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CP&DR News Briefs, January 19, 2015: Monterey County Settles Suit; NorCal Light Rail; Irvine (Non-)General Plan

CP&DR Staff on
Jan 18, 2015

Monterey County has settled a lawsuit over its General Plan filed by the LandWatch advocacy group. The settlement includes a commitment to addressing water supply problems and paying more than $400,000 in LandWatch's legal bills. The settlement commits the county to addressing Salinas Valley basin overdraft, seawater intrusion and falling groundwater levels if those remain issues by 2030. The county also agreed to place restrictions on wineries, including limitations on agriculture on steep slopes and stiffening permitting requirements for stand-alone inns and restaurants.


San Francisco, Sacramento Pursue Light-Rail Improvements

Both San Francisco and Sacramento announced last week that they are taking major steps to improve their light-rail systems. In San Francisco, Mayor Ed Lee announced a plan to spend more than $600 million to replace every single car in the Muni system. The contract, with Seimens Rail Systems, calls for the city to purchase 175 cars, with an option for 85 more. In Sacramento, city officials announced a partnership with downtown business owners to improve the light-rail system there in anticipation of the opening of a downtown sports arena and entertainment center. The effort will focus on operational improvements as well as improving trash pickup and other basic items at the stations.


No General Plan Update for Irvine

The Irvine City Council voted not to pursue a general plan update in the near future, meaning the city will continue to operate under the plan adopted in 1999. The state recommends that cities update their general plans every five years, but transportation and housing are the only elements those updates are mandatory. In voting against pursuing a plan update, a split city council cited several concerns, including Orange County's control of 100 acres inside the city and the ongoing problems with development of the Great Park. These unresolved issues would make the drafting of a new general plan premature, according to council members who voted against the motion. Some 27 development projects are currently under way in Irvine.


Walnut Creek Specific Plan Unveiled

Walnut Creek residents got their first glimpse of the West Downtown specific plan, which includes proposed higher-density development in the corridor from Downtown to the Walnut Creek BART station. The plan, produced by PlaceWorks, calls for 2,400 new housing units in addition to 1,700 already in place. The plan not meet with universal support at the rollout meeting. Said one resident of the plan's increased densities: "I don't see character; I see Emeryville, I see San Ramon, and I don't want to live in those towns."


State of Jefferson Movement Now Includes Five Counties

In far northern California - where compliance with CEQA and other land-use regulations is often viewed as optional already - five counties have joined the long-simmering movement to secede from California and form the new State of Jefferson. Representatives from Tehama, Glenn, and Yuba counties presented the State Legislature with "declarations of separation." They join Siskiyou and Modoc counties in petitioning the legislature to move forward with such a succession. 


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