The City of Salinas has dropped its lawsuit against San Jose regarding approval of Cisco Systems' plan to build a research park in Coyote Valley. Salinas filed the lawsuit last year after San Jose approved the 688-acre research park, but the city in September agreed to dismiss the suit in exchange for a redress of the area's housing, transportation and education needs. (See CP&DR, June 2000.) The settlement calls for the property owners, Coyote Valley Research Park LLC, to pay $250,000 for a regional transportation study and will limit the size of the research campus until San Jose addresses the area's housing issue. Cisco will also contribute up to $1 million in matching funds if the Monterey County region establishes an affordable housing trust. In addition, San Jose will consider extending Caltrain to Salinas. The 20,000-worker campus still faces three similar lawsuits from groups opposing the project. El Toro airport foes in September delivered 175,000 petition signatures—twice the amount needed—that would force another vote on fate of the former Marine Corps Air Station in Orange County. But the validity of the signatures on the Orange County Central Park and Nature Preserve Initiative is up in the air. Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray earlier ruled the petitions invalid because the ballot summary understated the extent of possible development under the initiative. The ruling is pending a state appeals court decision on whether the language of the ballot measure is misleading. The airport plan calls for a new airport that would serve up to 29 million passengers, but opponents support transforming the former base into a "great park" that would house — among other things — schools, health-care facilities, museums and an urban park. If the measure appears on the March 2002 ballot, it will mark the fourth time Orange County voters have been asked to decide the fate of the former base. (See CP&DR In Brief, May 2000, CP&DR Local Watch, November 1999) A Huntington Park casino owner was charged in September with bribing Huntington Park Mayor Richard Loya. The FBI charged Harry Hwang of bribing Loya with $5,000 to gain Loya's support on a proposed $66 million entertainment and retail complex and to win his vote for the city to forgive a $40,000 debt owed by the casino. Loya first reported Hwang to authorities on June 10 and worked with the FBI to record conversations between Hwang and himself. Hwang pleaded not guilty. He faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. He may face more charges of bribing other city council members. The Oakland Port Commission chose the development group of Signature Properties and Reynolds & Brown to transform a 60-acre industrial area on the Oakland Estuary into a residential and retail neighborhood. The development is part of the port's effort to increase housing and retail development and reconnect people with the waterfront area. (See CP&DR Economic Development, September 2001.) The commission said it chose Signature and Reynolds & Brown over the Shorenstein Co. and Interland Growth partnership because of the former's emphasis on residential development. The development group said it would not seek public funds for the $500 million project. In addition to developing the 60 acres, Signature will also come up with a master development plan for the entire 120 acres the port owns along the estuary. The Board of Forestry in September adopted the new rule that requires environmental review for before loggers cut trees that predate the 1800s. The board for the first time defined "old-growth" trees as those existing "before 1800 A.D." and measuring at least 48 inches in diameter at the stump, or at least 60 inches for redwoods. Under the new rule, timber owners wishing to cut down old-growth trees must hire a state-registered forester to conduct an assessment of the trees' wildlife and ecological value. Environmentalists say the regulation allows too many exemptions and fails to protect the state's ancient forests. State officials concede that the regulation is not a ban on cutting down trees, but reduces careless cutting. Environmental groups including the Sierra Club say that the new rule is an attempt by Davis administration to thwart a planned 2002 statewide ballot initiative that would require tougher rules against old-growth cutting. The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously approved plans for a $1 billion shopping, dining and entertainment district around downtown's Staples Center. Council members expressed concern over a much-needed hotel in the area that developers are reluctant to build. And developers plan to seek a public subsidy for the 1,200-room hotel project. The development agreement calls for the construction of a four-star hotel, a 7,000-seat arena, two apartment towers, parks and office space. (See CP&DR Deals, August 2001.) The Califia development project in Lathrop was dealt another setback when San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Bob McNatt in late August ruled that the city must perform new environmental studies before building a sewage treatment plant. The plant would serve the nearby Califia development, which was proposed to have four theme parks, retail development and 8,500 homes. But the 290 acres of farmland that would hold the treatment plant was hit by severe floods in 1997, one year following a feasibility study conducted by the city. The judge ruled that new studies considering the public health risk must be performed. This is not the first hurdle for Califia, formerly called Gold Rush City. Citing lack of investor funding, developers announced in August that the planned theme parks — which had attracted so much early attention — would likely be replaced with office buildings. And the Sierra Club successfully sued the San Joaquin LAFCO over its 1996 approval of Lathrop's annexation of land that was to be developed. (See CP&DR Legal Digest, January 2001, Local Watch, August 1996.) Embattled San Bernardino County Supervisor Jerry Eaves was indicted by a federal grand jury in late August for allegedly accepting bribes in exchange for approving billboards on county-owned land in Colton. The indictment came just two months after Eaves — who continues to hold office — pleaded no contest to state charges of perjury and illegally accepting gifts. Federal prosecutors have charged Eaves with 14 counts of bribery, conspiracy to pay and accept bribes and mail fraud. Eaves pleaded not guilty and a trial is scheduled to begin November 20. Federal authorities also charged William "Shep" McCook of Newport Beach for giving Eaves about $6,000 worth of trips to Las Vegas, and former Colton City Councilman James Grimsby with accepting $25,000 in cash. Grimsby and McCook have pleaded not guilty. But Laguna Beach businessman Allan Steward, who allegedly bribed Grimsby, Colton Councilmen Abe Beltran and Donald Sanders, and former Mayor Karl Gayton all have pleaded guilty in the bribes-for-billboards scheme. The State Auditor has concluded that the California Energy Commission has not acted significantly slower on power plant applications than states with similar review processes. The auditor examined 23 applications submitted to the Energy Commission from 1990 through 2000 under the standard 12-month review process. The auditor found that the Energy Commission went beyond the 12-month deadline by more than a month 10 times for a variety of reasons. In every instance, the applicant failed to provide required information in a timely manner. Slow local, state and federal reviewing agencies and protests by project opponents also caused delays. The average approval time for all projects was 14 months, after an average of 2.5 months spent reviewing the adequacy of an application. Minnesota, Florida and Connecticut took seven to 15 months to approve applications. Oregon took an average of 30 months to decide power plant proposals, according to the auditor's report released in August. The auditor also found that Energy Commission's process is quicker than reviews conducted under the California Environmental Quality Act or the Permit Streamlining Act. The Energy Commission in late September unanimously approved the 600-megawatt Metcalf Energy Center in south San Jose's Coyote Valley. The decision came three months after the San Jose City Council, under intense political pressure, dropped its opposition to the project. Still, residents of Coyote Valley and the Santa Theresa district continue to complain about potential air pollution from the plant. They have appealed to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and have vowed to file a lawsuit. (See CP&DR, July 2001, March 2001.)