county's share of very low- and low-income housing units allocated to it during the latest regional housing needs determination.