News In Brief: LNG Terminated, Industry's Football Stadium, CEQA Litigation And More

Plans for a controversial liquid national gas (LNG) terminal off the coast of Long Beach have been scrapped by Woodside Petroleum of Australia, which announced that market conditions no longer support the project.

In 2007, a different Australian company, BHB Billiton, announced it was canceling a proposed LNG terminal off the coast of Malibu. That announcement followed votes by the State Lands Commission and the Coastal Commission against the project.

As recently as 2006, there were at least half a dozen LNG terminals at a cost of roughly $1 billion apiece proposed off the California coast to accommodate giant tankers hauling the super-refrigerated gas from Australia, Indonesia and the Middle East. Gov. Schwarzenegger endorsed LNG as a "bridge" to renewable energy, and both the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the California Energy Commission predicted the state would need the new source of energy. But the projects encountered major opposition from members of the public and government officials, who said the projects presented grave public safety and environmental concerns (see CP&DR Environment Watch, September 2005).

The Woodside announcement reflects the natural gas market crash. The PUC and Energy Commission now predict that natural gas demand will remain flat in California for the next 20 years. Meanwhile, exploitation of this country's natural gas resources is expected to increase dramatically, thanks to Bush administration decisions to open up federal lands to drilling. It now appears unlikely any of the LNG terminal proposals off California's coast will advance.



Voters in the City of Industry approved $500 million worth of bonds to fund infrastructure improvements, including at least $160 million worth of projects in the area where developer Ed Roski, Jr. has proposed a football stadium and retail center (see CP&DR Places, June 2008).

Industry is mostly a collection of business parks and has only 82 registered voters. They approved the bonds on a vote of 60 to 1 during a special election in January. By similar margins, they also approved imposition of local taxes on entertainment tickets and parking, created an electric utility to serve part of the city, authorized the City Council to approve contracts without soliciting bids, and approved a measure excluding transients and people who live in hotels or commercial areas from voting in Industry.

Meanwhile, the City Council in neighboring Walnut has voted to oppose the 560-acre stadium and commercial project because of concerns about traffic, crime and decreased property values. The City of Diamond Bar submitted 102 pages of comments on the project EIR, which the city argues is deficient in numerous areas.



A proposed private university and housing development that won approval from Placer County supervisors in December is now the subject of two California Environmental Quality Act lawsuits. The Sierra Club and a group called Placer Citizens Against Gridlock filed separate suits in January over the project's environmental impact report. The project opponents say the analysis does not adequately address traffic congestion, greenhouse gas emissions and loss of farmland.

The county approved the regional university specific plan, as well as a development agreement, a general plan amendment, rezoning and a public facilities financing plan, for 1,157 acres of farmland west of Roseville. The decision permits Drexel University of Philadelphia and local landowners to move forward with a deal in which the landowners would donate the acreage to Drexel, which would fund construction of a 600-acre campus for 6,000-students by selling the remaining 557 acres for development of 3,200 housing units and commercial uses. Among the land donors is developer Angelo Tsakopolous. The county's specific plan website is here.

 


The lead developer of a controversial proposed housing development in San Pedro has been replaced and the project is getting reworked in advance of a public hearing scheduled for April. Investors in the Ponte Vista project replaced Bob Bisno, a longtime Southern California developer, with Ted Fentin of Credit Suisse, who has indicated he is willing to scale back the project.

Ponte Vista demonstrates the tension between regional needs and local desires. The site is 61.5 acres formerly owned by the Navy and currently zoned by the City of Los Angeles for single-family houses. But the Southern California Association of Governments, the local Chamber of Commerce and other groups have backed the much more intensive development sought by Bisno, who proposed 1,950 condominiums and townhouses and a smattering of retail uses (see CP&DR Local Watch, October 2007). Backers say building single-family homes would waste an infill development opportunity within two miles of the Port of Los Angeles, the region's largest job center.

Still, the project hit a buzz-saw of opposition from local residents complaining about the already congested conditions along the adjacent South Western Avenue and from Councilwoman Janice Hahn. The new development team intends to conduct focus groups to determine what level of development the community might accept.



Gov. Schwarzenegger has appointed former Assemblywoman Nicole Parra to the new position of director of the Governor's Regional Development Initiatives within the Business Transportation and Housing Agency. The position is intended to promote public-private partnerships in poor regions.

Although Parra will have responsibility over the entire state, she is likely to focus her attention on the Central Valley. She will be charged with convening regional job growth summits and working with the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley (see CP&DR, February 2006).

A Democrat from Hanford, Parra was termed out of the Assembly last fall. She has been involved in several bitter political fights recently. She endorsed Republican Danny Gilmore in the race to succeed her, rather than Democrat Fran Florez, who is mother of state Senate Dean Florez (D-Shafter) Parra and the younger Florez have fought a number of battles. Gilmore won the election. Parra lost her office in the state Capitol toward the end of the 2007-08 Legislative session because she refused to vote for a Democratic-drafted budget. Throughout, Parra has remained close to the Schwarzenegger administration.



Madera County has been slammed with multiple lawsuits after approving two large projects in Rio Mesa, a designated growth area north of Fresno.

Fresno County, two environmental groups and the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust filed a total of three lawsuits over a 3,000-unit development to the north and west of Millerton Lake. Fresno County's concern is traffic, while the other organizations say Madera County has not done enough to protect the San Joaquin River and endangered species habitat.

Meanwhile, the Chawanakee Unified School District sued over the 5,200-unit Tesoro Viejo project along Highway 41. The district argues the project violates the Rio Mesa area plan because the county did not ensure developers provide adequate money to fund new schools. The district contends it needs an additional $100 million to build schools.

Madera County has tried to encourage growth in the 15,000-acre Rio Mesa area since the 1990s, but financing problems, environmental concerns and water issues have so far prevented most development (see CP&DR In Brief, August 2006; Local Watch, May 2004).