Four San Jacinto city councilmen, a councilman's wife and four people in the development business were indicted in mid-November by a Riverside County grand jury on charges of money laundering, fraud, bribery, perjury and filing false campaign finance documents.

From the court papers released thus far, it is difficult to define the quid pro quo involved in the alleged scheme. The district attorney's 18-month investigation, instigated by a city employee's tip, centered on Councilman James Ayers and Stephen Holgate, whose company, Shelbran Investments, owns numerous pieces of property in San Jacinto and neighboring Hemet. A former San Jacinto Chamber of Commerce CEO, Holgate funneled extensive contributions to Ayers for a failed 2006 Assembly campaign and for his successful 2008 City Council re-election bid, according to the indictment, which says Holgate channeled the money through numerous people to avoid campaign contribution limits. Ayers was among the councilmembers who voted for a development agreement for a proposed Shelbran Investments commercial project along the route of the proposed Mid-County Parkway (see CP&DR Public Development, August 15, 2009).

Also indicted were Ayers's wife Nancy Jo, who is a San Jacinto Unified School District trustee and executive director of the Chamber of Commerce; Mayor Dale Stubblefield, a planning consultant; Councilmen John Mansperger and James Potts; Robert Osborne, who has developed housing subdivisions in San Jacinto and elsewhere in Riverside County; Byron Ellison Sr., a property manager who does work for Holgate and a former Chamber of Commerce executive; and Scott Shaull, the pastor of a Roseville church for which Holgate serves on the board of directors. Everyone involved has either pleaded not guilty or deferred entering a plea.

The San Marcos City Council has adopted the University District Specific Plan, which calls for extensive residential, office and mixed-use development on 194 acres. Adoption of the document completes a planning process begun in 2006 that was intended to create a walkable downtown in the San Diego County suburb (see CP&DR Places, September 2007).

The plan provides for 2,600 multi-family residential units, 800 to 1,000 units of student housing, 450 to 600 hotel rooms, about 900,000 square feet of offices and medical facilities, and 40 acres of parks and open space. In addition, 1 million square feet of mixed-use retail and commercial development would be permitted along the two-mile-long main street corridor, and in an urban lifestyle center and smaller neighborhood-serving locations.

Yolo County completed one of the more ambitious general plan updates in recent years when the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted for a new plan and an accompanying environmental impact report in early November.

More than six years in the making, the plan maintains Yolo County's longtime priority of preserving agriculture and directing growth to cities and a few unincorporated communities. However, the new plan departs from the previous version by designating Dunnigan, a rural community of about 1,000 people 40 miles northwest of Sacramento, as a major growth area. The plan envisions a largely self-contained town of more than 9,000 housing units with extensive retail and office development on approximately 3,000 acres along Interstate 5 (see CP&DR Local Watch, September 2008).

To ensure Dunnigan does not become only a bedroom for Sacramento commuters, the plan contains objectives and triggers intended to ensure new housing coincides with local job growth. Officials have insisted throughout the general plan process that the county needs revenue that development in unincorporated areas could provide.

The updated plan, the county's first since 1983, also addresses climate change at length and calls for a new greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan to be incorporated into all county activities.

The general plan and EIR are available at

Only about one-quarter of property owners eligible for refunds from the Santa Clara County Open Space Authority submitted claim forms. Last year, the state Supreme Court struck down the authority's annual $20 assessment on about 320,000 properties, ruling the levy was tax that should have been submitted to voters (Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, Inc. v. Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, (2008) 44 Cal.4th 431; see CP&DR Legal Digest, August 2008)

The authority collected about $51 million from the assessment but never spent the money because of the litigation. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the authority asked property owners if they wanted a refund. Environmental organizations urged property owners to let the authority keep the money. After refunds, legal costs and administrative expenses are paid, the authority expects to still have about $30 million from the illegal tax to fund park improvements and land purchases.