San Bernardino County has adopted a tax-sharing policy that could promote development in six cities. The new policy permits cities that now receive less than 7% of local property tax to create “revenue enhancement zones.” Within the zones, the county will shift property tax it gets to ensure the cities get 7% of the property tax revenue generated by development within the zones.

Territory eligible for the zones must already be annexed, comprise at least 20 contiguous acres and have little existing development. The cities of Chino Hills, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana, Adelanto, Victorville and Hesperia qualify because they all receive less than 7% of property taxes.

A separate deal with Chino Hills provides that city — which normally gets only 4% of property taxes — up to 10% of taxes from new development. The county treated Chino Hills differently because the city has no redevelopment agency.

The county wanted to establish a more equitable system for funding public services and encourage cities to make the most of their land, explained Mark Kirk, chief of staff to Supervisor Gary Ovitt.

“We’re not trying to tell the local jurisdictions where to develop or how to develop,” Kirk said. “But the net result will probably be that cities maximize the uses in these areas, probably with high-end development.”

The intense battle over a new general plan for Monterey County shows no sign of abating. On February 28, the county Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 not to place a general plan initiative on the June ballot, even though petitions for the 70-page initiative had enough valid signatures to qualify. Supervisors said the initiative, which would limit most unincorporated development to a few communities, contained legal defects.

The board’s decision came one day after three Latino residents sued the county to block the initiative because the petitions were not circulated in Spanish. In a separate lawsuit, initiative backers sued the county for not putting the measure on the ballot. That lawsuit was moved to federal court and consolidated with the voting rights litigation.

On March 23, U.S. District Court Judge James Ware ruled that the initiative did violate the Voting Rights Act because petitions were not circulated amongst both English- and Spanish-speaking voters. The ruling keeps the general plan measure off the ballot. Initiative backers said they would appeal.

The county began an update of its 1982 general plan seven years ago (see CP&DR Local Watch, July 2004). Over time, the county released three new versions of the plan, all of which have met with opposition from one side or the other in Monterey County’s polarized land use politics. The county issued a fourth draft in March but, at least initially, it was overshadowed by the legal fight regarding the initiative.

Voters in the City of Moorpark overwhelmingly rejected a proposed 1,680-unit housing subdivision in the hills northeast of town. With nearly half of registered voters turning out for the one-issue special election on February 28, 76% of voters rejected the North Park Village project.

The election was the first major test of the Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources (SOAR) initiatives in Ventura County. The SOAR initiatives require voters to decide on development outside of SOAR-established growth boundaries for nine cities and the county. Only a few minor projects have tested the SOAR limits since they were established starting in the late-1990s.

In 1999, Moorpark voters defeated via referendum a 3,200-unit housing project the City Council had approved for the same site as North Park Village. After that defeat, city officials and the latest developer, Village Development, vastly reworked the project. The proposal rejected by voters this time was sweetened with a 2,100-acre nature preserve and 50-acre lake. Opponents, however, said the project would cause increased traffic congestion and mar residents’ views of the hills.

Marin County has ended its legal fight to block construction of a new death row at San Quentin State Prison (see CP&DR Public Development, April 2005). In January, a Marin County judge upheld the environmental impact report for the $230 million project. County officials considered an appeal but the Board of Supervisors finally voted to drop the litigation.

Construction of the 760-inmate facility is scheduled to commence in June.

Riverside has agreed to remove about 600 acres from a new redevelopment project area to settle a lawsuit with redevelopment opponents. In March, a Riverside County superior court judge signed the agreement between the city and the group Rural Residents and Horse Owners of Riverside.

The city created the 9,000-acre La Sierra/Arlanza redevelopment project area in 2004. Last year, the city settled a lawsuit that the county filed over the project by removing 1,300 acres from the project area.

That was not enough to satisfy the Rural Residents, who contended that their large-lot neighborhoods were neither blighted nor urbanized (see CP&DR Redevelopment Watch, November 2005). The settlement carves some of those areas out of the redevelopment project. The settlement also prohibits the redevelopment agency from taking owner-occupied single-family houses via eminent domain, and requires the agency to work on a system of equestrian trails.

San Jose has lost a lawsuit filed by Santa Clara County and the City of Milpitas over traffic that could result from new development policies in North San Jose. The policies are intended to dramatically urbanize a 5,000-acre industrial area between the 101, 237 and 880 freeways (see CP&DR Local Watch, September 2005).

The county and Milpitas contended that San Jose was saddling neighboring jurisdictions with traffic problems. Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Leslie Nichols sided with the county and Milpitas, saying that San Jose should consider a fair-share agreement to offset increased traffic costs.

San Jose also lost a lawsuit it filed against the county over the county’s plan to develop a concert hall at the fairgrounds on Tully Road (see CP&DR Public Development, December 2004). In that case, San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner ruled that the city had violated an earlier land use agreement between the city and county.

The City of Santa Clarita’s federal court fight to halt a proposed gravel quarry just outside of town concluded with a Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling against the city. The city had contested a 2004 consent decree between the concrete company Cemex and Los Angeles County that permitted the 500-acre gravel mine to go forward. The city and environmentalists argued the mine would harm air quality, congest roads and harm two endangered species (see CP&DR In Brief, January 2006, June 2004).

In a very short, unpublished opinion, a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel called the consent decree “fundamentally fair, adequate and reasonable.” The decree limits the quarry’s hours of operation, requires payment to mitigate traffic, air and open space impacts, and imposes other conditions.

The city currently is trying to annex the site of the proposed mine.

For the second time in a year, property owners in Encinitas have rejected a parcel tax to fund the cleanup of the city’s stormwater runoff. In mail balloting that concluded during March, 61% of property owners rejected the $60 annual charge. Last year, property owners rejected a similar fee.

The $60 fee would have raised $1.1 million annually for cleaning stormwater to state standards, which city officials say costs about $3.5 million a year. Opponents said the city has enough money already to pay for the clean water program.