State lawmakers have introduced an extraordinarily diverse collection of bills regarding land use planning, natural resources and infrastructure this year. While lawmakers' interest in affordable housing and redevelopment reform appears to have waned, the number of bills related to climate change or renewable energy has increased dramatically in 2009.
Legislators have proposed at least five measures that would place water bonds before voters. Other measures are aimed at enhancing the health and changing the governance of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Bills concerned with development in fire-prone areas have returned after failing last year, as has a measure to ease use of tax increment financing for infrastructure around transit stations. There is also a bill that would raise vehicle license fees to fund at least some of the regional planning required by last year's SB 375.
The Eastern Neighborhoods Community Plans are complex, comprehensive documents that attempt to safeguard surviving industrial sites for business, while providing both incentives and requirements for new housing. The long-awaited planning documents essentially are declaring, "Gentrification stops here."
The Governor's Office of Planning and Research has completed proposed California Environmental Quality Act Guidelines for greenhouse gas emissions. The guidelines now move to the Natural Resources Agency, which intends to invite additional comment and conduct at least two public hearings this summer before releasing a final version.
SB 375 is now law, but another year and a half will pass before the California Air Resources Board adopts the follow-up numerical regional targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. This puts California's cities and counties in a pretty big bind: How can they adopt plans for the future that will conform with the climate change law if they don't know what standard they are going to have to comply with?
In a budget-cutting move, the City of Petaluma is disbanding its Community Development Department. After slashing the department from 23 to 11 employees in September 2008, the City Council more recently voted 4-2 to lay off all remaining planners, including the community development director.
In the third decision in an emerging line of cases regarding antiquated subdivisions, an appellate court has refused to recognize the legality of a parcel shown on a 1909 subdivision map. The First District Court of Appeal ruled the Solano County map did not satisfy the requirements of the Subdivision Map Act's grandfather clause because the law in effect in 1909 did not address the "design and improvement" of subdivisions.
In a case regarding a proposed "town center" project in Rancho Cordova, the Third District Court of Appeal has overturned nearly every portion of a Superior Court ruling in favor of environmentalists who oppose the development.
A regional panel of elected officials in the San Joaquin Valley has approved a growth blueprint that calls for increased housing densities in the eight-county region. In approving a plan for a new housing density of 6.8 units per acre for the region, the San Joaquin Valley Policy Council rejected an alternative of 10 units per acre that would have preserved more farmland and cut forecast greenhouse gas emissions.