Developers in Los Angeles will face more extensive scrutiny if they decide to build near earthquake faults under new rules in Los Angeles. The Westside, the South Bay, and northeast Los Angeles will be the three main areas covered by new scrutiny under a program advanced by Mayor Eric Garcetti. While state law generally says that constructions within about 500 feet of faults zoned by the state require extensive studies, decades of budget cuts have delayed the state's mapping of crucial fault zones in Los Angeles. A Los Angeles Times 2013 investigation found that Los Angeles officials approved more than a dozen construction projects on or near well-known faults without requiring seismic studies because the state had not mapped out the area.

Grand Jury Report Faults Management of Irvine Great Park

Following a decade of accused mismanagement, a lack of transparency, and an unnecessarily high price tag, the Irvine Great Park plan to create a 1,347 acre park at a former air base needs a strategy for the next 10 years of development, according to a new report released by an Orange County grand jury. As of now, 205 acres of the park have been developed at a cost of $251 million, a price the grand jury said would have been smaller had the city not overreached by crafting a plan to develop the park all at once instead of in phases. The grand jury suggested the dissolution of the Great Park Corporation, because its Board of Directors also acts as the council, and it recommended adopting an ordinance to limit City Council members' influence of city operations.

California Cities Fare Poorly in Street Quality; League of Cities Calls for Transportation Funding

Seven California cities round out the top 25 cities over population 500,000 with the poorest streets in a new report (pdf) from national transportation research group TRIP. Of those cities, three scored the top three rankings for worst streets: San Francisco-Oakland, with 74 percent of its streets classified as poor; Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, with 73 percent; and Concord, with 62 percent. Additionally, the rankings find that those three cities and many of the others listed in the top 25 -- including San Jose, San Diego, Riverside-San Bernardino, and Sacramento -- also have motorists spending the most money annually in vehicle maintenance because of poor roads. Meanwhile, the League of California Cities recently adopted a resolution urging Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature to provide new sustainable funding for state and local transportation infrastructure. The move followed Governor Brown calling an Extraordinary Session on Transportation and Infrastructure, and the League is also requesting that the state provide a list of projects that could be funded by a new funding package.

L.A. Housing Discrimination Suit Dismissed

A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit by the City of Los Angeles against Wells Fargo & Co. accusing it of targeting minority borrowers with predatory lending practices. U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II said that Federal Housing Act loans issued during the time period did not violate the law, and that they were intended to overcome precisely the barriers to ownership often experienced by minorities. City Attorney Michael Feuer filed the suit -- among three other suits accusing big banks of the predatory practice -- saying that the practice violated the Fair Housing Act and helped result in 200,000 foreclosures in Los Angeles from 2008 to 2012, causing city property tax revenue to fall by $481 million.  "The city is not a champion of minority rights as it declared in the complaint," Wright said. "While this case began with allegations that Wells Fargo trampled the rights of minorities, it ends with the city's failed attempt to engage in the exact same conduct."

Coastal Commission Challenges Long Beach over Fracking

The Coastal Commission is attempting to force Long Beach officials and their corporate sponsors to obtain a special permit before beginning to use fracking on 13 local oil wells, though local officials dispute whether the commission actually has permitting authority for the process. Alison Dettmer, the Coastal Commission's deputy director in charge of energy and ocean resources oversight, said her agency has taken the position that any fracking within the state's coastal zone also requires a coastal development permit, but the state's Division of Oil, Gas & Geothermal resources has already issued permits for fracking at the Long Beach islands. Meanwhile, officials and managers of the company in charge of oil extraction operations are still deciding whether fracking the oil well would make financial sense.

Jacbos Stepping down from Housing Finance Agency

The chairman of the Housing Finance Agency -- the state agency in charge of financing affordable housing -- announced that he will not seek reappointment as his development company plans to eliminate a rent-controlled eight unit complex to make way for million dollar homes. Matthew Jacobs, the chairman and the owner Beverly Hills-based firm Bulldog Partners LLC, said that he will not seek reappointment when his term expires on Sept. 26. "Evictors like Jacobs have no place making affordable housing policy in this state," housing advocacy group Tenants Together said in a statement.

