Two environmental groups have sued the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Secretary of the Interior for opening up 400,000 acres of public land in Southern California for fracking, which they claim violates the National Environmental Policy Act. The groups, The Center for Biological Diversity and Los Padres Forestwatch, claim that the federal government's environmental report erroneously analyzed impacts to air quality by assuming that only 40 new wells will be drilled each year, though the plan estimates that 4,000 wells will be drilled in the plan's lifetime. The suit alleges that fracking, which involves high-pressure injection of water and chemicals into shale rock to fracture the formations and extract oil and gas, pollutes groundwater and can cause earthquakes. California's oil producers are increasingly turning to fracturing to extract oil, with Kern County containing 2,361 fracked wells in 2014 and Ventura County containing 456 of them, according to the lawsuit.
San Diego Loses Ground in Effort to Keep Chargers
Possibly undermining months of work to create a viable proposal for a new pro football stadium in San Diego, the San Diego Chargers issued a statement that a Dec. 15 public vote on a new stadium would be impossible because the city won't be able to craft a legally defensible Environmental Impact Report within that time. "The various options that we have explored with the city's experts all lead to the same result: Significant time-consuming litigation founded on multiple legal challenges, followed by a high risk of eventual defeat in the courts," Chargers' special counsel Mark Fabiani said in a statement. The timing of the vote is important because the NFL could move a team to Los Angeles by 2016, and city officials have emphasized that they could indeed meet the Dec. 15 deadline, but that the Chargers have been unwilling to play ball. "It appears the Chargers have pulled the plug on San Diego even though the city and county have gone out of their way to try and accommodate the team," Mayor Kevin Faulconer's Task Force spokesman Tony Manolatos told the Union-Tribune. "Instead of working collaboratively on a solution, the Chargers have thrown up one road block after another in San Diego while working aggressively on stadium plans in Carson."
Santa Ana Considers Downtown ï¿½Wellness District'
The Santa Ana City Council took a step to establishing a "wellness district" for the preservation of Latino commerce in the city's downtown, voting to begin drafting a resolution and figuring out how much it will cost to implement. Supporters cite a study last year by The California Endowment that said the city could bring in an additional $137 million in spending to the downtown by bringing back Latino customers who, despite living so close to the downtown, have been lost to big-box retailers. Among the proposals aimed at promoting community wellness and supporting local vendors, the council vote directs city staff to draft an implementation plan for branding Fourth Street as "Calle Cuatro," supporting the creation of microfarms and a mercadito, and creating a community advisory committee on economic development.
L.A. Considers Legalization of Street Vending; Curbs on Homeless Encampments
The Los Angeles City Council passed a preliminary measure that would make it easier for law enforcement to break down the city's homeless encampments by reducing the amount of warning time that homeless people are given before authorities seize their belongings from public sidewalks and parks. The measure would reduce the warning time to 24 hours from 72 hours, and it would also allow authorities to seize bulky items like couches, tables and larger tents -- anything that won't fit in the city's 60-gallon trash bins -- without notice. Through the ordinance, the city would store the belongings for 90 days in a skid row warehouse, complying with a court injunction from 2012 barring the city from seizing and immediately destroying homeless people's unattended property. "We spend $100 million on homelessness, and 85% of our response is law enforcement," Councilman Gil Cedillo, who cast the sole dissenting vote, told the L.A. Times. "That tells us our strategy is not working."
The Los Angeles City Council is also weighing whether or not to legalize street vending, possibly becoming the biggest city next to New York to have a legal street vending program. Southern California Public Radio took a look at cities in the LA metropolitan area where it is already legal for policy comparisons. SPCR finds that some vendors hop over to Pasadena, pay about $400 a year in city fees, and obtain a city permit to stay in the lucrative market. Additionally, Santa Ana allows up to 200 pushcart vendors to legally operate, but they must remain mobile.
L.A. Mayor Garcetti Co-Launches National 'Climate Action Agenda'
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, an organization he co-founded with Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia and Mayor Annise Parker of Houston, has called on President Obama to fight for the strongest possible climate agreement at the upcoming 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in Paris. The nationwide coalition of mayors also announced that 27 mayors from across the country have signed on to support the President and the U.S. delegation in Paris in pushing for strong action on climate change. Other California members of the organization include the mayors of Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Santa Monica.
