Less than one week after the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted to create a task force to overhaul the Planning and Development Services department, the department director resigned.
In July, a county audit concluded that the planning department was in "critical condition" after years of declining revenues and shrinking staffs. It said the department's priority had become self-preservation. Department director Tim Neely retired during the audit.
Public Works Director Bryan Speegle replaced Neely. He did not contest the audit's findings but insisted departmental changes were underway. But only days after the supervisors voted to form the task force on August 4, Speegle announced his retirement after 26 years with the county.
The City of Irvine has approved a controversial amendment to a 2005 agreement with the consortium of developers handling the El Toro Marine Corps base reuse project.
Under the amendment, the developers, headed by Lennar, may build up to 4,900 homes – or about one-third more units than originally approved. The developers were also relieved of their obligation to build 45 holes of golf.
In exchange, the developers transferred 131 additional acres to Irvine and agreed to pay $58 million over five years for infrastructure and park maintenance, plus $9 million over nine years for the loss of golf course revenue. The amended agreement also permits the city to build retail space, restaurants, hotels and a police station on portions of the 1,480 acres devoted to the "Great Park."
City officials say the infusion of cash will jump-start construction of the Great Park, which has stalled because development intended to generate money for it has been slow to occur (see CP&DR Places, March 2006). Councilwoman Christina Shea, a longtime skeptic of the El Toro reuse plan, voted against the amendment, saying it amounted to "a bailout for Lennar."
Stockton's downtown redevelopment efforts suffered a major setback in August when the Lexington Plaza Waterfront Hotel was closed and repossessed by the lender, First Bank of Missouri.
Developed by Regent Hotel, LLC, the $62 million, 150-room hotel opened in December 2007 as a Sheraton but fell into receivership in less than a year because Regent was unable to sell the 40 condominiums topping the hotel.
The hotel is part of downtown waterfront redevelopment effort that also includes an indoor arena, a minor league baseball park, a 10-acre public park and amphitheater, and a plaza (see CP&DR Local Watch, December 2006). The city sold the land for the hotel and a small convention center for $1 and provided a $500,000 development subsidy.
The City of Santee has sued San Diego County over the county's plans to expand the Las Colinas Detention Facility for women in Santee. The city contends the county's environmental impact report for the 30-acre expansion failed to fully address the project's effects on traffic and public safety. Ryan Companies US, which is developing a mixed-use project adjacent to the jail site, filed a similar lawsuit against the county. A separate lawsuit filed by Santee in 2008 is on appeal. The city contends the county should have prepared an EIR before accepting a $100-million state grant to enlarge the jail.
The Palo Alto City Council has voted to adopt a ballot initiative that mandates wider private streets in new development projects. Private streets built after July 31 must be at least 32 feet wide, even if narrower streets were already approved in projects. Some recently built private streets are as slender as 20 feet across, and they have generated complaints about the lack of street parking and poor emergency vehicle access.
In June, proponents of the initiative submitted enough signatures to qualify it for the November ballot. But rather than place the measure before voters, the council decided to accept it. Final adoption is scheduled for September, after the city completes an environmental review of the initiative's effects.