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CP&DR News Summary, April 22, 2014: Budget and Big-Picture Edition

Martha Bridegam on
Apr 22, 2014

What's coming down in Sacramento this month is more politics than precipitation: bills at all levels of realism, tough reexaminations of old water deals, horsetrading and litigation on big projects, and calls from Gov. Brown to revise the "Rainy Day Fund" measure on this November's ballot in case of more dry years. The LA Times' George Skelton called it "fighting season": http://lat.ms/QAaTb2 . Here's just a little of the mid-spring wrangle, in links:

  • If anything in the current fuss is cheering municipal planners, it's a compromise proposal from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg to put more proceeds of cap-and-trade auctions of pollution rights into affordable housing and public transit. The plan itself first went to the public as a detailed "strategy" paper rather than drafted legislation. It called for compliance with Steinberg's own sustainability measure, SB 375, and with other existing requirements on cap-and-trade proceeds allocation. The plan's "framework" called for up to $610 million in dollar-denominated yearly spending for watersheds, water projects, waste projects, a "climate dividend" on transportation fuels, electric vehicles and a small "Green Bank" of $10 million to "assist the financing of clean energy and other environmentally sustainable projects." Any additional cap-and-trade fees beyond that amount -- and the additional could be $3 billion to $5 billion -- would become "permanent sources" of funds allocated by percentage: Out of a 40% allocation to fund "affordable housing and sustainable communities," at least half would fund housing and the rest of that category's funds would go to planning and "smart growth" development. Another 30% would go to "transit construction and operations." Sen. Steinberg did reconcile himself to Governor Brown's insistence that the high-speed rail project be in on the funds: it would get 20%, permanently. The last 10% would go to highways and roads.
    • Steinberg's own introduction statement on the new proposal is at http://bit.ly/1nkFMyg
    • The "strategy" text is at http://bit.ly/1i45l3y .
    • An endorsement and favorable description from the League of California Cities is at http://bit.ly/RGvifK
    • The California Association of Councils of Government (CALCOG) likewise cheered the proposal. Its statement cast the new proposal as an extension of Sen. Steinberg's SB 375: http://www.calcog.org/DocumentCenter/View/291
    • CALCOG's general-purpose Cap & Trade monitoring page is at http://www.calcog.org/index.aspx?nid=96
    • StreetsblogLA and its readers mostly approve. The Streetsblog writeup figures that if the total cap-and-trade proceeds available were $5 billion, the sum for "affordable housing and sustainable communities" would be $1.756 billion: http://bit.ly/QpCuf8
    • Our own notes on cap-and-trade news as of late March discussed Sen. Steinberg's carbon tax proposal gambit, summarized Gov. Brown's initial proposal for spending the proceeds, and recounted complaints from the Legislative Analyst's Office that some of Brown's proposed spending -- including for high-speed rail -- had tenuous links to the stated goal of reducing greenhouse gases. (Subscription): http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3458
    • Morris Brown, an anti-tax critic of high-speed rail, recalled Sen. Steinberg's criticisms of cap-and-trade as a revenue approach, including its unpredictability, when the Senator was promoting his carbon tax alternative earlier this year. He does seem to have dropped those complaints: http://bit.ly/1ly0Gu0
    • The Fresno Bee noted some of the same: http://bit.ly/1gOlp52
  • In other cap-and-trade developments:
    • The April 24 agenda of the Air Resources Board includes an offset protocol for methane capture at coal mines, although California is not itself a large producer of coal: http://www.arb.ca.gov/regact/2013/capandtrade13/capandtrade13.htm
    • Ecosystem Marketplace has context on the mine methane issue at http://bit.ly/1i9xPtD .
    • The Yurok Tribe created the first forestry offset protocol: the tribe will sell the value of the CO2 sequestered by trees within its project: http://bit.ly/1htBEJY
  • Among housing bills, SB 391 revived a perennial attempt to fund affordable housing with $75 real estate transfer recording fees. LA Times coverage notes the dissolution of redevelopment agencies ended about $1 billion formerly collected for below-market housing, and that proceeds from a voter-aproved below-market housing bond are "nearly gone": http://lat.ms/1eYa86W

    • For comparison, some other subsidized-housing costs:
      • HUD's fiscal 2012 grants to California under the McKinney-Vento homelessness program totaled just over $259 million: http://bit.ly/1tujcEH 
      • Average costs per unit of California's first tax-credit housing allocation round in 2011 worked out to $286,664: http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/ctcac/containment/presentation.pdf
      • Under federal and state low-income housing tax credit programs from 1987 through 2013, California built or rehabbed 292,599 subsidized housing units with some $23 billion in federal tax credits and about $1.45 billion in state tax credits: http://www.treasurer.ca.gov/ctcac/2013/annualreport/projects.pdf
  • Surprisingly high-powered tech industry sponsors lined up behind a limited version of legislation restricting landlords' use of the Ellis Act to empty rented housing by removing it from the rental market. The measure that has picked up heavy-hitting endorsements is SB 1439 (at http://bit.ly/Pp54wc), sponsored by State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. Leno's bill would limit the law to San Francisco only. It would not allow the Ellis Act to be suspended outright, but would allow the city's Supervisors to block use of the Ellis Act by an owner who has held a property less than five years, or at a building whose purchaser previously used the Ellis Act at another building. SB 1439 got its break when some of San Francisco's top political forces lined up behind it: Mayor Ed Lee, Salesforce.com, and venture capital investor Ron Conway. The measure passed the Senate's Transportation and Housing Committee April 1. Endorsers listed in the Senate bill's April 3 analysis include not only tenant, community and housing groups, but also the city government itself and many Internet companies. Apartment owners' and real estate organizations opposed the measure -- and, as the San Francisco Business Times noted, some tech companies stayed out of the discussion. 

