The first update of the Governor’s Environmental Goals and Policy Report (EGPR) was issued in the final moments of the Davis administration. However, it was unclear how seriously the Schwarzenegger administration and state lawmakers would take the report. One member of the stakeholder advisory committee called the EGPR an "instant historical curiosity."
The report has not been available on the website of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), which prepared the document. Rather, the EGPR was released to the public on the website of the Local Government Commission (www.lgc.org). Also, the letter "transmitting" the report to the Legislature was not signed by Gray Davis, as appeared to be required by law. Instead, interim OPR Director Tal Finney signed the letter to legislators. The letter was dated November 17, 2003 — the day that Arnold Schwarzenegger took office.
State law requires the EGPR to be updated every four years, but Gov. Jerry Brown’s 1978 "Urban Strategy for California" is the only such report to be adopted and implemented through executive order. Under Davis, OPR spent several years working on an update. The final document, however, reads like a work in progress. More than half of the document is devoted to existing conditions, demographic change, and trends in the economy, land use and the environment. A full 47 pages of the 177-page report is a bibliography. Only 5 pages of the Environmental Goals and Policy Report contain actual goals and policies.
Throughout, the report emphasizes sustainable development, environmental justice, containing "sprawl" and realigning government’s fiscal incentives. The six goals are:
• Communities that provide affordable housing, economic opportunity, quality schools, parks and civic facilities that enhance the quality of life; and that use land in an equitable and environmentally sensitive manner.
• A state government that is responsive to regional and local needs.
• An inclusive state whose actions and institutions reflect the diversity of California’s population.
• An economically vital state whose business environment supports innovation and entrepreneurship.
• A healthy and sustainable environment for all Californians.
• Safe, reliable energy to meet California’s needs.
A revised environmental impact report for the proposed Newhall Ranch project near Santa Clarita passed judicial muster in late October. Kern County Superior Court Judge Roger Randall lifted his three-year-old order blocking the project. In 2000, Randall ruled that the original EIR failed to adequately address the project’s impacts to certain species, flood control and water quality.
Newhall Ranch is proposed to contain about 21,000 housing units and 5 million square feet of commercial, industrial and retail development. Project opponents are expected to appeal Judge Randall’s decision.
Placer County had the largest percentage job growth of any urban county in the nation from April 2002 through March 2003, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in November. The county’s payrolls grew by 4.9% — about 6,000 jobs — during the 12-month period. The bulk of Placer County’s job growth was in the construction, retail and service sectors.
Ranking 315th and last by percentage in the annual report was Santa Clara County, which lost 5.9% of its jobs during the same 12-month period.
The Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission has approved the City of Irvine’s annexation of the closed El Toro Marine Corps base. Under a plan adopted by the city, about 80% of the 4,700-acre base will be devoted to open space, parkland and a university. The remaining 20% of the site will be developed with 3,600 housing units and 3 million square feet of commercial and industrial space. City officials say the development will fund the site’s infrastructure, parks and other public facilities.
Irvine and other cities fought for nearly 10 years against a county plan to convert the base, which closed in 1999, into a civilian airport. A change in the composition of the county Board of Supervisors, passage of a second anti-airport initiative during 2002, and, finally, Irvine’s annexation appear to have killed the proposed airport for good.
University of California, Merced, has selected Lennar Communities of San Ramon to be the master developer of a new community of up to 31,000 residents next to the UC Merced campus, which is scheduled to open in fall 2005. The new community is still in the planning stages.
A proposed 221-acre "wetlands park" in Petaluma moved closer to reality in November when the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors granted $2 million in open space district funds for property acquisition, habitat restoration and recreational facilities. The city is putting $2 million into property acquisition, and state agencies have also promised funding for the $9.7 million project, which aims to maintain and restore one of the largest intact marshes of its type in the country.