The Air Resources Board held workshops August 25 and 26, and rescheduled a third for Oakland on September 3, on how to define "benefit" to a "disadvantaged community" for purposes of programs distributing cap-and-trade auction proceeds. The discussion will include efforts at a formal answer to one of the most important urban planning questions of the past half-century: when does money spent in a place that is defined as disadvantaged actually benefit disadvantaged people?
The new Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program will be among those affected by the outcome. See http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/capandtrade/auctionproceeds/upcomingevents.htm for details, including a discussion document on how CalEPA's updated CalEnviroScreen 2.0 mapping project may be used to identify disadvantage, and a draft released August 22 of proposed interim guidance on what constitutes a "benefit" to a disadvantaged community.
The workshop notice sets a deadline for written comment of September 9 but the proposed interim guidelines document states a comment deadline of September 15.
Oakland releases Coliseum Area Specific Plan, EIR
Oakland released the draft specific plan and accompanying draft EIR for the mega-development proposed to surround a rebuilt Oakland Coliseum. See http://bit.ly/1wyvMa7 for the city's main page linking to the extensive related planning documents. The SF Chron's Michael Cabanatuan sets out main details at http://bit.ly/1v8Onry. The plan still calls for three separate sports venues, to potentially host professional football, baseball and basketball teams respectively, even though the Golden State Warriors have announced plans for a new arena in San Francisco. Earlier in the month, the Chron's Will Kane wrote that Oakland would have to raise "at least $1.75 billion" to keep both the A's and the Raiders in town. See http://bit.ly/1owlOAg.
Budget activists caution against 'race to the bottom' for Tesla factory
The Mercury News reports five "budget watchdog" groups have asked the governments of five states not to let the Tesla company draw them into a "race to the bottom" in competition for Tesla's new "Gigafactory" battery plant. See http://bit.ly/1ASRWTj for the news report and http://californiabudgetbites.org/ for the letter.
Los Angeles buys Taylor Yard parcel for LA River project
Streetsblog LA has a news feature, and links to documents, on the purchase by the City of Los Angeles of a 41-acre parcel that formed part of the former Taylor Yard rail yard along the LA River. It reports the property is to form a major part of the $1 billion project to clean up 11 miles of the river and make it a center for recreation and investment. See http://bit.ly/1vjUdqf.
The Curbed LA history file at http://la.curbed.com/tags/taylor-yard includes past coverage showing the property's site between Rio de Los Angeles State Park and the river. The state park's site, at http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=22277, explains that the park is another former portion of Taylor Yard, closed to railroad use since the 1980s.
Future of SB 270 plastic bag bill still in doubt
The SB 270 plastic bag ban fight went high-profile again in late August as the measure neared its final chance at passage this session. A vote was imminent as of August 27.
On Monday, August 25, the United Food and Commercial Workers yanked support from the bill. On the #SB270 Twitter hashtag meanwhile, the @YesonSB270 account and conservationists did battle with @BagTheBan and grocery and business representatives. The @YesonSB270 account links to a pro-ban lobbying coalition's site at http://www.yesonsb270.org/ that ironically was still displaying the UFCW logo on August 26. The @BagTheBan account is described at http://www.bagtheban.com/about-us as "a project of Hilex Poly." In a vote August 25 the bill fell narrowly short of passage in the Assembly, as reported thoroughly by Capitol Public Radio's Ben Adler via Twitter. Per Adler it can return to the floor once more for reconsideration before the end of this year's session and that return may be on August 28. The Sacramento Bee covered the August 25 vote and the UFCW withdrawal at http://bit.ly/1qffyN8.
Readers who want to watch this one to the bitter end may want to follow @AdlerBen on Twitter or watch the #SB270 hashtag.
AB 52, CEQA bill on Native American sacred sites, advances with significant amendments
AB 52, the Native American sacred sites bill that was among the few possibilities this year for a legislative change in CEQA law, was moving forward as of this writing with amendments that in part appeared designed to reassure landowners.
