A bill concerning development under military airspace continues to evolve in the state Legislature. Senate Bill 1462 originally proposed creation of the Military Greenway Commission, to which cities and counties in Southern California would have to report proposed developments that could impact the military. But the bill’s author, Sen. Sheila Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), expanded the measure into a California Environmental Quality Act amendment that would force local governments to consider a project’s potential impact on military operations.
In mid-May, Kuehl again amended the bill, dropping the CEQA provisions. Instead, the bill would require local governments to notify the military of proposed development projects, general plan amendments or plan updates when the property in question lies beneath a low-level flight path or adjacent to a military base. The military branch involved could then request a consultation with the public agency or project applicant. The bill also requires the governor to create a conflict-resolution process.
The CEQA version of the bill generated a firestorm of opposition from developers, business groups, and some cities and counties with military bases. It appears unlikely that the latest bill amendments will satisfy opponents.
The bill was written at least partially in response to Tejon Ranch’s plans for a new town of 60,000 people at Interstate 5 and Highway 138. Portions of the 11,700-acre project site underlie a low-level flight path used for training military pilots (see CP&DR Local Watch, April 2003).
Kuehl and the bill’s backers — which are mostly environmental groups — say the measure is necessary to prevent conflicts between urban development and military activities, and they point to the round of base closings that is scheduled to commence in 2005. Opponents say the measure is unnecessary and only an attempt to block development. At the committee level, the bill has received mostly partisan supports. But the measure puts some conservative lawmakers in a difficult position because a vote for property rights could also be portrayed as a vote against military readiness.
A former development company executive is the new director of the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Lucy Dunn to the post effective June 1.
Dunn spent 12 years with the Koll Company and its affiliates. Most recently, she was executive vice president of development for Hearthside Homes, where she negotiated deals concerning Bolsa Chica entitlements and wetlands restoration (see CP&DR Environment Watch, January 2002). An attorney, Dunn is vice president of the California Building Industry Association and a director of the National Association of Home Builders.
Dunn succeeds Matthew Franklin, who served as HCD director for a year before taking a position as head of San Francisco’s housing programs.
Gov. Schwarzenegger has signed a bill that makes it easier for local governments to adopt transit village plans. Under the original Transit Village Development Planning Act, a transit village could be created only around a rail station, and only if the local government could prove the project would 13 specific public benefits, such as redevelopment of depressed neighborhoods, promotion of job opportunities, and increased stock of affordable housing.
Assembly Bill 1320 (Dutra) permits creation of a transit village around any sort of rail station, a bus hub, a bus transfer station or a ferry terminal. The bill also reduces the public benefit requirement from 13 to five.
The controversy over a proposed quarry and concrete batch plant just outside Santa Clarita continues. In May, U.S. District Court Judge Dickran Tevrizian approved a consent decree between Cemex and Los Angeles County that allows the mine to go forward. However, the Santa Clarita City Council has voted to appeal the consent decree to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Ninth Circuit in February directed the lower court to let the city intervene in the lawsuit. Cemex sued the county more than two years ago, after the county rejected the Mexican mining company’s proposed quarry in Soledad Canyon, off Highway 14. Under the settlement, the company must pay about $1.5 million over several years into a fund to address air quality, traffic and open space impacts. The company also must widen Soledad Canyon Road between the quarry and the freeway. The Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 for the settlement, with Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who represents the area, firmly opposed.
The city contends the mine will harm already poor air quality, increase traffic congestion, threaten groundwater and scar a prominent hillside. The city also insists that environmental studies should be updated. In an interesting twist, the city earlier this year purchased for $1 million the 493 acres where the mine is proposed. But the Bureau of Land Management owns the property’s mineral rights and has issued mining permits to Cemex.
Both U.S. Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) and Sen. Barbara Boxer have introduced bills that would block the mine.
One development company that has vigorously fought another company’s project in El Segundo lost yet another round in May. In an unpublished decision, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled against Kilroy Realty. Kilroy had alleged that the City of El Segundo had manipulated the CEQA process to aid Thomas Properties Group, which plans to develop 2.2 million square feet of office and retail space near the Los Angeles International Airport (see CP&DR Local Watch, May 2002).
Kilroy lost an earlier round of the lawsuit at the trial court level. Two years ago this month, Kilroy lost at the ballot box when two-thirds of El Segundo voters rejected a Kilroy-funded referendum of the project.
The 46-acre site of “Campus El Segundo” has been vacant since the early 1990s, when Rockwell International closed and then demolished an aerospace industry factory.
Voters in Azusa approved a specific plan for 500 acres owned by Monrovia Nursery during a special election in May. The plan calls for 1,250 housing units, including single-family houses, condominiums and apartments, a retail “promenade,” an elementary school, a transit plaza around a Metrolink rail line, and 200 acres of parks and open space.
A group called Azusans for Responsible Growth opposed the project, contending it contained too many housing units. After the city approved the project last year, the group gathered signatures on a referendum. The city found the referendum flawed, so the group sued. The city then put the plan on the ballot anyway, and the plan won favor with 75% of voters.
In 1999, city voters overturned approval of a 1,600-unit development on the nursery site, which Monrovia is vacating. The city then undertook a lengthy planning process with heavy public involvement (see CP&DR Local Watch, February 2002). The resulting plan is the one voters endorsed in May.
A five-member commission charged with examining the proposal to divide Santa Barbara County in two has been appointed by the governor. The commission has up to one year to report on the proposal to carve Mission County out of the northern and western portions of Santa Barbara County (see CP&DR Local Watch, July 2003).
The commissioners are Jack Boysen, a retired developer and member of the county Planning Commission from Santa Maria; former Solvang Mayor June Christensen; retired San Luis Obispo County Assessor Dick Frank; former Santa Barbara Mayor Harriet Miller; and former San Jose City Manager and retired airlines executive Ted Tedesco.
Private water companies should be eligible for Proposition 50 bond funds, according to a recommendation from the Legislative Analyst’s Office. In a May 14 report, the LAO found that legal and tax issues could be resolved, so the issue is one of policy for the Legislature. Proposition 50 — a $3.4 billion resources bond approved in November 2002, — does not address public versus private eligibility, and the LAO has urged lawmakers to set a clear policy. Senate Bill 909 (Machado) could provide the policy.
The LAO reported that 23% of Californians get their water from private companies, the majority of which are quite small. Those companies appear to be eligible for portions of $1.4 billion in six different Proposition 50 categories. Making those monies available to private water companies would further the public purpose of Proposition 50, the LAO concluded.
The LAO’s report is available at www.lao.ca.gov.