S.F. Giants Revise Housing Plan; Downtown S.F. Towers Face Opposition
The San Francisco Giants have revised plans for a large mixed-use project next to AT&T Park to include an unprecedented amount of affordable housing, garnering the endorsement of all 11 supervisors and prompting Supervisor Jane Kim to withdraw her threat to draw up a countermeasure lowering allowed building heights and require half of all residential units to be designated affordable. Kim's opposition had drawn scorn from fellow supervisors who had worked on the deal with the Giants. The new proposal for the 28-acre project built on land controlled by the Port of San Francisco will include 40 percent of its 1,500 apartments priced to various levels of affordability, with 12 percent available for people making $32,000 to $39,000, 21 percent for people making $64,200 to $85,000 and 7 percent for people making $108,000.
Community organizers are gearing up for two battles over plans for high-rises near San Francisco's waterfront, with former mayor Art Agnos rallying neighbors of the 160 Folsom and 75 Howard developments to oppose them based on the shadows the buildings would throw on nearby Rincon Park. 160 Folsom is set to be designed by architect Jeanne Gang with a twisting, staggered condo tower reaching up 400 feet, 100 feet higher than the limit and requiring an amendment to the Redevelopment Plan for the Transbay Project Area. Backed by developer Tishman Speyer, the full version would contain 399 condos, 141 of which-- roughly 35 percent -- would be below market rate, and a reduced version would stay within the 300-foot limit and include 318 units. Opponents of the tower have referred to it as a "wall on the waterfront." Meanwhile, the 75 Howard development hasn't been able to get community support for its project, even after offering additional affordable housing and offering to reduce its tower height to 220 feet.
Anaheim Approves Controversial Hotel Tax Break
In an attempt to attract larger conventions and high-spending tourists to the city, the Anaheim City Council passed a tax break projected to be around $133 million for developers wanting to build luxury resorts there. Under the plan, developers of hotels that meet AAA's guidelines for four-diamond ratings would get to keep 70 percent of their bed taxes for up to 20 years. Of the remainder, 10 percent of the taxes would go to city coffers, while 20 percent would pay off bonds that funded improvements to Anaheim's city resort district in 1996. Mayor Tom Tait, an opponent of the measure, said that room taxes, which account for nearly half of the general fund's revenue, would be kept by hotel developers rather than going back to Anaheim's coffers to help pay for city services. "We are giving checks to hotel developers, but we have better needs for our money," Tait said at the Council meeting, according to the O.C. Register.
San Diego Gives Boost to Recreational Area
The San Diego City Council helped solidify plans for a 55-mile hiking and bicycling route on a "coast to crest trail" from Del Mar to Julian by approving a new 50-year agreement to continue jointly funding the project with the county and four North County cities. San Diego officials had previously threatened to stop participating in the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority, but following a long list of policy changes primarily related to control over the park's financial decisions, the city agreed to a pact along with Escondido, Poway, Solana Beach, and Del Mar. Since the formation of the JPA in 1989, 34 of the park's planned 55 miles have already been acquired and preserved.
Navy Plans $1 Billion Campus in Imperial Beach
The Navy issued its record of decision to relocate its Coronado-based Navy SEAL command center from Coronado Island to a 600-acre, $1 billion campus along the Silver Strand near Imperial Beach. SEAL officials have said their current World War II-era buildings are mostly obsolete and force them too often to train away from home, on top of frequent deployments. Built over a decade at a cost of $700 million for new buildings and $300 million for infrastructure improvements, the new project has prompted concern among nearby residents and those interested in birds and plants there.
Tesla Expands Presence in East Bay
Tesla Motors Inc. closed a deal leasing the Page Technology Center in Fremont, absorbing the last remaining vacancy related to the implosion of solar panel-maker Solyndra in 2011 and beginning its biggest expansion in Northern California since it leased a 431,000-square-foot former Chrysler assembly plant in Lathrop last year. The deal will aid Tesla's manufacturing sector as it preps to start deliveries of its Model X crossover in 2017. Tesla's and other companies' new leases in Fremont have driven the city's industrial vacancy rate down from 5 percent at the end of the first quarter to 2.1 percent, Cushman & Wakefield analyst Sethena Leiker told the San Francisco Business Times.