The bill would strengthen tribes' rights to involvement in consultation processes under CEQA where a newly defined category of Tribal Cultural Resources would be affected by a proposed project. The League of California Cities tracking page at http://bit.ly/VR4w5r shows the bill passed the Senate August 27.
On that same page, the League links to a letter dated July 9, in which it expresses "concerns" about the definition of a tribal cultural resource, about the time(s) for required consultation in the environmental review process, and about tribal notification rules. An August 25 letter then states the League's concerns have been removed.
Amendments since July change the definition of a "California Native American tribe" to define it by reference to the state's Native American Heritage Commission contact list rather than per federal recognition. They add a great deal more specificity about process. And they appear to give the lead agency reviewing a project the primary say in defining whether a cultural resource is significant for purposes of the statute.
Assemblymember Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, published an op-ed in support of the bill at http://bit.ly/1lcCXzB. Legislative analyses available through the bill tracking page at http://bit.ly/1wyoe7e shows endorsements from tribal governments and conservationists but opposition from the California Chamber of Commerce, a smaller number of tribes, and utility, solar, business and construction organizations. The Chamber of Commerce is cited in the analysis as arguing the bill would "create a disincentive to invest in land" by creating uncertainty on which places might be defined as Tribal Cultural Resources.
CA Housing Partnership Corporation reports on affordable housing defecits
The California Housing Partnership has posted reports at http://chpc.net/ describing failures to meet affordable housing needs in major California metro areas. Separate reports are posted for Alameda, Fresno, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties. A combined summary report is at http://bit.ly/XRmsyU. Individual findings include defecits of 118,895 units in Orange County and 490,340 in Los Angeles County (KPCC coverage at http://bit.ly/1AS8SsV) and a defecit of 40,800 units in the City and County of San Francisco (see http://bit.ly/1mQouVH).
Groundwater bills still headed toward vote
The groundwater bills, SB 1168 and AB 1739 (by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills and Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, respectively), were still nearing passage as of this writing. The League of California Cities has both measures on its "Hot Bills" list for August with a "no position" notation at http://bit.ly/1tRpiOc. Conservation groups were supporting the bills. Reuters reported Monday at http://reut.rs/1vgEeZY that many farm groups, but not all, opposed it.
Meanwhile the Desert Sun was headed into litigation with Coachella Valley water officials over access to records of landowners' groundwater use (see desert.sn/VqAAgx), the Fresno Bee reported volunteers were delivering drinking water to households where the wells had run dry in Tulare County's East Porterville (see http://bit.ly/1wy2xnY), and celebrities were shipping in water by tanker truck to their estates in Montecito (see http://bit.ly/VPC6sH).
Plea from mayors to enact relief bills for Inland Empire towns
As of this writing, SB 69 and AB 1521, relief bills for new and newly expanded Inland Empire towns, had passed the Legislature and were awaiting Governor Brown's signature decision. Frank Johnston and Karen Spiegel, mayors of Jurupa Valley and Corona respectively, published an op-ed in the Press-Enterprise asking Governor Jerry Brown and the Legislature to save Jurupa Valley's incorporated status and protect other towns with the bills. See http://bit.ly/1tIhC1y.
The two mayors claimed endorsements from 17 other Inland Empire mayors in asking the Legislature for the temporary financing lifeline that the bills represented.
Together the bills would provide relief for cities that completed incorporations or annexations just before the Legislature took expected Vehicle License Fee income out of their local budgets in 2011. For past coverage see http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3515 on SB 69 and http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3516 on AB 1521.
AB 1537 to redefine Marin as 'suburban' goes to Governor
AB 1537, to redefine Marin County from "metropolitan" to "suburban" for affordable housing density purposes, passed the Legislature in late August and was before Governor Brown as of this writing. Its proponent, Assemblymember Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, posted an August 22 statement celebrating the bill's passage, by a unanimous vote of the Assembly, at http://bit.ly/XQdh1P.
Levine earlier joined Marin County Board of Supervisors President Kate Sears in an op-ed arguing its case at http://bit.ly/VPO71f. Their argument said the bill would only apply for eight years, would not limit local jurisdictions' power to make their own density decisions.
