The San Jose city council voted, 6-5, to reduce annual rent hikes in a third of apartments, which is a move to stabilize rent in one of the nation's most expensive cities. The city has 44,000 rent-controlled units that can raise rents only 5 percent per year instead of 8. The city's housing department suggested tying annual rent to inflation like other CA cities while Councilman Peralez pushed for only 4 percent increase annually. The council approved another housing item: an anti-retaliation ordinance that would protect renters against requesting repairs and being evicted. The Council also approved, 7-4, to eliminate a program that allowed landlords to pass debt off to renters unless they were "major improvement costs."

San Joaquin River Rated As Endangered

 The San Joaquin River ranks second on American Rivers' recently released annual list of America's Most Endangered Rivers. While other river's threats were mining, mountain top-removal, and harmful dams, San Joaquin River's biggest threat is poor water management, exacerbated by the recent drought. The San Joaquin is not only a source of drinking water, but shortages could also threaten billions of dollars in agricultural production and fisheries. The river basin has four million inhabitants along with two million acres of arid land. The system has been managed primarily for agriculture, hydropower and flood control and the dams and levees have harmed the rivers habitat and recreation opportunities. Recently, water utilities, conservation groups and state agencies have begun to work together to create sustainable solutions.

Lawsuit Filed Against Hollywood Palladium Project
AIDS Healthcare Foundation has filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles for improper and illegal planning approval process for the Palladium Residences, a controversial residential and commercial development in Hollywood. The proposed project, which includes two 30 story towers with 731 residential units, with 37 units designated at lower rents, was approved by City Council in a 12-0 vote on March 22. The foundation, whose headquarters is near the Palladium, is a major funder and supporter of Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which seeks to halt the growth of these "megadevelopment" projects throughout the city. "We believe and assert in our lawsuit that the pattern and practice of the Mayor, City Attorney, City Planning Department, City Planning Commission, and City Council operating in defiance of an express City Charter limitation on authority to process and grant general plan amendments is a willful failure to comply with public duties imposed by the City's fundamental land use laws," said AHF President Michael Weinstein in a statement.
Environmental Groups Sue MWD Over Purchase of Delta Islands
On April 14th the Planning and Conservation League, Food and Water Watch, San Joaquin County, Contra Costa County, and the Central Delta Water Agency sued the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD) charging that its claim of complete exemption from environmental review for the proposed purchase of 20,000 acres of Delta islands and farmland is illegal and unjustified. The lawsuit asks the Court to enjoin MWD from purchasing the property unless and until it completes the environmental review required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). MWD has promoted this land purchase to clear the path for the "California Water Fix" twin tunnels project and remove obstacles to its completion. The purchase would also enable physical changes affecting the properties that may harm the Delta environment and could cost California ratepayers and taxpayers billions of dollars. Plaintiffs allege that the land purchase by MWD is part of an attempt to take more water from the Delta for MWD use and that the environmental impacts resulting from that activity would be "significant" and outside any exemption from CEQA.

 Congress Members Oppose Central Valley Water Deal

 California Democrats in Congress are challenging a settlement meant to end decades of litigation over a contentious federal water project in Fresno and Kings counties. The Westlands Water District and farmers have been litigating since hundreds of thousands of acres of land are contaminated with high levels of salt and minerals. The Obama administration would forgive $375 million in Westlands debt and create long-term agreements for water delivery in exchange for taking responsibility of the contamination. However opponents, primarily democrats, argue it gives too much to Westlands and could harm others with water cuts, financial costs and environmental damage. Opponents of the deal are asking US EPA, Natural Resources Committee and the Obama administration to review Westland's finances. 

 Fresno Annexation Area May Be Downsized by LAFCO

A battle between the City of Fresno and the Local Agency Formation Commission is brewing over the fate of a proposed 9,000 acre expansion of the city. LAFCO is proposing to eliminate 2,560 acres from the Southeast Development Area, which was approved 10 years ago but has yet to be developed. The city has been focusing on infill and may want to bank the land for up to 40 years. Up to 45,000 homes may be built in the area if it is kept intact. A city typically has 20 years after annexation to develop land before it risks being taken back by the county. Postponing a scheduled vote in April, the commission will give Fresno another month before changing the borders but the city must defend its position and provide evidence for water for the development. Local school districts however, have purchased lands and $30 million in unused bonds to develop a North Campus. Another school district purchased 159 acres for $17.5 million and without residents and students; the taxpayers are paying investments to a new school for no one.  City Manager Bruce Rudd said the city has ten years to design and begin building, he estimates 9,000 homes may be built by 2035.