The Navy has asked incoming governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to block a proposed new town on the Tejon Ranch because the development would hinder national security. The Navy has also asked the new administration “to facilitate coordinated master planning of the entire Tejon Ranch, across local jurisdictions, with special consideration of input from DoD [Department of Defense] regarding military training and testing requirements.”

The new town, called Centennial, is proposed to have 23,000 housing units and 14 million square feet of office, industrial and retail space near the junction of Interstate 5 and Highway 138, about 25 miles north of Santa Clarita (see CP&DR Local Watch, April 2003). According to an October 21 letter to the incoming administration from Navy Rear Admiral J.L. Betancourt, military airplanes regularly fly training and testing missions within 200 feet of ground level in the area of the proposed development.

“[I]t is likely that the Tejon Ranch project is just the beginning of the development of this portion of the Antelope Valley,” according to a Navy report. “Such development, if realized, could result in substantive land use conflicts underlying current training areas and could likely pose a threat to continued use of training routes.”

Betancourt pointed to 2002 legislation, AB 1468 (Knight), that requires general plans to account for potential land use conflicts with military bases, and which gives the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research authority to resolve disputes. He suggested proposed development could be pushed to the northern portion of the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch, in the San Joaquin Valley.

Tejon Ranch President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Stine called the letter “politically driven” and said environmental groups were using the military to halt development. He noted that 43 individuals and groups — ranging from federal, state and local lawmakers to the Sierra Club — were on the letter’s carbon copy list.

“Certainly we were surprised [by the letter] because we’ve been in the planning process for the Centennial project for three years, all of the information for the project was submitted to the public in August 2002, and the military has never contacted us,” Stine said.

Tejon Ranch officials are willing to cooperate with the military, and involvement from the governor’s office is not warranted, Stine added.

The Rohnert Park City Council has approved an agreement with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria under which the tribe will pay the city, a school district and community groups $200 million over 20 years to mitigate impacts of a proposed casino and resort.

The City Council’s mid-October vote came while casino opponents worked on a recall of the four councilmembers who voted for the agreement. Meanwhile, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors rejected an offer of $120 million from the tribe because the money came under the condition that the county not oppose the proposed development — a condition Rohnert Park accepted. Still, a recall of three supervisors, including two who voted against the tribe’s offer, is also underway.

The Graton Rancheria has proposed the largest casino in Northern California on 360 acres of farmland west of Rohnert Park. Besides what might be the largest gambling floor in the state, the facility would also have a 300-room hotel and a 2,000-seat auditorium. Station Casinos of Las Vegas, which joined with a different tribe to open a casino near Roseville in June, would help develop and operate the facility. The land is not held in trust for the tribe — a requirement for an Indian casino. However, the 2000 federal legislation that gave legal recognition to the tribe mandates the Interior Department take into trust any land the tribe requests.

Under the approved revenue-sharing plan, the tribe will pay the city $15 million up front for road work, $2.7 in in-lieu development fees, and $3 million for new police and fire facilities. In addition, the tribe will pay annually for 20 years $6 million, including $1 million designated for housing, to the city; $1 million to the Cotati-Rohnert Park School District; and $2 million to community nonprofit organizations. The agreement has escape provisions for the tribe, including the tribe’s failure to reach a certain compact with the state. The deal would provide more money for local government than any other agreement involving a gaming tribe.

The Corona Redevelopment Agency should reimburse hundreds of thousands of dollars of low- and moderate-income housing funds (LMIHF or low/mod funds) that the city used to purchase and operate emergency shelters, a Department of Housing and Community Development audit has concluded

State auditors found that Corona spent $400,000 in low/mod funds to purchase one shelter and spent $250,000 over three years to help the Salvation Army operate the facility. The redevelopment agency spent another $94,000 of low/mod funds to help run an emergency and transitional housing facility for domestic violence victims. Low- and moderate-income housing funds must be used for permanent or transitional housing, and not for short-term emergency shelter, states the audit, which was released at the end of September.

Corona Redevelopment and Economic Development Director Jim Bradley responded that redevelopment law is not clear cut and he rejected HCD’s interpretation. “To adopt a narrow definition of what qualifies as housing for purposes of LMIHF expenditures would most likely result in the closure or reduction of numerous emergency and other non-traditional housing venues throughout the state,” Bradley wrote. “Given the strong public policy behind providing housing in both traditional and non-traditional forms, we do not believe that a narrow definition is warranted.”

State auditors also found that Corona used as much as 52% of annual low/mod expenditures for administration and planning, that it spent $91,000 of low/mod monies over three years on community trash cleanup, and that the city failed to assist 25 families displaced by redevelopment activity.

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has until January 18, 2005, to designate critical habitat for 20 species of salmon and steelhead trout listed under the Endangered Species Act, according to a consent decree signed in September. The decree settled a lawsuit environmentalists and commercial fishing companies filed against NMFS.

The critical habitat designation could be the largest ever, as the federal agency will study about 150 watersheds in California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. A critical habitat designation for the fish released in 2002 was withdrawn when development interests filed suit arguing that NMFS did not consider economic effects of the designation.

The Sacramento Valley Conservancy completed its purchase of 4,060 acres of grasslands and oak woodlands in eastern Sacramento County. The land, in a lightly developed area more than 5 miles south of Highway 50, had been the site of the proposed 3,000-unit Deer Creek Hills subdivision, which voters rejected 2-to-1 three years ago (see CP&DR, December 2000).

The Conservancy pieced together about $11.1 million in state bond money from the county and two state agencies. Private contributions composed only about $250,000 of the $11.4 million purchase price.