A June I-J writeup at http://bit.ly/1x2WZi6 provides more background on the bill, which would reduce default densities for affordable housing in the county from 30 to 20 units per acre.
Also in the Legislature --
- The Orange County Register reported AB 1102, to protect the use of fire rings on Orange County Beaches by requiring a Coastal Commission permit for their removal, failed in the Senate in mid-August. See http://bit.ly/1qKpagc.
- Supporters of SB 1199, which would have designated the Upper Mokelumne River as "wild and scenic," told the Stockton Record it had failed in the Legislature. See http://bit.ly/1onHhXK.
- The Sacramento Bee is reporting at http://bit.ly/1q2t0oJ that the vigorous anti-"gas tax" campaign to postpone the calendared AB 32 expansion into fuels taxation is "finished for the year" with the postponement bill, AB 69 by Assemblymember Henry Perea, D-Fresno, now "sidelined" by outgoing Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
- The Bee reported SB 1183, authorizing localities to vote in fees for bike facilities by initiative petition, was on the Governor's desk. See http://bit.ly/1q3b5go.
In recent legal rulings --
- The State Supreme Court on August 20 denied a request for partial republication of the underlying Fifth District appellate opinion that it reversed in City of Los Angeles v. County of Kern. The Supreme Court's July 7 decision concerned a challenge by the City of Los Angeles to a Kern County ballot measure that barred the city government from using biosolids from sewage to fertilize land that it owned in Kern County. The actual decision interpreted the federal grace period statute at 28 U.S.C. ï¿½1367(d) to bar Los Angeles from filing a state suit in the matter 78 days after a federal court dismissed its case on preemption grounds. For the State Supreme Court's online docket in the matter, see http://bit.ly/1BTPXj0.
- California's Fourth District ordered publication and modification, by orders August 13 and 14, of its opinion in San Diego Gas and Electric Company v. Schmidt, No. D062671. The court upheld a jury verdict setting the compensation amount, rejecting SDG&E's petition for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and also awarding litigation expenses to the defendant property owners. The property's "highest and best use" was said to be an open-pit aggregate mine. The decision is at http://bit.ly/1vOJDJ5 and the online docket at http://bit.ly/1p57aMh.
- The Ninth Circuit ruled that a citizen suit under the federal Solid Waste Disposal Act was not a proper means for neighbors of railyards to redress alleged harm from diesel particulate pollution, because "Defendants' emission of diesel particulate matter does not constitute 'disposal' of solid waste" under the statute. The case is Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice v. BNSF Railway Co. For the opinion, see http://1.usa.gov/1peSyyY.
- In Sierra Club v EPA, the Ninth Circuit held petitioners had associational standing to challenge a permit issued by the EPA for construction of a gas-fired power plant. It found the EPA wrongly allowed Avenal Power to build the plant in accordance with grandfathered prior air quality standards that were in effect when the company first applied for the permit. Instead, the court found "the Clean Air Act unambiguously requires Avenal Power to demonstrate that the Avenal Energy Project complies with the regulations ineffect at the time the Permit is issued." For the opinion, see http://1.usa.gov/1oH6T1G.
- A Ninth Circuit opinion by Judge Jay Bybee upheld decisions by the city of San Diego to deny conditional use permits for cell towers run by the American Tower Corporation. The case is American Tower Corporation v. City of San Diego, No. 11-56766, opinion at http://1.usa.gov/1rbUydI.
And in other news --
- The City of Rosemead scheduled public meetings this fall, beginning September 10, on the proposed Garvey Avenue Specific Plan. See http://www.cityofrosemead.org/index.aspx?page=436.
- A federal judge refused to enjoin the new San Francisco ordinance increasing relocation payments to tenants by landlords who elect to empty their buildings under the Ellis Act. See http://cbsloc.al/1wyKE8y.
- We still don't know which fault exactly caused the South Napa earthquake, but Scientific American discusses how geologists will go about finding out: http://bit.ly/1zGlMb8. Also, this may have been California's first major earthquake with an early damage patrol filmed by drone: http://lat.ms/1pCujLe.