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CP&DR News Summary, May 20, 2014: Cap & Trade for housing; new Salton Sea ruling; the Martin's Beach docket and more

Martha Bridegam on
May 20, 2014

The transit-focused housing proposal from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is being portrayed as the main state-level hope for new affordable housing funds this legislative season. Redevelopment is gone, Gov. Brown's proposed successor institutions to Redevelopment are weak on housing, bond funds for housing are running low, and the veterans' housing bond issue on the June ballot carves out a  sympathetic subpopulation rather than address the whole need.

So that leaves Steinberg's proposal for the proceeds from state cap-and-trade carbon auctions, which as proposed in April emphasized transit-oriented development and "smart growth", and called for at least 20% to go to affordable housing. We summarized the plan in April at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3477.

The Governor's cap-and-trade proposal emphasizes high-speed rail, other transportation, and varied further projects with environmental preservation aspects (but with $100 million for grants via the Strategic Growth Council). It hasn't budged much in the May Revise per the CA League of Cities summary at http://bit.ly/1lDa76W.

Backers of the Steinberg plan are promoting a study by the advocacy group TransForm (see http://bit.ly/1lkA5M8) reporting that poorer people who live near transit are more likely to use it than richer neighbors with the same access. See StreetsblogLA at http://bit.ly/1hZ78Dp for details, but also for a thoughtful argument in comments about whether U.S. transit construction patterns may put "transit villages" too near polluting freeways, with health consequences for residents.

Meanwhile the Air Resources Board issued its greenhouse gas emissions inventory for 2012 in a bouncy press release at at http://bit.ly/1oP4AMF, but as parsed by the Environmental Leader publication at http://www.environmentalleader.com/2014/05/19/california-emissions-rise-1-6/ it shows a 1.7 percent increase from 2011 to 2012 in total greenhouse gas emissions -- see also the main report at http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/inventory/pubs/reports/ghg_inventory_00-12_report.pdf.

The Air Resources Board's first AB32 scoping plan update appeared on its site May 15. See  http://bit.ly/QQx9NQ and http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/scopingplan/scopingplan.htm.

Governor Brown is still stumping for his high-speed rail project, which he seeks to back with a large proportion of cap-and trade revenues, recently defending it passionately to the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board: http://bit.ly/1sNWTH7. The estimated cost of the Fresno-to-Bakersfield segment rose another billion dollars in early May to $7.13 billion according to the LA Times at http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-bullet-train-costs-20140508-story.html. However, the state High Speed Rail Authority has approved the project's 20,000-page environmental impact report for that segment (http://bit.ly/1o0UvyS). Per the LA Times, "Construction on the first 29-mile segment through Fresno is supposted to start by July."

9th Cir upholds Salton Sea summary judgment

(This summary was updated May 28, 2014)

The Ninth Circuit ruled May 19 that Imperial County and its Air Pollution Control District had standing to sue the Department of the Interior over its Environmental Impact Statement allowing contracts for diversion of Colorado River water from the Imperial Valley to Southern California coastal water systems, principally San Diego's. However, it found the EIS was not wrong under the National Environmental Policy Act, and so the transfers properly went through.

The concern in the EIS was that diverting water away from the Salton Sea would shrink it, exposing more fine dust along its shores and worsening local air quality. Finding that the district court made the right decision for partly wrong reasons, the Ninth Circuit upheld the lower court's grant of summary judgment to throw out the case.

The Associated Press reported "Critics sued on similar grounds in state court and lost." http://bit.ly/1ilSQgg

The case is State of California ex rel. Imperial County Air Pollution Control District v. U.S. Department of the Interior, at  http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2014/05/19/12-55856.pdf.

