Significant reductions in general fund revenues and building activity have caused many cities and counties in California to reduce planning department staffs. Numerous jurisdictions have shrunk staff sizes by one-quarter to one-half, and more cuts may be coming during the 2009-10 fiscal year.
The tough economy is also hitting private consulting firms. Consultants that typically work for private developers are seeking public-sector jobs, and large outfits are bidding on ever-smaller projects, creating a high level of competition.
Wilshire Boulevard is the Main Street of Los Angeles, and the Ambassador Hotel (1921-2006) was its biggest, swankiest, classiest address. The hotel is but a memory these days. Now, after nearly two decades of false starts and lawsuits, construction has finally started on the scheme to convert the Ambassador Hotel property into an education center.
Downtown San Leandro is clearly in transition. A working-class city with a large industrial base located just south of Oakland, San Leandro's suburban past and its more urban future are present at the same time. Now, the city has big plans to transform its downtown into a truly urban, pedestrian-oriented place that takes full advantage of the BART station and a planned bus rapid transit line.
In this month's roundup of land use news: The City of Walnut sues the neighboring City of Industry over the environmental review for a proposed professional football stadium; Loma Linda officially kills two unpopular projects; Forest City leaves Fresno; The Center for Biological Diversity opens a new climate law institute; the state auditor applauds bond spending safeguards, but questions real estate policies.
A Butte county landowner who claimed that flood control measures undertaken and approved by Butte County amounted to inverse condemnation had all of his arguments rejected by the Third District Court of Appeal. The court ruled that the strict liability standard that applies in most inverse condemnation cases does not apply in the flood control context. Instead, the court determined a rule of reasonableness applied to the claims, and the landowner did not prove that the county acted unreasonably.
The City of Patterson's in-lieu affordable housing fee has been invalidated by the Fifth District Court of Appeal, which rejected the city's methodology for setting the fee. Homebuilders celebrated the decision as a victory in their long fight to constrain development fees, while affordable housing advocates and municipal attorneys described the ruling as limited.
Suddenly, for the first time in 30 years, Washington is the center of the government money world. This is turning things upside down for the planning and development establishment, as local officials, developers, transportation leaders and others flood the nation's capital in search of dough. But what will all the dough do? And how will it shape the growth landscape of California over the next few years?
A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling limiting environmental organizations' ability to challenge U.S. Forest Service regulations. The five-judge majority ruled that five environmental groups lacked legal ability – or "standing" – to challenge Forest Service regulations exempting salvage-timber sales of 250 acres or less from statutory environmental review provisions because the organizations could not show they suffered concrete harm from the exemptions.
Voters in Lodi rejected redevelopment, while those in Alamo said no to incorporation of a new city during municipal balloting on March 3. In Los Angeles, voters narrowly rejected two charter amendments, one for a solar energy program, the other for fiscal incentives for business development. Only in Glendora did the electorate provide a positive response to proposed change. A measure rezoning the site of a former automobile dealership for other retail uses passed easily.
A former San Joaquin County political operative who was convicted of corruption in 2005 has had five of 17 guilty counts thrown out by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate panel overturned counts of attempted extortion against Monte McFall but upheld conviction on 12 counts of extortion, mail fraud and witness tampering.