With lawsuits, referendums and an economic slowdown, it's been a rough few weeks for large-scale development projects. Some updates:

The 14,000-housing-unit Placer Vineyards project has been hit with at least three lawsuits. Sutter County, environmental groups and a citizens group filed the court actions over various impacts of the proposed 5,000-acre project in unincorporated Placer County, just across the line from Sacramento County. Litigation was anticipated, although Sutter County's lawsuit over traffic came as a bit of a surprise.

The 5,100-unit Yuba Highlands project in unincorporated Yuba County is headed for the ballot. Project opponents led by Supervisor Hal Stocker gathered enough signatures on referendum petitions to qualify for the February ballot. In addition, at least one lawsuit has been filed over the environmental impact report for the project, which is proposed for grasslands between Beale Air Force Base and Spenceville State Wildlife Area.

A specific plan adopted by the City of Livermore that calls for 1.5 million square feet of retail space, including a factory outlet center, is the subject of a lawsuit filed by a quarry. A road serving the development envisioned in the El Charro specific plan would cut off access to about 20 acres owned by Rhodes & Jamieson, which operates a rock quarry. The city has proposed a land swap, but Rhodes & Jamieson is apparently uninterested.

A Monterey County judge upheld a referendum vote overturning the county's approval of the 1,150-unit Butterfly Village project near Salinas. Developer HYH Corporation argued that the referendum violated a 2001 court order requiring the county to process the proposal. Voters' rejection of the project in June was "not a direct and conclusive challenge to the court's judgment," Judge Robert O'Farrell concluded. Butterfly Village would be part of the larger Rancho San Juan development.

The Modesto Bee reported the Florsheim Land Company has abandoned a proposed 1,500-unit, 380-acre project proposed for orchards just south of Atwater, in Merced County. Locals opposed to what they considered to be an incompatible housing development in a rural area filed a lawsuit over the Atwater Ranch project two years ago. Since then, the Central Valley housing market has sunk, which apparently forced Florsheim's surrender.

The Bakersfield Californian reported that developer Bryan Troxler has abandoned the proposed 9,000-unit Flying Seven Ranch project. The Californian also suggested that the 16,500-unit Gateway project is also in jeopardy. Both developments are — or were — proposed for farmland on the western outskirts of Bakersfield and would extend the city limits to I-5. Again, the slow market appears to be the driving factor.

- Paul Shigley