The federal government is falling far short of meeting its goal of "no net loss" of wetlands, according to a new study by the National Academies of Sciences' National Research Council. While the loss of wetlands in the contiguous 48 states decreased by 77% from 1986 to 1997, about 58,000 acres of wetlands are being plowed up or paved over every year, according to the report.
The scientists found that many mitigation projects are not implemented after development is approved, that some new wetlands are not maintained as promised, and that some projects do not adequately replicate a natural system. The scientists urged better data collection and greater enforcement by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which regulates most wetlands development.
"A broader geographic area needs to be considered when deciding which wetlands to restore and where to place new wetlands so they continue to serve the ecological needs of the entire watershed and have a higher chance of long-term survival," said committee chairman Joy Zedler, the Aldo Leopold Chair of Restoration Ecology at University of Wisconsin, Madison.
The report is available at the National Academies' website, www.nationalacademies.org/webextra/wetlands
Before going on summer recess, the Legislature passed a bill that requires the City of Tustin to give a 100-acre parcel of the former Tustin Marine Corps base to the Santa Ana Unified School District and the Rancho Santiago Community College District. The state Senate approved AB 212 (Correa) 21-13 on a party-line vote. Assembly Democrats passed the bill in April. As of late July, Gov. Davis had not indicated his position.
Tustin and the school districts, which serve Santa Ana, have fought over base reuse for five years. Tustin has extensive redevelopment plans for the 1,600-acre base and wants the 100-acre site for a commercial project. Tustin offered the districts 39 acres and $20 million. The overcrowded school districts rejected the offer because the 39 acres appear to be heavily contaminated. Tustin contends AB 212 illegally preempts federal law and usurps the city's constitutionally protected police powers.
The Correa bill is a companion to SB 874 (Dunn), which would prohibit Tustin's redevelopment agency from issuing debt based on the school districts' share of property tax increment unless the redevelopment agency and the districts sign an agreement. Both houses of the Legislature approved SB 874, but they did not reconcile differences before the summer recess started in July.
The Temecula city clerk's decision to block a development referendum from the ballot was upheld by Riverside County Superior Court Judge Sharon Waters.
In March, opponents of the 2,000-home Wolf Creek subdivision filed about 4,800 signatures on a rezoning referendum petition, twice as many has they needed to qualify a ballot measure. However, City Clerk Susan W. Jones said the petition backers failed to show signers the entire Wolf Creek development plan, so she refused to certify the referendum.
After a three-day trial in July, Judge Waters ruled that referendum supporters should have made all Wolf Creek planning documents available to petition-signers.
The Fannie Mae Foundation has identified a new type of suburb that has become commonplace in California. In a report released in late June, Fannie Mae defined a "boomburb" as an area with more than 100,000 residents that has maintained double-digit population growth in recent decades and is not the largest city in its metropolitan area. Fannie Mae found 53 boomburbs nationwide, including 25 in California. Some of the largest in the state are Anaheim, Santa Ana, Riverside, Fremont and Chula Vista.
The report painted a contrasting portrait: "Because of their exceptionally fast growth rates, Boomburbs face extreme degrees of development-related problems, such as traffic congestion, strained public services, and sprawl. However, because of their large size and their potential to cooperate with other large municipalities, Boomburbs may prove well-positioned to participate in comprehensive regional solutions to these problems."
The report, "Boomburgs: The Emergence of Large, Fast-Growing Suburban Cities in the U.S.," is available at the Fannie Mae website, www.fanniemaefoundation.org/census_notes_6.shtml
Playa Vista — a 1,087-acre, mixed-use infill development on Los Angeles's west side — received two major boosts recently. In June, the City Council approved $135 million in Mello-Roos bonds to fund roads, utilities and parks. The council also approved $33 million in Multi-Family Housing Revenue Bonds to fund construction of affordable apartments. Although Playa Vista has been controversial for years because of its location at the Ballona wetlands, the votes came without City Council dissent.
In July, influential developer Rob Maguire revealed that he had purchased 60 acres from the principal owner, Playa Capitol Corporation, and that he had hired renowned Santa Monica architect Frank Gehry to design at least four buildings. Gehry told the Los Angeles Times that his design for the commercial structures was inspired by the simple hangar where Howard Hughes built the Spruce Goose airplane shortly after World War II. Hughes formerly owned the Playa Vista site, where the hangar still stands.
The California Public Utilities Commission has ruled that the Napa Valley Wine Train does not function as a public utility and therefore is subject to local land use regulations. The ruling, issued in June, is a significant victory for the City of St. Helena, which has fought for years to block a proposed Wine Train depot.
The Wine Train carries tourists on a slow, 18-mile ride from Napa to St. Helena but has permission to stop at only one place along the route — a winery in the community of Rutherford. The Wine Train has long argued that it is a railroad and is subject only to the PUC. The Legislature even passed a measure that appeared place the Wine Train under the sole jurisdiction of the PUC.
St. Helena and many Napa Valley winemakers and grape growers have fought the Wine Train continuously, saying it does not provide meaningful alternative transportation, blocks roads and driveways, and gives the valley a carnival atmosphere.
San Bernardino County Supervisor Jerry Eaves has pleaded no contest to seven misdemeanor counts of failing to report political gifts and voting on issues that aided his benefactors. Under a settlement with the Attorney General's office, which took over the case from the county District Attorney's office, Eaves will pay a $20,000 fine and he cannot re-election in 2004.
A former Assemblyman, Eaves failed to disclose that he received three fishing trips to a Canadian resort from an attorney with the firm of Miller & Schroeder. Eaves later voted for $160 million in bonds underwritten by Miller & Schroeder. The funds were used for, among other things, redevelopment of Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino.
Voters in the San Gabriel Valley city of Duarte rejected a special tax to purchase foothill open space during a June 26 special election. Measure A would have raised about $3.9 million over 30 years to help purchase 726 acres. The special tax would have cost homeowners about $48 annually. Measure A required a two-thirds vote but received only 40.1% approval.
The year-old City of Elk Grove approved a 295-acre shopping mall in late June. Sacramento County had rejected the proposed Lent Ranch Marketplace before the city incorporated, partly because the project is proposed next to the county's urban services boundary. Elk Grove officials said the city needs the shopping opportunities and revenue that the 3-million-square-foot development will bring.
The El Dorado County Local Agency Formation Commission has extended the deadline for the El Dorado Hills incorporation effort until December of 2002. However, the commission and incorporation proponents, who submitted petitions three years ago, disagree over the cost of financial and environmental studies. On the border of El Dorado and Sacramento counties, El Dorado Hills is a growing commuter town.