An Oregon property rights initiative has been upheld by that state’s Supreme Court. In a unanimous decision issued February 21, the court ruled that Measure 37 did not violate equal protection and due process rights, and did not improperly restrict state lawmakers’ land use authority.

The decision overturned a trial court ruling issued last fall that found the initiative violated the federal and state constitutions. The ruling could provide a boost to similar proposed ballot measures elsewhere, including California.

Approved by 61% of Oregon voters in November 2004, Measure 37 requires the government to either compensate property owners for land use regulations promulgated after the owner acquired property or not apply the regulations. The initiative backed by a group called Oregonians in Action was a direct attack on the state’s 30-year-old planning law that many planners see as a national model. The law prohibits most development outside of urban areas.

Within months of Measure 37’s passage, landowners filed at least 2,500 applications for development in rural areas. With no money to compensate landowners, counties took many different approaches to the applications. Everything froze, however, when a Marion County Circuit Court judge invalidated the initiative.

The state Supreme Court did not find constitutional flaws in Measure 37. The court rejected the argument that Measure 37 violated equal protection rights by establishing classes of people that others could not join, and that the measure violated due process rights by favoring certain property owners over others.

“Although it is true that neither the state nor the federal constitution requires compensation to individuals who suffer any loss in property value as a consequence of land use regulation,” the court ruled, “it is equally true that neither constitution forbids requiring such compensation in the manner provided for in Measure 37. The people, in exercising their initiative power, were free to enact Measure 37 in furtherance of policy objectives such as compensating landowners for a diminution in property value resulting from certain land use regulations or otherwise relieving landowners from some of the financial burden of certain land use regulations.”

The case is MacPherson v. Department of Administrative Services, Oregon State Supreme Court No. S52875.

Only days before the ruling, the farm bureau in the state of Washington filed an initiative similar to Measure 37.

A local, California version of Measure 37 is scheduled to be on the ballot this June in Napa County, which currently bars most development in agricultural and watershed areas. The “fair pay” initiative would require compensation for land use regulation similar to Measure 37.

A city charter amendment in Chula Vista that would limit the city’s eminent domain authority has been placed on the ballot by the City Council. The measure would prohibit the use of eminent domain for economic development purposes and would require the city to own for at least 10 years property it acquires via eminent domain.

A group called Chula Vistans for Private Property Protection submitted about 14,000 signatures on the ballot measure in January. The group appeared to lack the number of signatures required to place a charter amendment on the ballot. But the City Council, without endorsing the amendment, voted unanimously in late February to put the measure on the ballot anyway.

Exactly how the measure would affect the city’s redevelopment agency is unclear because the agency is not bound by the city charter.

The state attorney general’s office revealed in February that it is continuing to monitor three redevelopment agencies that were cited last year for major violations of the Community Redevelopment Law by the state controller’s office.

In a letter responding to an inquiry by state Sen. Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego), Attorney General Bill Lockyer said redevelopment agencies in Calapatria, Hawaiian Gardens and Santa Ana remain under scrutiny.

In Calapatria, the redevelopment agency used low- and moderate-income housing funds to purchase 29 acres that the agency intended to sell to a developer for a market-rate housing project. The city said the developer would fully reimburse the low/mod housing fund. In Hawaiian Gardens, the controller questioned the redevelopment agency’s acquisition of 17 properties. The attorney general’s office demanded more information but has not received it.

In Santa Ana, the redevelopment agency sold a parking lot to a commercial developer for $1 and then leased back 150 spaces for $15,000 per month, with the city subleasing parking spaces from the agency for $6,000 a month. Low/mod housing money is involved in the deal. “The arrangement appears to be problematic, and we anticipate taking further action in the matter, including the possibility of litigation,” Lockyer wrote.

As expected, the Western Riverside Council of Governments increased a development mitigation fee for regional transportation to nearly $10,000 per house, effective in July.

The Western Riverside COG has been a leader in the growing statewide movement to assess new development for regional highway, road and transit projects. The group claims that its transportation uniform mitigation fee (TUMF) is the largest, multi-jurisdictional transportation development fee program in the country. Since it was implemented in July 2003, the fee has generated about $800 million for projects.

However, transportation officials said rising construction costs and faster-than-anticipated growth forced a fee revision. The new fees are $9,639 per single-family home (up from $7,247), $6,806 per multi-family unit (up from $5,021), $12.49 per square foot for retail development (up from $8.51 per square foot), $2.27 per square foot for industrial development (up from $1.58 per square foot) and $6.33 per square foot for services (up from $5.28 a square foot). The nonresidential fees will be phased in over three years.

Some development interests and city officials argued against the fee hike, saying the charges would hinder needed growth and send desirable projects to neighboring San Bernardino County, where fees are lower.

A new federal Environmental Protection Agency “smart growth” report on balancing parking needs with broader community goals highlights planning for two projects in California.

The report, called “Parking Spaces/Community Places,” provides an extensive review of the proposed NASA Research Park (NRP) at the decommissioned Moffett Field Navy base in Mountain View. Using typical parking ratios, the 2-million-square-foot research park would need about 7,500 parking spaces. But a transportation demand management plan instead calls for only 5,200 spaces on the site. The reduction in parking spaces is made possible by the overall development’s inclusion of nearby housing with sidewalks and bike paths, shuttle busses and bus passes, charging tenants and lessees for parking, and forcing different users to share parking spaces.

The second project profiled is a proposed 162-room hotel in downtown Long Beach. Under the city’s ordinance, the hotel and accompanying 35,000-square-foot retail project would have had to provide 302 parking spaces. That was neither financially feasible for the developer, nor preferable to the city, which wants to encourage pedestrian activity. The on-site parking requirement was eventually knocked down to 162 spaces through a hotel valet parking system, relaxed parking standards, and the payment of in-lieu fees to the city, which will provide public parking spaces.

Parking Spaces/Community Places as well as a new report on best management practices for stormwater and two reports regarding water and high-density development are available on the EPA’s smart growth website,

The Department of Water Resources has completed an overhaul of the California Water Plan. Unlike previous state water plans, which forecast large deficits in the amount of water that would be available, this plan says needs can be met through 2030 through more efficient water use, underground water banking, recycling of treated wastewater, desalination projects and a relatively small amount of new surface storage.

The complete report is available at