Judicial Council speeds up CEQA calendars for "leadership" projects


The California Judicial Council issued new rules April 25 on expediting CEQA appeals of large developments designated by the Governor as "leadership" projects under SB 743. SB 743 requires both the trial and appellate courts to complete CEQA review of "leadership" projects within 270 days starting with certification of the administrative record. The Council's report suggests it struggled to set rules that might help parties meet that extremely tight deadline by filing and serving petitions quickly after certification. Other rules on the expedited calendar include tightened briefing schedules, a case management conference within 30 days of the petition's filing, and a hearing on the merits 80 days after that. Notices of appeal must be filed within just five court days. For the whole rule text with its staff report see http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/jc-20140425-itemM.pdf . A recording of the approval meeting is at http://www.courts.ca.gov/25710.htm. For details see http://www.ceqadevelopments.com/2014/05/12/spring-2014-ceqa-roundup/#more-812 and a detailed description from Holland & Knight at http://bit.ly/1h2wVKG.

A Prop 13 breakthrough?

AB 2372, by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, and Assembly Revenue & Taxation Committee Chair Raul Bocanegra, D-San Fernando Valley, has won surprising support from business and antitax groups, even the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, for a compromise that represents new willingness to nibble at the edges of Proposition 13. The measure would not disturb California's generations-old property tax freeze at its core, but would stop businesses from ducking reassessments of their new real estate purchases by dividing up formal ownership of new properties.

The San Francisco Bay Guardian weekly credited the crucial difficult work of the negotiation to Bocanegra: http://bit.ly/1qR5I7n. The LA Times has more background at http://lat.ms/1jPJusv and, on the Jarvis organization's historic concession, at http://lat.ms/1mpihSR. The state's tracking page on the bill with text, status and a committee analysis is at http://bit.ly/1i0mbN1.

To antitax groups, the measure could be a lesser evil rather than a desired goal. Former LA Times reporter Anthony York asked on his Twitter feed if the Jarvis group was "preempting split roll, or stoking momentum?" https://twitter.com/anthonyyork49/status/466609572653051904. The Sacramento Bee's Dan Walters likewise suggested at http://www.sacbee.com/2014/05/13/6402618/the-buzz-compromise-reached-on.html that "The deal falls well short of a full 'split roll', which would completely remove Proposition 13's limits from business property, long a goal of liberal groups."

A bill actually is afoot in the Legislature that opponents are calling "split roll" but it's arguably not a "full split roll" either -- it's only an effort to legislatively overrule the 2013 case of Borikas v. Alameda Unified School District (analysis from Meyers Nave at http://bit.ly/1lXJM5d, text at http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/A129295A.PDF.) Sen. Lois Wolk's SB 1021 would allow school districts to impose variable rate parcel taxes according to property type. It has drawn opposition from the California Apartment Association (see http://www.caanet.org/news_events/caa-keep-fighting-split-roll-parcel-tax-fund-school-districts/) and an April legislative analysis lists a long string of further anti-tax and business opponents. The measure further seems to be a popular punching bag for right-wing bloggers online. However, as of May 12 it had passed the state Senate and was before its first Assembly committee.

Drought and Water Notes

Drops in the bucket of the ongoing water crisis:

