Here's a roundup of recent land use news items –
San Diego Environmental Lawyer Backs Infill
The progressive Democratic community in San Diego has split openly over the question of allowing more density near light-rail stops, especially in mostly white middle-class neighborhoods.
In particular, environmental attorney Marco Gonzalez – who stood alongside former City Councilmember Donna Frye in calling for Mayor Bob Filner's resignation last year – has now broken with Frye on the density question. At a forum sponsored by the San Diego Housing Federation recently, Gonzalez – brother of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez – said: "From within the environmental community I thought it was important for us to say, ‘If we're going to fight sprawl, we have to incentivize infill' (dense projects within already-developed areas). So we had to ask ourselves some tough questions, and what I'm doing now at this point in my career is asking those people who used to be my clients, those activists, those community-character-spouting residents, to really address these presumptions."
Gonzalez's longtime ally Frye has been a leader in opposing more density in the Clairemont district along the planned Mid-Coast light-rail line. She has been joined by interim Councilmember Ed Harris, a former head of the city lifeguard union, and failed City Council candidate Sarah Boot, both of whom – like Frye – share Gonzalez's natural constituency of coastal environmentalists.
City of Marina Opposes Slant Drilling By Water Company
The city of Marina continues to oppose an effort by the Cal-American water utility to drill a slanted test well to check if an aquifer under the ocean floor is suitable as a water source for a desalination plant. A news feature in Environment & Energy Publishing quoted local officials and activists as opposing the plan on grounds that the well, once dug, might end up being used for a desalination operation, or might itself worsen saltwater intrusion.
The EEnews article linked to comments by the Remy Moose Manley firm on behalf of the Marina Coast Water District, opposing the Cal-Am appeal, alleging in part that the project's Draft Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration failed to consider likely future uses of the well. The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary's draft Environmental Assessment Report on the project from last June is here. The California Coastal Commission will take up the well proposal at its November 12 meeting. (See Items 14a and 15a at http://coastal.ca.gov/mtgcurr.html.) For more on the history and context of Monterey's water supply plans, see Larry Sokoloff's report at http://www.cp-dr.com/articles/node-3598.
$5 Billion For A South Pasadena Tunnel?
Caltrans and Los Angeles Metro were reportedly contemplating a monster pair of tunnels to extend the 710 freeway for nearly five miles under South Pasadena – at a cost of $5 billion. The LA Times a bit unfairly noted it would be longer than Boston's "Big Dig". Longer, maybe. But more trouble? The Big Dig was a nightmare of a highway undergrounding job in a densely built 350-year-old city with four seasons and a high oceanfront water table. In the middle of it, Rep. Barney Frank once suggested that, rather than depress the Central Artery, it would be cheaper to raise Boston. So, five miles under the San Gabriel Valley? Technically speaking, could it be any worse? Politically, though, it could be. Neighborhood groups have been fighting the 710 extension since 1965.
In Brief …
A big cluster of Strategic Growth Council grant applications fall due in the next several days, mostly on November 13. The League of California Cities has posted the list more or less as distributed by SGC.
A generally favorable feature article in the 7x7 arts and leisure magazine alternates eye-candy renderings of San Francisco's futuristic "Transbay District" project plan with brief accounts of some of the project's challenges. The project would build large office and apartment towers and raised public spaces around the city's old bus station in the eastern South of Market district. Developers hope the site also will become a terminal for the Caltrain and High-Speed Rail. It recently hit a snag when the Board of Supervisors and developers turned out to disagree on the tax structure for a "community benefit district" to which the major developers would contribute.
The Los Angeles Times reports a motion before the L.A. City Council would begin local implementation of the Legislature's Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act, but the Board of Supervisors must approve the idea first.
Hudson Sangree of the Sacramento Bee posted news features on increased infill development in Sacramento and on plans by developer Michael Heller to convert the Crystal Ice and Cold Storage plant building to retail and office use.
The Monterey Herald reported another in a series of delays is holding up the draft EIR on the "Monterey Downs" plan for a mixed-use development at decommissioned Fort Ord. The project would include 1,280 units of housing and a racetrack. The City of Seaside's page for the specific plan on the project is at http://seasidemontereydownsandveteranscemeteryspecificplan.com/.
The law firm of McKenna Long & Aldridge posted an update suggesting people who follow CEQA law and land use should look into efforts by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) to update regulatory documents in the Air Toxics Hot Spots Program. See http://oehha.ca.gov/air/hot_spots/Sept2014HotSpotsRags_SRP.html.