Walnut Creek officially began preparation last month of a West Downtown Specific Plan focused on links between the city's BART station and downtown, with related attention to nearby major boulevards. The city's initial Notice of Preparation papers are at http://bit.ly/WAz7Wv. Linked thence, the main West Downtown Specific Plan page at http://bit.ly/1lpCXH0 says "This important plan will focus on making it easier to walk and bike between the BART station and downtown; and plan for new homes and businesses between Olympic Boulevard and the BART station, while preserving the Almond-Shuey neighborhood."

The site reports the city has begun its work by sampling public opinion in small groups and workshops, and with a consultant's report on expected transportation and land use changes. It offers a "Self-Guided Transit Oriented Development Tour" (http://www.walnut-creek.org/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=7944) featuring model transit-oriented projects around the Bay Area: projects at the Pleasant Hill and Colma BART stations and in Redwood City, San Jose and Oakland. The most recent completed public document is a May 2014 "affordable housing and anti-displacement strategy" report by BAE Urban Economics at http://www.walnut-creek.org/civicax/filebank/blobdload.aspx?blobid=8649. A first draft of the Specific Plan itself is expected to appear in October.

Fairfax Town Council backs off from zoning for housing

The Fairfax Town Council in Marin County has repealed a zoning ordinance that would have allowed construction of 124 new housing units. The decision, per the Marin IJ, "leaves in limbo the future of a plan to build 40 single-bedroom affordable apartments for seniors at the Christ Lutheran Church property on the west end of town." (See http://bit.ly/1o4q89O.) The repeal followed a start on a referendum petition that got 1000 signatures opposing the ordinance, and a tough meeting July 12, in which officials explained the city's 2010 General Plan provisions and ABAG-determined housing goals, and critics accusing town planners of zoning for too much new housing. See http://bit.ly/1lpGhBY for the Marin IJ on the meeting. The city's main site at http://www.town-of-fairfax.org/ offers handouts from the event under "Current Topics" and promises to post video of it soon.

Sacramento Kings seek $100 million bond from CEQA plaintiffs

If environmental and social advocates are going to hold up the Kings basketball arena with lawsuits, the team's owners want a guarantee against the potential consequences of opening their stadium late. The Sacramento Bee reports at http://bit.ly/1nwGzwG that the team's demand for a $100 million bond is based on the possibility of losses if the stadium isn't open by October 2016, and, more starkly, an agreement allowing the NBA to move the Kings elsewhere if they don't have a Sacramento stadium by fall 2017.

According to the Bee, the main case in question is Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento, a CEQA-based environmental impact suit filed in May. That case challenges the constitutionality of special CEQA leniencies provided to the arena project under SB 743, questions the commitment of public funds to the project, and claims the EIR has failed to address harmful environmental impacts to be expected from noise, crowds, and the remaindering -- hence blighting -- of the existing Sleep Train Arena.

The paper says a second, more recent case may be consolidated with Saltonstall. That would presumably be Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity v. City of Sacramento, the claim filed in late June by housing and environmental activists who, before filing suit, sought a Community Benefits Agreement to compensate for the arena's alleged future effects on the environment and local economy. (See http://bit.ly/1nHc0TI.) The Shared Prosperity suit and Saltonstall make overlapping claims about environmental impacts and the validity of SB 743.

State Lands Commission challenges SF's Prop B height limit

The State Lands Commission has filed a petition to stop the city of San Francisco from enforcing its newly passed Proposition B waterfront height limit. It alleges that "Proposition B is invalid because it specifically targets state-owned tide and submerged lands over which the Legislature has expressly precluded the right of local initiative." It says the the port lands addressed in the June ballot measure are not subject to local voters' control because they belong to the state and are governed by the Port Commission for the whole state's benefit. The petition is worth a look for its exploration of the history of tidelands as public trust and the lands' current status under the Burton Act. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, a former mayor of San Francisco, is one of the Commission's three members.

City Attorney Dennis Herrera posted a defiant response at http://www.sfcityattorney.org/index.aspx?page=605. It argues that the city's port lands are managed under a combination of authorities, including the local Planning Commission and Supervisors, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), and the State Lands Commission as well, in a framework provided by the Waterfront Land Use Plan mandated under 1990's Proposition H, a local initiative measure. Further, it questions the Lands Commission's reliance on Public Resources Code Sec. 6009, passed in 2010, as authority for preempting local ballot measures on Port lands. Herrera's statement cites to an uncodified section of the statute saying 6009 is not intended to change existing law. (For the 2010 bill, SB 1350, see http://bit.ly/1lpcQQq.)

The SF Chronicle's Bob Egelko reported at http://bit.ly/1oG6BsL that similar arguments were made in a lawsuit filed by developers last winter, and initially part-funded by the San Francisco Giants, in an effort to take Proposition B off the ballot. He reports the old and new cases may be consolidated.

The case docket, which provides the complaint in PDF form, is at http://bit.ly/1wU6qOJ. For our June post-election look at Proposition B and San Francisco port lands, see http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3510. (See today's ballot measure report at https://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3532 for potential effects on the pending Pier 70 ballot measure proposed for November.)

How to regulate boarding houses fairly in LA?

The LA Times reports Los Angeles' planners and City Council are debating how to regulate boarding houses, pushed by neighborhood complaints about disorder at particular buildings but seeking to avoid endorsing social prejudice or fair housing violations. The definition of a "family" under city ordinances is of particular concern for properties serving groups of people, sometimes with disabilities or in addiction recovery, who live together but who are not related by blood or marriage. See http://lat.ms/1lpJIsj.

