While slow-growth advocates won the majority of ballot measure contests in California this November, the pro-growth side claimed victory in three major statewide contests elsewhere in the West.
In both Arizona and Colorado, voters defeated statewide initiatives aimed at creating urban growth boundaries around most cities by 70-to-30 ratios. Both Arizona Proposition 202 and Colorado Amendment 24 would have required voter approval of development outside the growth boundaries.
Also in Arizona, voters narrowly rejected Proposition 100, which was aimed at permanently conserving about 270,000 acres of open space and agricultural land. While the Arizona and Colorado decisions leave the status quo in tact, voters in Oregon struck a huge blow against their land use regulatory system.
The Oregon electorate voted 53% to 47% for an initiative that requires the government to compensate landowners for every state or local regulation that diminishes property value. An impartial, pre-election analysis determined that Measure 7 could cost state and local government in Oregon more than $5 billion a year. Opponents have vowed to challenge Measure 7 in court. The election was a major victory for property rights advocates who contend that many laws and administrative rules amount to "regulatory takings."
Santa Clara County supervisors approved a Stanford University growth plan that was designed as a compromise between the school and area residents who want to preserve Stanford's foothills. Under the plan approved in late November, Stanford can build 3,000 housing units for faculty, staff and graduate students, and 2 million square feet of other facilities, including a basketball arena, performing arts center, classrooms and laboratories.
Development will be centered in the core campus area. The plan requires Stanford to protect 2,000 acres in its western foothills for 25 years and abide by a county plan for protecting about 400 acres of environmentally sensitive property. A last-minute proposal from Supervisor Joe Simitian to prohibit development on about 1,000 acres for 99 years was strongly opposed by the school and lacked adequate support on the Board of Supervisors. Possibly the largest private landowner on the Peninsula, Stanford has largely had land use autonomy for its 8,180 acres in the past. (See CP&DR Local Watch, February 2000.) The new Community Plan, which is scheduled for final approval December 12, is the most detailed and most public planning document devised for Stanford.
Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg has appointed 29 people to his new Commission on Regionalism. Nick Bollman, president of the Oakland-based California Center for Regional Leadership, will serve as chair. According to Hertzberg's office, the commission will "study and recommend changes to state policies and governance structures to help regions address issues that tend to leapfrog city and county boundaries." A complete list of members can be found on the speaker's website, http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a40
The Southern California Association of Governments has formally rejected state housing figures. The Department of Housing and Community Development mandated development of 504,000 housing units by 2005 in the five-county SCAG region, down from 625,000 units HCD originally proposed. Instead, SCAG said the region could accommodate only 438,000 new units. How SCAG and the state will resolve the apparent impasse was unclear. Local governments in the SCAG region are suppose to complete housing element updates by December 31.
In a stunning setback for the developer, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to limit development at the controversial Bolsa Chica site to only 65 acres. Hearthside Homes sought permission to build about 1,200 homes on 183 acres at Bolsa Chica, a 1,200-acre coastal wetlands and mesa in unincorporated northern Orange County.
Various developments have been proposed over the last three decades for Bolsa Chica, but environmentalists fighting to save one of the region's last large wetlands have prevailed in most rounds of the protracted regulatory and legal battle. Few observers expect the Commission's vote to end the struggle.
Cisco Systems intends to build a 3.4 million square foot campus in Fremont's recently approved Pacific Commons office park (see CP&DR Economic Development, November 1999). Fremont approved the 8.25 million square foot Catellus project along San Francisco Bay earlier this year. Cisco could employ up to 10,000 workers at the site, making Cisco Fremont's largest employer. The campus would be in addition to a facility twice as big that the City of San Jose recently approved for Cisco, which makes Internet hardware.
The Navy has signed an agreement with San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown to clean up Hunters Point Naval Shipyard and give it to the city in phases during the next four years. The 500 acres of land along the Bay has gone mostly unused since the Navy shuttered the facility in 1974. The city could acquire an 88-acre tract as soon as February 2001. The shipyard has long been seen as a potential site for housing and commercial development in the Bayview-Hunters Point District, which is one of San Francisco's poorest.
Some area residents, however, call the site a public health menace and have little faith in the Navy. The shipyard was placed on the Superfund list in 1989 and the Navy has yet to fully clean it up because various parties could not agree on cleanup levels.
A judge has upheld Kern County's year-old ban on the spreading of sewage sludge on farmland (see CP&DR Environmental Watch, July 2000). A number of Southern California agencies that have trucked sludge to Kern County sued last year, claiming in part that Kern County could not adopt the ordinance banning sludge without an environmental review. Tulare County Superior Court Judge Paul Vortmann ruled against nearly all of the wastewater agencies' claims. An appeal is likely.