    • Attention the Leno version is overshadowing the more sweeping AB 2405, introduced in February by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco. (See http://bit.ly/1kV2uKQ.) That bill would allow any county with a housing shortage to suspend evictions under the Ellis Act "until the county or city and county meets its portion of the regional housing need." It would also place confidentiality restrictions on court records of Ellis eviction cases. Initially it would have treated Ellises as civil cases on a slower calendar than regular evictions but it lost that provision in passing the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
    • More from the SF Business Times: http://bit.ly/1iEsqcP
    • From the San Francisco Chronicle: http://bit.ly/1i4OLAJ
    • Prof. Hina Shah of Golden Gate University's law school, arguing what's needed is much deeper public intervention in San Francisco's housing market: http://bit.ly/RHkkXv
  • In a unanimous en banc opinion, the Ninth Circuit backed the National Resources Defense Council's challenge to 41 long-term contract renewals for Delta irrigation water, holding that the Bureau of Reclamation should first have sought expert biological opinion on what could be done to protect the Delta smelt. The court found that when the contracts were under review in 2004 and 2005, the Bureau did consult the Fish and Wildlife Service, but not "adequately", and that the Plaintiffs' goal of forcing renegotiation of the contracts "remains available."
    • The SF Chron's Bob Egelko has more at http://bit.ly/1eYcByh
    • The case is NRDC v. Jewell, decision text at http://1.usa.gov/1kz1Hiz
    • The Associated Press reports the decision "won't affect water flows because protections for the smelt were kept in place during the lawsuit" but it does affect water planning prospectively. http://bit.ly/1fim5PU
  • In negotiations separate from the Ninth Circuit ruling, the Dept. of Water Resources was near agreement with the State Water Contractors on provisions that may extend water contracts to 2085. The essential Maven's Notebook water blog has details at http://bit.ly/1ibhmz9
  • State and federal water officials announced a drought operations plan April 8. Multiple revisions and comments following from the announcement are posted at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/drought/tucp.shtml .
    • The state's own public drought page suggested it would frugally provide just enough for all: http://ca.gov/drought/top-story-4.html
    • A more technical description, also by supporters, is available from the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) at http://bit.ly/1myha51
    • Grist's John Upton argued it would "screw the environment" by retaining water in reservoirs at the expense of river flows: http://bit.ly/1hjMqwB
    • The Sacramento Bee's Matt Weiser also reported an earful of criticisms on the plan: http://bit.ly/1k2oZMV
    • At first there was talk of blocking three water channels with extra barriers to hold back more flow, as the Bee reported April 9: http://bit.ly/1gOAPGq
    • The March storms led to that plan's cancellation April 18, as Department of Water Resources officials announced they would raise water deliveries to their contractors from zero to 5%: http://bit.ly/1kOqGhU
  • Gov. Brown called a special session, set to start in late April, on a "Rainy Day Fund" that, if the Legislature approves it by a supermajority, would appear on the November ballot. The term "Rainy Day" may sound odd now, in mid-drought, but it was applied four years ago to a mandatory state savings plan, ACA 4, that has only now made it to the ballot. Governor Brown wants to revise it, hence the proposal:  http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=18481
    • Skelton's "Fighting Season" column said the fund could make a helpful running mate for Gov. Brown as he seeks reelection in November.
    • The Bee explains the proposed revisions to the existing "rainy day" measure already on the statewide November 2014 ballot: ACA 4, enacted in 2010 but held back from elections until this year: http://bit.ly/1eK46Hd ; http://bit.ly/1nDX3jl
    • ACA 4 can be viewed via the Secretary of State's site at http://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/qualified-ballot-measures.htm
    • The link to the ACA 4 text offered on the Sec'y of State's site is compressed at http://bit.ly/1jAH7vl
  • The Delta tunnel project, AKA the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), continued to bump into obstacles and, thus far, to dig its way through them.
    • Friends of the River said the BDCP wasn't posting negative comments about its proposals on its official Web site. So the organization set out to post them all on its own site: http://t.co/b7B2r3OWu6
    • Maven's Notebook has been keeping up on the BDCP's workshops and conference calls to discuss plans and impacts one area at a time: http://mavensnotebook.com/tag/bay-delta-conservation-plan/
    • Assemblymember Jim Frazier took his own AB 1671 off calendar for the time being, according to ACWA, an opponent of the bill. It would require the state legislature to give specific approval for every federal water conveyance, including those for the BDCP project: http://bit.ly/1jATojq ; The bill is at http://bit.ly/1nlobWR
