Disney has opened two new fronts in its fight to block a 1,500-unit condominium project adjacent to a third theme park site in Anaheim. At the same time, the Anaheim City Council has scheduled a new hearing on the project after a councilwoman who had abstained earlier learned that she has no conflict of interest.
In late February, Disney sued the City of Anaheim over the environmental impact report for SunCal's 1,500-unit housing project on the site of two existing mobile home parks and a strip mall inside Anaheim's resort district. The suit arrived only days after the City Council deadlocked 2-2 on the project, meaning the Planning Commission's denial of the project stood.
In March, Disney unveiled an initiative that would require a public vote on any land use changes within the 2.2-square-mile resort district. Disney and local business organizations said they hoped to get the initiative on the February 2008 ballot.
The day after Disney's initiative announcement, the City Council voted 3-2 to reconsider SunCal's project. At Disney's urging, Councilwoman Lucille Kring had abstained from the earlier decision because she is planning to open a wine bar in the GardenWalk development, near the SunCal project site. But the Fair Political Practices Commission determined that Kring has signed only a nonbinding letter of intent, and that she may vote on the housing proposal. Kring and two other council members then voted for the rehearing, which is likely to be set for April 24.
Disney argues that new housing would compromise the integrity of the resort district around its theme parks and the Anaheim Convention Center. Housing and labor advocates, however, argue that the tens of thousands of people who work in the resort district need close-by places to live. Fifteen percent of the units in SunCal's project would be available to moderate-income families.
The League of California Cities has written a statewide initiative that would prohibit the taking of owner-occupied residences for economic development purposes. The "Homeowners and Private Property Protection Act" would still permit the condemnation of owner-occupied residences for public works projects, or for health and safety reasons. The proposed initiative offers no additional protections for renters.
The league filed the initiative with the attorney general's office in late February and could begin collecting signatures this spring. The initiative could negate one of property rights advocates' chief arguments against eminent domain and redevelopment — that the government could take your house and give it to a private developer.
Meanwhile, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association continues to refine a competing property rights initiative (see CP&DR, January 2007). The Jarvis group has announced the same aim as the league, namely, protecting homeowners. However, the Jarvis initiative goes much further into property regulation and would, among other things, prohibit rent control. The Jarvis group's "California Property Owners Protection Act" is pending at the attorney general's office.
San Francisco has adopted a six-month, interim ordinance that requires a conditional use permit for the destruction of any dwelling unit. Advocates said the measure, which could become permanent later this year, would protect affordable units in danger of being demolished and replaced with higher-end units. Opponents, however, said the new requirement would slow or block small developments opposed by neighborhood groups.
"Effectively, what it is is a moratorium on residential demolition," said Joel Karr, of Group 41 Architecture, who argued that the measure does nothing to ensure housing affordability. "It's sort of a rampant NIMBYism."
The Board of Supervisors passed the measure on a 6-5 vote. Litigation is likely.
Stanislaus County supervisors have chosen to negotiate with Sacramento developer Gerry Kamilos on redevelopment of the closed Crows Landing Naval Air Station, on the Central Valley's west side south of Patterson. On a 3-2 vote, the board chose Kamilos's West Park proposal over one submitted by Hillwood Development, which is undertaking a similar base redevelopment in San Bernardino (see CP&DR Economic Development, July 2002).
The Pentagon closed the Crows Landing base in 1996 and gave the 1,500-acre property to the county in 2004. County officials would like to see the base converted into a center of commerce on the valley's west side, which is dominated by farms and subdivisions for Bay Area commuters.
A steering committee composed of various local representatives recommended Hillwood, which proposed a warehousing and manufacturing business park. Instead, supervisors picked Kamilos, who presented plans for not only the base, but 3,000 surrounding acres. The project envisions a short-haul rail link to the Port of Oakland. Trains would unload imports at warehouses, and load up agricultural products for export. Stanislaus County hopes to win state transportation bond funds for the rail line.
Opponents of the Kamilos project say the chances of getting state funding are slim, and that the developer will turn to residential development instead — a charge Kamilos has denied.
Solana Beach voters narrowly approved a "residential mansionization" ordinance during a special election in March. The city-sponsored initiative applies to about 1,200 parcels west of Interstate 5, where pressure to replace or add onto existing houses has peaked during recent years.
The City Council approved the ordinance in 2006, amended it after a mistake was found, and then placed it on the ballot for confirmation. Proposition A passed with 50.8% of the vote.
Ordinance supporters said it is necessary to preserve the ambiance of the city's modest beach neighborhoods. Opponents, including the North San Diego County Association of Realtors, argued the measure tramples on property rights.
The ordinance establishes floor area ratios in a "scaled residential overlay zone." The ratios slide based on the size of the lot. For example, a 6,000-square-foot lot could have a house of 3,000 square feet, plus a 400-square-foot garage. A 10,000-square-foot parcel could have a 3,700-square-foot house, plus a garage.
Alhambra's Redevelopment Agency spent up to 60% of low- and moderate-income housing set-aside funds on planning and administration, charged 35% of agency salary and operating expenses to the housing fund, and double-counted units for replacement and production purposes, according to an audit by the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).
Auditors reported that the agency dedicated 60%, 40% and 51% of low-mod housing expenditures to planning and administration during the 2003, 2004 and 2005 fiscal years, and made no findings regarding the necessity and proportionality of such expenditures. Plus, charging 35% of salaries and overhead to the housing fund "seems to be a disproportionate share of the costs," HCD concluded. Alhambra officials responded that they would conduct an annual analysis and make required findings beginning with the current fiscal year.
Auditors found that Alhambra has double-counted units as both replacements for lost housing and as new units to meet production requirements. "The agency has not provided a complete list of the project names and number of units as its basis for production-unit count, nor has it identified the projects associated with removed units; therefore, we are unable to determine to what extent the double-counting has occurred," HCD's audit states. Alhambra should revise and correct its implementation plan and records, and produce more units if necessary, HCD recommended. The agency said it would consider doing so.
Advocates of incorporation in Carmel Valley have sued the Monterey County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) because the commission refused to let incorporation go forward without an environmental impact report. The LAFCO last fall determined that proponents of the 40-square-mile city would have to pay for the EIR, expected to cost more than $300,000. LAFCO also insisted on an updated fiscal analysis and a revenue neutrality agreement with the county.
The incorporation advocacy group Carmel Valley Forum pointed to an Economic and Planning Systems study that found the proposed town would be fiscally viable. Carmel Valley Forum's lawsuit contends LAFCO's decision arbitrarily prevents voters from deciding on incorporation.