S.F. Explores Options for Replacing City Jail

San Francisco's Board of Supervisors decided in a sharply divided vote to submit a request for $80 million in state funding for a new jail to replace a current, seismically-unfit one, despite a declining jail population. Council President London Breed cast the deciding vote, with the caveat that the jail needs to be smaller and cost less than the $240 million, 384-bed jail currently proposed. The project is part of a larger effort to move workers out of the Hall of Justice at 850 Bryant St because of its placement on a fault line. Opponents of the measure noted that the population of the city's six jails has declined dramatically in the past decade, from a high of 2,300 in the mid-1990s to 1,285 this year � a historic 33-year-low.

L.A. County Loses Housing Discrimination Suit in Antelope Valley

The Los Angeles County Housing Authority will pay $2 million to victims of housing discrimination in Antelope Valley after a U.S. Justice Department investigation concluded that housing officials and sheriff's deputies joined with two cities to drive black residents out of the area from 2004 to 2011. In the settlement, five families who lost their housing will have the chance to have their vouchers reinstated, while others will be able to receive compensation up to $25,000 or have their voucher termination wiped from public housing records. The federal complaint alleged that the county Housing Authority and Sheriff's Department subjected black Section 8 voucher holders to "more intrusive and intimidating compliance checks" than their white counterparts and also were more likely to terminate black residents' vouchers. Federal officials alleged that the cities, which provided money to the county for extra enforcement, encouraged the discriminatory practices.

Santa Barbara to Revive Desalination Plant

The Santa Barbara City Council has decided to reactivate its desalination plant, approving $55 million for the plant in the hopes that it could provide nearly a third of the city's drinking water. Last September, Lake Cachuma, the city's main reservoir, dipped below 30 percent capacity, prompting the city to begin reactivation of the plant as a last resort with hopes that it will be operational by fall 2016. "We recognize it's a big decision to make," Mayor Helene Schneider told the L.A. Times. "We also recognize that desalination is not just for this particular drought -- they are cyclical."

S.F. Mayor Proposes Fee on New Development to Fund Transit

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee proposed a new fee applicable to market rate condominium and apartment projects to raise $14 million a year for transit improvements. Known as a transportation sustainability fee, the new proposal would add market rate apartment and condo developers to the city's Transit Impact Development Fee, which currently applies to commercial developments and production, design, and repair facilities. The addition would hopefully raise the revenue of the fee from $720 million to $1.2 billion over 30 years. Affordable housing developers and builders of complexes with fewer than 20 units, along with medical centers and nonprofits, will be exempt from the fee, which will total $7.74 per square foot of residential developments. The money would be spent on expanding the Muni fleet with new buses and railcars, improving reliability on the busiest routes, retrofitting existing trains, investing in the electrification of Caltrain, and making streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. The proposal has not received any outright opposition from development circles or housing advocates. "We don't suffer from a low cost of producing housing, and $7.74 (a square foot) is not a negligible fee." Tim Colen, executive director of the Housing Action Coalition representing developers, told the San Francisco Gate. "But in the end, high-density urban infill doesn't work without excellent transit, and we want to do the right thing."

Yuba County Tribes Reach Detente Over Casino Plans

After years of litigation challenging the federal government's decision to place 40 acres in Yuba County into the trust of the Enterprise tribe to build a Class III casino, opponents of the project have said that they would not try to block construction of a scaled-down version without permanent utilities or games like blackjack and slot machines. The scaled-down version would only span 10,000 square feet and would be a Class II casino, mostly favoring bingo, and that it would have to truck water in and out from the facility. The scaled-back plan prompted questions as to whether the tribe would be held responsible for any of $83 million the tribe would owe the county for mitigation of the construction of the larger Class III casino under a 2002 memorandum of understanding. The Enterprise tribe still plans to build the larger, 318,000 square-foot casino with slot machines and other casino games, but plaintiffs are seeking an order to require Enterprise to give 60 days' notice if it intends to construct anything beyond the Class II casino.