The grandstands of Churchill Downs will probably always fill with what bourbon-soaked pundit P.J. O'Rourke described as the "tremendous squash and jostle" of seersucker suits and saturnine headwear every May. And yet, out West no fewer than four of California's once-proud of racetracks have entered some form of bankruptcy, redevelopment, or uncertainty. With attendance and handle down at California tracks – as at tracks across the country – rare opportunities are emerging to redevelop outsized parcels that sit amid heavily urbanized areas.
Opponents of the proposed construction of two houses on a coastal bluff in San Clemente may pursue their lawsuit to overturn the California Coastal Commission's approval of the projects, even though the suit was filed after a statute of limitations had ostensibly expired, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled.
A state appellate court has upheld the City of Los Angeles's refusal to grant a conditional use permit for the sale and on-site consumption of alcohol at an adult cabaret. The court ruled that the decision to deny the permit strictly concerned alcohol and did not prohibit the expression of protected speech.
The Beach and Edinger Corridors Specific Plan for Huntington Beach seeks to remake Beach and Edinger into first-rate streets. But the plan's elevation of retail sales above other needs could compromise the city's urban design goals.
These days, the California High-Speed Rail Authority might as well be called the Political Traction Company. After winning voter approval of a $9.9 billion bond in November, the authority seemed to become a favorite of the Obama administration, which is eager to fund high-speed rail construction. In addition, some Central Valley communities ï¿½ such as Fresno and Bakersfield, where stations are set to be built ï¿½ are eager to see the project advance. Nevertheless, cities along the Peninsula of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties are asking questions about the project.
The California Supreme Court has reversed an appellate court ruling that regional park and open-space districts said would have greatly diminished their ability to acquire and manage land. The court said that a regional park and open-space district can dispose of property if it has not officially declared – such as by adopting a resolution – that the property is "dedicated" for use as a park and open space.
In this month's roundup of land use news, both the developer of a Calaveras County golf course built without permits and the county must decide how to proceed after supervisors refused to approve the project after-the-fact; the Obama administation has reversed a controverial Bush-era Endangered Species Act rule; a conservation plan for an endangered salamander in Sonoma County has died; developer DMB Associates has announced it is abandoning a new town proposal in San Benito County but has a new 12,000-unit project in Redwood City; and a whistleblower lawsuit over redwoods logging has been settled.
The recession and slack development activity have caused about 10 cites and counties to reduce their development impact fees, while more jurisdictions have delayed collecting fees until new buildings are ready to occupy. Some interest groups regard the fee deferrals as helpful in generating local activity. But whether fee reductions are similarly stimulative is debatable.
There's never been a weirder time to try to do planning in California.
On the one hand, the state has made climate change a major priority – and it's driving local government efforts in a hundred different ways, ranging from greenhouse gas analyses in environmental documents to switching out light bulbs in city corporation yards.
On the other hand, the state is cutting back all over the place because of the ever-more-dismal budget crisis. And this is going to make it hard for local governments to meet the requirements the state is laying out.
With the State of California again facing financial calamity, the fight in Sacramento over tapping the revenues of local redevelopment agencies to fund schools is likely to intensify. Among the latest developments are a Sacramento County Superior Court ruling blocking implementation of a portion of a 2008 law requiring redevelopment agencies to transfer $350 million in tax increment revenue to schools, and a state controller's office report that says more than one-quarter of redevelopment agencies face sanctions for being out of compliance for their pass-through payments to schools.