Los Angeles County supervisors approved a revised environmental impact report for a 2,500-unit project in the Santa Clarita Valley, a project that two years ago lacked proof of adequate water.
The revised EIR does not identify new sources of water. Rather, the document provides additional analysis of the reliability of the State Water Project (SWP) and more information from the Castaic Lake Water Agency regarding local supplies, demand and future needs.
The 2003 Court of Appeal decision in Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment v. County of Los Angeles, 106 Cal.App. 4th 715 (see CP&DR Legal Digest, April 2003) was memorable for the second sentence of the ruling: "The dream of water entitlements from the incomplete State Water Project (SWP) is no substitute for the reality of actual water the SWP can deliver." The court was particularly critical of the county for not addressing the SWP's ability to deliver water, and the likelihood of new local supplies being developed.
While the revised EIR satisfied the Board of Supervisors, environmentalists were not persuaded and vowed to continue fighting. Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky also was not convinced, and he cast the lone vote against the environmental study because of ongoing concerns over "paper water." The revised EIR must satisfy the court before the project may advance.
The developer, Newhall Land and Farming, is confident this version of the EIR will pass muster. "It was not an issue of water supply. It was an issue of analysis," Newhall spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer said.
Two environmental organizations have reached an agreement with developers at Northstar Resort that will end the environmentalists' opposition to a proposed 1,450-unit condominium and townhouse development at the high Sierra resort in eastern Placer County.
Developer East West Partners Tahoe reached the agreement with Sierra Watch and Mountain Area Preservation Foundation. In exchange for the environmental groups' support for the Highlands project, East West and property owner Trimont Land Company agreed to prepare a Habitat Conservation Plan for the entire 8,000-acre resort, the majority of which is undeveloped. Also, a real estate transfer fee of 0.50% will be placed on all sales at Northstar, with the money going to the Truckee Donner Land Trust. The fee is expected to generate $30 million over 25 years for land purchases in the Martis Valley, which is experiencing a great deal of growth pressure. Also, East West agreed to leave untouched 233 acres along Highway 267, which links Truckee with Lake Tahoe's north shore.
The agreement was announced in March, only two weeks after Placer County approved the project. The agreement, however, may not end existing Northstar property owners' objection to development. Last year, an appellate court ruled for the property owners, who had contested the county's environmental review of an earlier phase of the Highlands project. (Association for Sensible Development at Northstar Inc. v. Placer County, 122 Cal.App. 4th 1289; see CP&DR Legal Digest, November 2004.)
Also clouding the picture is a tentative ruling issued in February by Placer County Superior Court Judge James Garbolino. In the tentative ruling, the judge found that the environmental review was inadequate for the Martis Valley Community Plan that Placer County adopted in 2003 (see CP&DR Local Watch, March 2002). The community plan covers the Northstar property, but the Highlands project apparently would have been permitted under the 1975 version of the plan.
A former local government lobbyist in San Joaquin County was convicted on 17 counts of attempted extortion, conspiracy, mail fraud and witness tampering in a corruption case involving the proposed development of a power plant at the Port of Stockton.
A federal jury in March convicted Monte McFall, who prosecutors said had shaken down companies that were seeking permission to build the power plant. McFall, who has been a player in San Joaquin County politics for years, told the companies that he could use his influence to halt the project if they did not pay him cash (see CP&DR In Brief, February 2005).
Former San Joaquin County Sheriff Baxter Dunn, former county Supervisor Lynn Bedford, his former aide J. Tyler Reves and former state Office of Criminal Justice Planning Director N. Allen Sawyer had already pleaded guilty in the corruption case. All five men now await sentencing, although McFall faces many more years in prison than his associates.
Yolo County has sued the City of Woodland over the city's approval of a 55-acre retail power center and auto mall along Interstate 5. The county contends that the city failed to mitigate the loss of farmland and impacts on nearby agricultural operations, and did not adequately address impacts to water supply, wastewater treatment facilities and a proposed freeway ramp.
"This last-resort action is seemingly what it will take to provide for the appropriate mitigation," county Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Helen Thomson said.
City officials, who approved the project and an environmental impact report in February, rejected the county's contentions and said the county should stay out of city business.
San Diego has approved two hotels with a combined 350 rooms at the site of the former Naval Training Center on Point Loma. The hotels, which still need approval from the Coastal Commission, would be one of the first new uses at the former 361-acre boot camp, which closed eight years ago. Plans also call for 350 housing units, office buildings, schools, a cultural center, another hotel and a 46-acre park (see CP&DR Base Reuse, September 1996).
Base reuse has been controversial in part because of the height of the proposed buildings. A city ballot measure approved in 1972 restricts buildings in the coastal zone to 30 feet, except downtown. However, an appellate court in 2003 ruled that Proposition D did not apply to the former base because of the Federal Base Closure Act and the state Government Code. (Save Our NTC, Inc. v. City of San Diego, 105 Cal.App. 4th, 285; see CP&DR Legal Digest, February 2003). The hotels approved in March would be 59 feet and 57 feet tall.
Fresno County supervisors have decided to put some new subdivisions on hold while officials review the county's subdivision policy. The move came in early March, when the Board of Supervisors considered an appeal of a 23-lot, 59-acre subdivision in a rural area a few miles east of Clovis. Supervisors voted 4-0 to uphold the Planning Commission's denial of a zoning change and subdivision map.
However, supervisors conceded that the project met most of the county's guidelines, prompting the supervisors to question those guidelines. Fresno County has a great deal of "rural sprawl," which in the past has prompted concerns about infrastructure, loss of farmland and air pollution.