California's local governments are feeling the pain of the state budget shortfall. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to shift more property tax dollars from cities and counties to schools, combined with uncertainty over backfill of the lost car tax and various state budget cutbacks is forcing many local agencies to revisit their service levels, raise fees and delay various projects.
A large residential and commercial development in Upland is back on track after an appellate court lifted an order that halted some grading. Although litigation filed by the San Bernardino County Flood Control District against developers of the Colonies Crossroads continues, construction is proceeding.
A proposal to close Buchanan Field airport in Concord to allow development of housing, public facilities and other urban uses has divided two of Contra Costa County's largest developers. The proposal also appears to be dividing the county, which owns and operates the airport, and the City of Concord, in whose sphere of influence the airport lies.
Two decisions by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal appear to bolster local rent control ordinances, although the decisions at least hint at the court's doubt as to whether the state's system for weighing landowners' takings claims is adequate. In separate cases, the Ninth Circuit rejected allegations that the application of mobile home rent control ordinances in Carson and Morgan Hill were unconstitutional takings of private property.
An appellate court has overturned the City of Los Angeles's approval of a variance that allowed the expansion of a nonconforming use. The court determined that a proposal to expand a gas station located in a residential zone did not meet the city's criteria for a variance.
Specifically, the Second District Court of Appeal found that there was no evidence that imposing existing zoning requirements would create a hardship for the landowner or business owner — a requirement for a variance.
The California Supreme Court has accepted a second case involving the application of coastal zone requirements. In January, the court voted to review a case in which the Second District Court of Appeal ruled that a state law requiring coastal zone developers to provide affordable units did not apply to a project in which all new houses would be located outside the zone.
Landscapes, like human bodies, have histories, and sometimes those histories can leave scars. The difference between a human body and a city is that a city has a longer life. The demise of the regional mall, at least the old malls from the 1950s and '60s, will leave behind scars. These injuries will be hard to heal because they are enormous.
To many urban planners, the "mixed-use" development project is a kind of Holy Grail, a development that combines residential units with commercial space into one seamless project where people can both live and work. Although other ideas are also important to planners seeking to create urban-style places - specifically, higher-density housing and development oriented around transit stops - the mixed-use concept often seems the most compelling.
The federal Clean Air Act requires new factories and power plants to use the "best available control technology" to limit air pollution, but generally lets states determine what specific systems satisfy the law. But in a closely divided decision issued in late January, the usually states rights-minded high court sided with the feds and upheld EPA's authority to override state environmental regulators.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California finished filling its new reservoir, Diamond Valley Lake, last year, and the giant body of water opened for public boating and angling last fall. Even though those events capped a decade of planning, engineering and construction in the western Riverside County desert, the Met is far from finished at Diamond Valley Lake. The agency plans to build about $20 million worth of recreational and educational facilities near the reservoir in the near term.