  •  The State Water Resources Control Board issued three different agenda revisions in preparation for its May 20-21 agenda, which will consider the possibility of "curtailment" orders blocking water use by some holders of post-1914 water rights. The main curtailment discussion, on rights in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, appeared at first as a resolution proposed for approval but now appears only as a public workshop to receive comments. A proposed curtailment resolution "due to insufficient flow for specific fisheries" still appears on the agenda but it only appears to affect three creeks feeding the Sacramento River in Tehama County. See the May 20 entries at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/board_info/calendar/.
  • As of  June 1, a new agency will be managing the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), also known as the Delta water tunnel project. The Sacramento Bee has details at http://bit.ly/ToEiXK.
  • North Delta Community Area Residents for Environmental Stability was objecting that the BDCP had unfairly printed its 40,000-page EIR only in English although the report itself acknowledges that many residents speak only other languages, principally Spanish: http://www.centralvalleybusinesstimes.com/stories/001/?ID=25830
  • The East Bay Express was calling the whole thing a "boondoggle": http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/the-water-tunnel-boondoggle/Content?oid=3922258
  • Recycled water is gaining ground as the drought continues. Healdsburg is now making available free municipal recycled water and Paso Robles is considering the same: http://www.winesandvines.com/template.cfm?section=news&content=132713
  • ACWA's town-by-town tally of water-saving restrictions was updated May 13 at http://www.acwa.com/content/local-drought-response. It's a daunting read.
  • The city of Ukiah was considering sharing water with groundwater-starved Redwood Valley (See http://bit.ly/1oM1NGZ -- and more on Redwood Valley at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3459.)
  • Lake Cachuma, serving important parts of Santa Barbara County and now down to 36% of capacity, had agreed with local water managers to cut their allocations by 55%: http://bit.ly/1jPO6Pn
  • Over opposition from the California Coastal Protection Network (see http://bit.ly/Sd3Iqm), Santa Barbara was moving towards reactivating its mothballed reverse-osmosis desalination plant: http://bit.ly/1mDeJe3 It estimated that going through with the restart would cost almost $29 million: http://bit.ly/1lCpyLj
  • Hemet, San Juan Bautista, Hollister and Delano were having problems with nitrates in drinking water:
    • http://www.pe.com/articles/water-693943-nitrate-nitrates.html
    • http://www.pe.com/articles/water-693957-jensen-city.html
    • http://bit.ly/1k1mI69
    • http://bit.ly/1j4He0u
  • Slate reported 10% of California's water is going to almond farming: http://slate.me/1ov9Bww

In other news --

  • The Los Angeles City Council was considering legalizing street vendors: http://bit.ly/Sd6kEQ There's a discussion of ideas for an LA food vendors' program at http://myla2050.maker.good.is/projects/streetvendors.
  • Trial began over public access to Martin's Beach, a private stretch of the San Mateo County coast that the prior owner had opened to the public in exchange for a parking fee. Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla, the current owner, faced questioning in court from the Surfrider Foundation's attorney, the redoubtable Joe Cotchett. For the court drama, which has included a visit to the beach itself, see http://bit.ly/1kkqjvA and http://bit.ly/1gN8Bw2. The case is No. CIV 520336 in San Mateo County Superior Court, available via http://openaccess1.sanmateocourt.org/openaccess/civil/default.asp . The next item on calendar is a dispute over a subpoena to Khosla. The trial itself is now set to resume July 1, 2014.
  • Unsuccessful parties and others have filed requests to depublish the Woodland "urban blight" EIR case that we discussed at www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3472. For a little discussion see http://www.ceqadevelopments.com/2014/05/12/spring-2014-ceqa-roundup/. The updated online docket is at http://bit.ly/1qrIrFt.
  • State Sen. Alex Padilla, also a candidate for California Secretary of State, continued to advance his bill for a statewide plastic bag ban, SB 270. Sacramento Bee columnist Mariel Garza wrote this weekend at http://www.sacbee.com/2014/05/18/6411959/mariel-garza-ban-single-use-plastic.html that Padilla was facing attack ads from the plastic industry over the matter. But the bill has passed the Senate, has survived one Assembly committee vote, and next goes to Assembly Appropriations.
  • Sacramento's planned Kings arena would cost $477 million, of which $255 million would be a public subsidy, raised largely by a bond issue to be paid off partly by city parking revenues: http://www.sacbee.com/2014/05/18/6413166/will-sacramento-take-the-gamble.html They're counting on raising those parking revenues "by as much as 50 percent in the next seven years": http://www.sacbee.com/2014/05/19/6414161/higher-parking-rates-are-central.html
  • Forest City Development is already looking ahead past the likely June passage of San Francisco's Measure B on waterfront height limits. It's reportedly already working toward a November ballot measure to approve its planned major development on Pier 70, at the former vehicle impound lot that was previously the Union Iron Works shipyard. See http://www.planetizen.com/articles/node-68840. And see below for an image taken at an open house last fall in the old factory's massive main Building 12. Until recent years the pictured corner was where impounded RVs went to await the crusher. Now it's airing out the ghosts and getting ready for new things.

Pier 70, Building 12