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CP&DR News Summary, May 13, 2014: Coastal Commission, TRPA, LA stormwater

Martha Bridegam on
May 13, 2014

The Coastal Commission meets at the Inverness Yacht Club in Marin County starting May 14. The full agenda includes four revisions to Local Coastal Programs (LCPs).

Of these, Marin County is the headliner, with a major proposed update to its Land Use Plan (LUP) that would expand the meaning of "agricultural" use, favoring housing for people engaged in the work of farms over services for visitors or housing for non-farmers. Major changes would include a concession easing permits for farmworker housing and "intergenerational homes" on farm property by making them principally permitted uses. A new provision would require expert biological site assessments for "development proposals within or adjacent to" environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHA). At the same time it would reduce some buffer requirements around wetlands and streams.

The Commission's staff report praises the plan as emerging from a cooperative and thorough public process, but it recommends adoption only conditionally, stating recommended changes in a 145-page markup document (Appendix 6 in agenda materials for the item.) County proposals disfavored by Commission staff include the choice to regulate Marin County's southward coast in a separate "unit" from the rest. The staff report opposes a rule that "intergenerational homes" be only for members of farmers' families while recommending the total of such homes be limited to 27.

A recent news report in the Point Reyes Light showed local critics questioning whether the county and Commission were headed toward overly strict provisions against hazards including earthquakes, bluff erosion, flooding and sea level rise, especially in a Commission-proposed revision that could force would-be builders to disregard existing "protective devices" such as seawalls in considering whether a site offers 100 years' future stability for a project.

The other LCP proposals are amendments for San Diego, Pismo Beach and Santa Barbara. San Diego's proposal would revise notice and timing rules on rights to appeal city decisions and would clarify that the official implementing environmental quality procedures is the Planning Director, not the Development Services Director. [Disclosure: The current San Diego Planning Director is Bill Fulton, publisher of this publication.]

Also on the Commission's calendar are an amendment to the Port of Los Angeles master plan, a big batch of Orange County renovations, and a detailed informational report on radioactivity reaching California from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster.

Links:

  • Commission agenda: http://www.coastal.ca.gov/mtgcurr.html
  • Marin staff report from the May 15 agenda item: http://documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2014/5/Th12a-5-2014.pdf.
  • County LCP planning site: http://www.marincounty.org/depts/cd/divisions/planning/local-coastal-program
  • Point Reyes Light: http://www.ptreyeslight.com/article/coastal-commission-set-vote-revision-lcp
  • Fukushima staff report: http://documents.coastal.ca.gov/reports/2014/5/F10b-5-2014.pdf

Environmental groups appeal Tahoe challenge to 9th Circuit

The weary battlers over Lake Tahoe's Regional Plan Update (RPU) are in for another round. On May 7 the Sierra Club and Friends of the West Shore appealed the decision by U.S. District Judge John Mendez that upheld the 2012 RPU as appropriately reconciling current scientific and regulatory practice with the prior 1987 Regional Plan scheme and overarching environmental law.

Earthjustice, the environmental nonprofit firm representing the plaintiffs, issued a statement based on elements of its district court arguments, saying the RPU is too optimistic about its own effects on the lake basin environment, and that its incentives to replace "aging, poorly located" projects with denser, better-mitigated urban ones will allow too much construction to serve the lake overall. It quoted Tahoe area Sierra Club leader Laurel Ames as saying the defendant Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA) "has abandoned its core mission to restore and protect Lake Tahoe's environment."

TRPA issued a cool response quoting Executive Director Joanne Marchetta as saying, "While the appeal makes its way through the legal process, we will continue to put the substantial environmental benefits of the plan into place." In a Tahoe Daily Tribune opinion piece, Steve Noll, former board chair of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce (TahoeChamber), wrote in part, "While for many of us this is disheartening I believe that the science utilized by the TRPA in the RPU was solid, and that common sense will again prevail."

Links:

  • Some of CP&DR's prior coverage on the plan and the dispute: http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3471, http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3435 and http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3223.
  • Tahoe Daily Tribune coverage: http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/news/11331878-113/plan-lake-regional-tahoe
  • Earthjustice's statement: http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2014/conservation-groups-continue-to-fight-to-protect-lake-tahoe-from-development
  • TRPA's response: http://www.trpa.org/11354/
  • Response from Steve Noll of TahoeChamber: http://www.tahoedailytribune.com/southshore/11342023-113/plan-tahoe-area-regional
  • Short news report, long debate in comments thread, Lake Tahoe News -- worth a glance as indicator of continuing strong local sentiment: http://www.laketahoenews.net/2014/05/trpa-regional-plan-court-decision-appealed/

SCOTUS review denial upholds LA County runoff liability

(This report was updated May 28, 2014.)

The Supreme Court's refusal to review a Ninth Circuit ruling has fastened responsibility more tightly on Los Angeles County and its flood control district for pollution in untreated runoff from city streets that travels through storm sewers to the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers. The Ninth Circuit ruling, issued last August, said the two government entities needed to do more than monitor the high levels of toxins and fecal coliform: when results showed that storm sewer flow into the rivers violated the terms of existing discharge permits, the county and the district had to respond.

The county had sought to diffuse responsibility for the high pollutant levels detected at its monitoring stations, arguing that part of the fault rested with private and public entities upstream whose drains feed into the county system.

The water quality journal Stormwater reported the county was preparing to impose fees to pay costs of the cleanup, "an estimated $8 billion over 20 years."

The ruling was a victory for two plaintiffs: the National Resources Defense Council and LA Waterkeeper (captioned under its former name, Santa Monica Baykeeper).

The matter now returns to federal district court for proceedings on the remedies portion of the case, which was stayed pending the decision on liability.

The LA Times' Bettina Boxall writes that LA County is already working on "green infrastructure" efforts to mitigate runoff in new projects, and "The county and cities are considering construction of regional infiltration basins to collect runoff to recharge aquifers."

Links:

  • Bettina Boxall, LA Times: http://lat.ms/1qawNCb
  • NRDC statement: http://www.nrdc.org/media/2014/140505.asp
  • Stormwater journal report: http://www.stormh2o.com/SW/Forum/Paying_for_the_LA_Cleanup_1965.aspx
  • LA Waterkeeper: https://lawaterkeeper.org/news/
  • SoCal Public Radio: http://www.scpr.org/news/2014/05/05/43977/supreme-court-says-la-county-is-responsible-for-st/
  • Underlying 9th Cir. opinion: http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2013/08/08/10-56017.pdf
  • Supreme Court docket: http://www.supremecourt.gov/search.aspx?filename=/docketfiles/13-901.htm