    • Attorneys from the Best Best & Krieger firm posted a detailed analysis of the March Property Reserve ruling (see http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3448), which required the BDCP to obtain orders for eminent-domain takings before it could send in staff to do precondemnation studies on potential tunnel sites. The BBK analysis -- at http://bit.ly/1hjYXAf -- suggested California Supreme Court review was likely, but if not overturned it could take up time and money from government entities and property owners alike by putting them all through the more complex eminent domain actions instead of the simpler "entry" procedure that the state had set out to use in the Property Reserve case.
  • Quite a lot of California newspapers editorially announced in the past month that it was time to get serious about managing groundwater. A lot of people had been making sure they heard about it. Amid this buzz -- both politically generated and drought-driven -- Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, now brings SB 1168 and other bills before her state Natural Resources and Water Committee April 22. KQED has details at http://bit.ly/1k3AKmh . The agenda is at http://sntr.senate.ca.gov/agenda
    • The Governor's Office of Planning and Research has held a series of workshops, most recently April 16, on groundwater management. Much of the material is available at http://www.opr.ca.gov/s_groundwater.php .
    • The California Water Action Plan, posted in January, has a substantial groundwater section that calls for state intervention where a basin "is at risk of permanent damage" due to overdraft: http://resources.ca.gov/california_water_action_plan/
    • The Chico Enterprise-Record suggests this effort has begun to filter out to local communities and officials as a warning to tend to local basins locally rather than risk state intervention. http://bit.ly/1hk6cId
    • Maven's Notebook had near-daily coverage from early March through April 11 of legislative hearings on groundwater, including the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife committee, jointly with the budget committee that considers resources and transportation; and the State Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Water: http://mavensnotebook.com/tag/groundwater/
    • The ACWA is publicizing recommendations for more careful "management and accountability" of groundwater basins: http://www.acwa.com/category/issues/groundwater
    • Its recommendations are at http://bit.ly/QC6nJ9 .
      ACWA leaders placed this op-ed in the Modesto Bee: http://bit.ly/PpIlQR
    • Some of the ACWA recommendations sound a lot like the March 11 Legislative Analyst's Office report that we wrote up at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3448 -- for example, at a very basic level, the call to recognize that groundwater basins' inputs, outputs and contents can and should be measured, and that surface water and groundwater are physically related to each other.
    • A Stanford report is out from the Water in the West project: "Before the Well Runs Dry: Improving the Linkage Between Groundwater and Land Use Planning." See http://waterinthewest.stanford.edu/groundwater_landuse . Case studies cover the Paso Robles, Orcutt/Santa Maria, Butte County and Kings Basin groundwater basins.
    • The Somach environmental litigation firm (item via Maven) suggested a Tulare County court ruling "may be a sign of things to come" in that it told a a private company, Sandridge Partners, LP, http://www.somachlaw.com/alerts.php?id=275, to stop pumping and moving water out of the local Tule subbasin for irrigation pending a trial on whether it has the right to do so.
  • California's high-speed rail plan, like the water tunnel project, bumped along through practical obstacles while the Legislature argued about its funding.
    • AP reported the State Public Works Board gave the California High-Speed Rail Authority power to take 14 properties near Fresno by eminent domain, out of 144 it had identified that it might need on the way to Bakersfield. http://bit.ly/1k2HpNj
    • The rail authority issued its final EIR for the same Fresno-Bakersfield stretch, per the Fresno Bee, which says the EIR takes up 20,000 pages: http://bit.ly/1h5vvSJ
    • The Fresno Bee reported construction may start in May, likely near Madera: http://bit.ly/PpP511
    • Persons with the courage to read the EIR are referred to http://www.hsr.ca.gov/Programs/Environmental_Planning/final_fresno_bakersfield.html
    • Bakersfield officials already want a part of the EIR redone that they say would cut through a park and the landscaped Kern River Parkway: http://bit.ly/1qfIB2y
    • The San Mateo Daily Journal reported the rail authority's latest business plan predicts 5% lower revenue, based on fewer trips than originally projected: http://bit.ly/1kVVsFF Some plan documents are among the April 10 agenda materials for the board at http://hsr.ca.gov/Board/monthly_brdmtg.html.
    • In case you missed it, two ballot initiative petitions are still circulating against the high-speed rail measure. The texts of the measures, linked from the Secretary of State's site, are at http://bit.ly/1jlOABX and http://bit.ly/1a6fUMc The SF Business Times and E&E News reported the man promoting one of them has an idea to organize travel by vacuum-powered tubes instead: http://bit.ly/1pnYdEa ; http://www.eenews.net/stories/1059993099/print
    • A March poll by the Public Policy Institute of California said 53% of adult Californians favored the high-speed rail project, which is stronger support than some previous results. The data did not address the California public's sentiments on travel by tube. http://ppic.org/main/pressrelease.asp?i=1483 via Sacramento Business Journal at http://bit.ly/1iF1VnD).

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