Opponents of San Francisco's tech bus shuttle program filed May 1 for court review of the county Supervisors' decision to exempt it from CEQA review. The double-decker buses, which carry city residents to jobs on South Bay office campuses, pay the city a dollar every time a bus makes a stop. Opponents say the buses disrupt public transit but, more important, that they cause displacement by driving up housing prices along the bus routes. While the buses do reduce car trips to the campuses, they have been viewed as both a mitigation and a condition to mitigate. See our prior discussion at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3466.

Respondents named in the suit alongside San Francisco municipal entities include Apple, Genentech, Google and multiple bus companies. Petitioners include SEIU Local 1021, Elizabeth Alexander, housing activist Sara Shortt, and a nonprofit, the Coalition for Fair Legal and Environmental Transit. See http://bit.ly/1kRgc0s . The San Francisco Superior Court case number is CPF 14 513627. Court documents can be downloaded via case number search at http://sfsuperiorcourt.org/online-services .

Pomona can sue business for 1920s-50s fertilizer imports

The Ninth Circuit will let the City of Pomona return to trial court with testimony by an expert witness on the likely origins of perchlorate molecules in the city's water supply. The court's opinion said Dr. Neil Sturchio of the University of Illinois at Chicago had offered testimony, based on "stable isotope analysis," that -- in the court's paraphrase -- the "dominant source of perchlorate in the Pomona groundwater is from the Atacama Desert in Chile" and had "the same distinctive isotopic composition" as perchlorate in naturally formed  sodium nitrate fertilizer that the defendant, SQM North America, "imported into southern California from Chile... between 1927 and the 1950s."

In an evidentiary hearing under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), the district court had excluded Dr. Sturchio's testimony as unorthodox, taking the heart out of the city's case. The Ninth Circuit, however, found Dr. Sturchio's methods were sufficiently reliable, scientifically acceptable, and capable of being re-tested by others, to make his testimony at least worth hearing.

The appellate ruling further agreed with the district court that the case should not be thrown out based on either the statute of limitations or SQM North America's argument that Pomona's claim was barred by the "economic loss rule" for being insufficiently direct. The Ninth Circuit found Pomona's suit could go forward because the city had a direct enough property claim on its groundwater rights, and a strong enough argument that recent discovery of the problem made the timing of its suit acceptable. The case is City of Pomona v. SQM North America Corp., at http://1.usa.gov/PYHyqf.

Water highlights

Just a few links on California's topic of the year:

  • EBMUD made its first use of an emergency water supply from the Sacramento River: http://bit.ly/SvnDRO
  • Officials were near issuing curtailment orders to property owners to stop diverting water per established junior water rights: http://bit.ly/SdVC16
  • The state Department of Water Resources issued a major report showing low levels of groundwater where measured and gaps in monitoring statewide. See http://bit.ly/R8DgNS. The Sacramento Bee's Matt Wiser unpacked the results at http://bit.ly/1ue4zG4 .
  • CNN reported on Orange County's use of recycled water for drinking at http://cnn.it/1nOsPNa

Some statewide ballot measure highlights

Here's an unsystematic look at the lineup of local June 3 ballot measures:

  • South Lake Tahoe's Measure P, if approved, would end a kiosk-based parking fee program in busy tourist areas. See http://www.cityofslt.us/index.aspx?NID=743 and
  • Among measures in Los Angeles County, the city of Monterey Park will vote on Measure A to amend its general plan and zoning map, and to approve a specific plan to build a development of single-family homes. The city of Signal Hill will Measure U, to require a 2/3 vote for all "taxes, assessments and fees". See http://lavote.net/VOTER_ELECTIONS/Upcoming_Elections.cfm#06032014 and http://www.cityofsignalhill.org/index.aspx?NID=378. Measure U is supported by a group called Signal Hill Community First (http://www.signalhillfirst.org/) The Long Beach Press Telegram reports supporters lost a challenge to the way the city presented the measure on the ballot: http://bit.ly/1nkMTnX
  • San Francisco's Measure B, which would require a vote for all future height limit variances on the waterfront, lost some of its point when the Warriors basketball team management up their contested effort to build an arena on Piers 30-32 near the Golden Gate Bridge, and instead picked an arena site farther south in Mission Bay near Third and 16th Streets. Considerable future development plans are still at stake, however, notably for the old Union Iron Works property at Pier 70. For Measure B see http://www.sfgov2.org/index.aspx?page=4279 and our February discussion at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3443. On the Warriors see http://bit.ly/Q9kLbg . On Pier 70, which for years was a backwater of warehouses, studios and a huge car impound barn, see developer Forest City's plans at http://pier70sf.com/ and artist Wendy MacNaughton's impressionistic history of the place at http://pier70community.com/.
  • San Diego's Measures B and C, on the Barrio Logan Community Plan, are discussed at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3473.
  • The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District's Measure O, which was the subject of a court battle over ballot arguments and descriptions, is discussed at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3467.
  • On the Los Gatos "Albright Way Initiative" to allow construction of a headquarters for Netflix, see http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3443 on the dispute over signature gathering that preceded the measure's placement on the ballot.
  • Marin county's Measure B would create permanent structures for a farmers' market at Frank Lloyd Wright's historic Marin Civic Center building. The Marin IJ supports the measure and recounts some history of the prior referendum that led to strict voter-approval requirements for changes around the Marin Civic Center building: http://www.marinij.com/editorial/ci_25687438/editorial-marin-farmers-market-needs-permanent-home. See also http://www.smartvoter.org/2014/06/03/ca/mrn/meas/B/ and a snarkier appraisal of the plan (with some cinematic history of the complex) at http://www.northbaybiz.com/Columnists/Only_in_Marin/Organically_Grown.php.
  • Also in Marin County, a coding error that placed the Measure A library parcel tax on ballots outside the library district was going to cost the county $100,000: http://www.marinij.com/marinnews/ci_25702340/coding-error-marin-s-june-primary-ballot-will
  • Meanwhile, Del Norte County voters will have a chance this June to express dissatisfaction with southward parts of California in a highly traditional way: a referendum on secession to form the 51st state of Jefferson. For a current view on the measure, see http://www.sacbee.com/2014/04/26/6354931/viewpoints-siskiyous-political.html. For some history on the sometimes genuinely edgy Jefferson movement, which dates from 1941, see this account, written on the occasion of a separate Jefferson secession vote by the Supervisors of neighboring Siskiyou County in fall 2013: http://www.redding.com/news/2013/sep/03/live-tweets-siskiyou-county-supervisors-discuss-se/