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Indians Lose, Housing wins at Governor's Desk

Showing the willingness to veto bills for the second year in a row, Gov. Gray Davis rejected land use bills that ranged from high-profile measures to legislation that was nearly off the radar screen. Two project-specific bills that would have aided Indian casino development received vetoes in late September. Davis also rejected bills that would have, among other things, thrown a new obstacle in front of a controversial Ventura County subdivision; encouraged a 1.5 to 1 jobs-housing balance; and shifted the cost of environmental impact reports on incorporations to the state and counties. Davis did sign some land-use legislation, including a bill that allocates $25 million to begin purchasing salt marshes along San Francisco Bay and another bill that allows redevelopment agencies to pool affordable housing funds. The Indian casino bills were AB 2752 (Cardoza) and AB 1066 (Cardenas). The Cardoza bill would have blocked development of the long-planned Gregory Canyon Landfill in San Diego County. Bill supporters said the area is sacred ground to the Pala Band of Mission Indians, while some opponents said the tribe was more concerned about the landfill's close proximity to a planned casino. In his veto message, Davis focused on the project's history. In 1994, county voters amended the county's general plan to approve the landfill's location, and both a trial court and state appellate court upheld the ballot measure's validity. (See CP&DR Legal Digest, January 1999, June 1997.) "While I am sensitive to the concerns raised by the tribe in this case, I am also sensitive to the fact that the San Diego County voters approved the siting of this landfill, as Proposition C, by a 68% countywide vote in 1994," Davis said in his veto message. "I am loath to overturn a vote of the electorate and the decision of two courts of law." The Pala Band said it was devastated by the governor's veto. "If it was next to his church, I don't think he would have vetoed the bill," Pala Secretary Stan McGarr told the Los Angeles Times. The Cardenas bill would have facilitated construction of a Highway 50 interchange to serve a casino proposed by the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians in western El Dorado County. The Shingle Springs Band's property is now landlocked (see CP&DR, July 2000). Davis said the "contractual arrangements" of AB 1066 might have merit, but he disliked lawmaker's "gut and amend" process. "Until the second to last day of the legislative session, this bill related to the display of slot machines at trade shows," Davis noted. Another bill vetoed bill was AB 1758 (Kuehl), which would have hindered the Ahmanson Ranch subdivision, a 3,000 home development approved eight years ago by Ventura County supervisors but which remains tied up in legal and regulatory processes. The bill would have authorized the Department of Fish & Game to grant immediate protection to any plant or animal species thought to be extinct, and required the plant or animal to be left alone while DFG determined the status of the species. Earlier this year, scientists found on Ahmanson Ranch the San Fernando spineflower, which was thought to have been extinct for 50 years. Davis called the bill unnecessary and noted that the San Fernando spineflower is moving though the state's endangered species listing process. Davis also complained that AB 1758 would waive public notice requirements, "possibly disenfranchising those most affected by the adoption of these heightened provisions." Housing legislation generally received a favorable reception in the Capitol's corner office, but Davis did veto a jobs-housing bill endorsed by the Smart Growth Caucus. Senate Bill 1642 (Figueroa) would have required the state and regional councils of government to seek a jobs-housing ratio of 1.5 to 1. Instead, the governor said the Interregional Partnership (IRP) state pilot project and the new Jobs-Housing Balance Improvement Account should be given a chance. The IRP project, which covers five Bay Area and Central Valley counties and numerous cities, provides financial incentives for local agencies that boost housing production (see CP&DR March 2000). The pilot program won approval earlier this year as AB 2864. The Jobs-Housing Balance Improvement Account bill (AB 2054) "cleaned up" AB 2864 by creating a fund for programs to encourage jobs-housing balance and transit-oriented developments. Assembly Tom Torlakson (D-Martinez) carried both bills, which Davis signed. Doesn't Pass the Gray Test The governor also vetoed: o AB 1960 (Machado), which would have split costs for an incorporation EIRs 75% to the state and 25% to the county in cases where incorporation failed. San Fernando Valley secession was behind the bill. Davis said incorporation applicants should be responsible for the expense. o AB 356 (Washington), which would have created an enterprise zone in the City of Compton. Instead, Davis signed SB 511 (Alarcon), which maintains the competitive process for establishing enterprise zones but awards bonus points based on economic need. o AB 2471 (Wayne), which specified information to be included in the Office of Planning and Research's quadrennial report on the state's environmental goals and policies. Davis called the bill's requirements expensive and said they should have been considered in the budget process. The Governor Likes It Davis signed the following bills: o AB 398 (Migden), which allocates money for purchasing Cargill Salt Co. land along San Francisco Bay. The bill specified $30 million, but Davis reduced that amount to $25 million. The bill is a companion to SB 1562 (Burton), which declares that purchase of 19,000 acres of salt flats shall be adequate to mitigate San Francisco Airport expansion into the bay. Davis had not decided on that bill as of press time. o AB 2041 (Dutra),which lets redevelopment agencies pool housing funds under a joint powers authority. The legislation appears to replace a now-expired, and little-used, law that allowed one redevelopment agency to transfer money to a different redevelopment agency. (Last year, for example, the wealthy City of Indian Wells gave $1.5 million in redevelopment funds to the poorer city of Coachella to build affordable homes.) In his signing message, Davis recognized some communities could use the legislation to shirk affordable housing responsibilities. But, he added, "Pooling can provide flexibility to get housing built." o AB 2430 (Wiggins), which extends the sunset date by three years on legislation that allows Napa County to meet 15% of its affordable housing requirements with construction of homes in cities. Bill supporters say a 1990 urban growth boundary initiative and the incorporation of American Canyon hamper the county's ability to meet its regional housing obligation. The Senate refused to approve Wiggins' plan to let the county meet 33% of its share with housing in incorporated areas. o AB 2848 (Firebaugh), which authorizes a lead agency for a transportation project to use a federal environmental impact statement (EIS) to avoid preparation of a separate state environmental impact report (EIR). The measure also requires the lead agency to notify the appropriate federal agencies of scoping meetings. o AB 950 (Thomson), which extends the sunset date by five years on legislation for a joint powers authority to provide more housing in order to retain Travis Air Force Base in Solano County.
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