Fourth District grants leeway to transfer a taken property's Prop 13 advantage

In a narrow ruling highlighting a lesser-used form of reassessment exclusion, the Fourth District Court of Appeal found a business property owner could make a late request, even after four years had passed, to transfer the low Prop 13 base year value of a property taken by eminent domain, so that it lowered the assessment for tax purposes on a second property bought to replace the first.

The swap invoked a right under Proposition 3 of 1982 that as modified by the Legislature's Revenue & Taxation Code Sec. 68, may be invoked within four years after the eminent domain condemnation. However, the court held the base year value claim could be filed later than four years, provided the replacement property was itself purchased within four years after the eminent domain condemnation.

The case is Olive Lane Industrial Park, LLC vs. County of San Diego. See http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/D063337.PDF.

Street washing, some sidewalk washing, still allowed by state water rules

Municipal street washing, and sidewalk washing if the sidewalks really need it, are reportedly exempt from California's new water conservation rules. A change in the proposed rules exempts the washing of streets and buildings statewide; washing of sidewalks is allowed where a health and safety exemption applies. See the SF Chronicle at http://bit.ly/1myVPTF.

Comparing the final July 16 statewide rule with the initially proposed July 8 version on the State Water Board's page at http://bit.ly/U4HBmI, both contain the health and safety exemption but two major changes are noticeable: one is that many (not all) references to "water" are replaced with "potable water", and the other softens a ban on "the application of water to any hard surface, including but not limited to driveways, sidewalks, and asphalt." The new comparable rule reads simply, "the application of potable water to driveways and sidewalks."

The exemptions were especially sought by the city of San Francisco, which has an energetic sidewalk and street washing program. (See http://bit.ly/1m2eV4e.) San Francisco has been accused of using water trucks both to clean up waste left by sidewalk campers and to remove the campers themselves. http://alj.am/1gGjTVs

HOAs lose power to enforce lawn watering

Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2100, by Assemblymember Nora Campos, D-San Jose, to stop homeowners' associations from fining members for watering their lawns less or not at all during a drought emergency. See http://bit.ly/1tsryM1 for details. The bill is closely similar to AB 2104 by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and even closer to SB 992 by State Sen. Jim Nielsen R-Gerber.

Mountain View activists want more housing in shopping center mix

The Mountain View City Council was reportedly leaning toward approval of a plan for more housing at the planned San Antonio Center shopping center project -- a significant change from February, according to the Mountain View Voice at http://bit.ly/1n8nZKj. The paper reported the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View activist group had threatened to place a measure on the ballot unless the affected shopping area's San Antonio Precise Plan was readjusted to balance housing with jobs. See http://balancedmv.org/.

Active transportation promoters include Ed Begley, Jr.

True to his many Everyman roles, actor Ed Begley, Jr. showed up at a meeting of the Los Angeles Metro policy committee as part of a group seeking more funding to encourage and ease walking and bicycling in LA. The public comment effort last Wednesday was organized by the LA County Active Transportation Collaborative, which includes the Safe Routes to School organization (see http://saferoutescalifornia.org/2014/07/16/at_financestrategy_lametro/).

The committee passed a motion to create an active transportation finance strategy for the county that would measure "improvements for walking and biking" in order to define and fund goals and measure their degree of attainment. Streetsblog LA livetweeted the meeting on the hashtag #metrofundwalkbike, including Begley's part of it around https://twitter.com/StreetsblogLA/status/489530460540653569.

In other news:

  • The city of Pico Rivera held a community meeting July 21 on its proposed general plan revision. See the city site at http://www.pico-rivera.org/depts/ced/planning/plan.asp 
  • San Diego's City Council decided to wait until September for a vote on increasing commercial development fees for affordable housing. See www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/jul/17/linkage-fee-delay.
  • LA Curbed celebrated its own "Outdoors Week" with a roundup on the rebranding of the LA River as cleanable water and amenitizable waterway. See http://bit.ly/1qKACKn.
  • Exide, the Vernon-based battery recycler cited repeatedly for lead and arsenic emissions, has been allowed to reopen under a settlement with the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Some critics, including Maywood Mayor Oscar Magana, questioned whether it ought to reopen at all. See http://lat.ms/1kP61rp.
  • Google has bought the 188 Embarcadero building on San Francisco's waterfront and has announced plans to lease 250,000 square feet in nearby Spear Tower. (That's per Bloomberg and the Mercury News via the SF Business Journal. See http://bit.ly/1jIzcl9.) Maybe now fewer Google workers will commute from San Francisco to Silicon Valley?
  • In another choice likely to mute criticism of those big white Google Bus commuter coaches, the company has begun to offer free shuttle buses for the public in Mountain View. See http://bit.ly/1kOCQVu for the basics. Per the Mercury News at http://bit.ly/1kODh1Z, routes for the four electric shuttles aren't established yet but the idea is to connect riders to movie theaters, shopping, errands, and the Google headquarters itself.
  • At the other end of San Francisco's sumptuary scale, a pilot program will be placing portable public toilets with attendants at the three Tenderloin locations with the worst accumulation of feces on sidewalks. See http://bit.ly/1ktTjhy.
  • With trial now over in the Martins Beach public access lawsuit, Vinod Khosla, the Sun Microsystems co-founder at the center of the fight, told the LA Times he started out by allowing visitors access to the beach property for a fee as the prior owner had done, but then he decided to close the gate because of "unreasonable" demands from county planners and the Coastal Commission. See http://lat.ms/1nQ0XDi.
  • The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty issued its annual report on the criminalization of homelessness. Findings include a 60% increase since 2011 in local citywide bans on camping in public and a 119% increase since 2011 in bans on sleeping in vehicles. See http://nlchp.org/documents/No_Safe_Place.