Two audits of redevelopment agencies that the Department of Housing and Community Development completed in August strike hard at local agency practices. The state found a number of accounting and planning deficiencies at the Baldwin Park Redevelopment Agency and told the City of Concord to stop using housing set-aside funds for general code enforcement activity. State auditors found that Baldwin Park could not account for all of its low- and moderate-income housing funds, had spent at least $1.3 million of housing funds on other projects, underreported revenues and overstated expenses in annual reports to HCD, withheld interest that should have gone to the housing fund and adopted a flawed housing production plan. Baldwin Park also failed to adopt a replacement housing plan before approving a commercial project in which 68 housing units and 116 motel rooms were to be demolished to make room for an automobile dealership, according to HCD. The "vast majority" of units identified by the agency in a relocation plan were for senior households, even though none of the 216 people being displaced were seniors, the audit stated. Baldwin Park officials accepted many of the state's recommendations, but the city refused to transfer all of the money identified by HCD to the housing fund, and auditors remained dissatisfied with some of the proposed accounting changes. In Concord, HCD reported that during three audited fiscal years the city had spent $840,000 on a "neighborhood preservation program," which was a general code enforcement program, and $140,000 on a program to inspect all multi-family units. Auditors found no direct connection between the code enforcement programs and the city's affordable housing program, so HCD told Concord to reimburse the housing fund. City officials countered that the expenditures were justified and refused to pay back the housing fund, although officials did agree to reduce such use of housing funds in the future. Even though the city did not verify residents' incomes, officials believe that nearly everyone in the units cited or inspected was eligible for housing fund assistance, City Manager Edward James wrote in response to the audit. "The City of Concord's Neighborhood Preservation Program and Multifamily Inspection Programs are innovative housing programs that are parts of a broader comprehensive city and agency housing strategy," James wrote. "The partial funding of the programs with housing fund monies must be viewed in the larger context of a city and agency that are actively building and rehabilitating housing." But HCD stood by its recommendation because the city could not directly relate the code enforcement efforts to its affordable housing programs. "In addition, these are city-wide programs, not confined to, or found to be benefiting, specific redevelopment project areas as required," the audit states. An HCD audit of Oakland's redevelopment agency found lesser discrepancies, and the city accepted the state's recommendations. Yolo County supervisors in August extended a building moratorium on unincorporated territory near Davis and West Sacramento until June 2004. Meanwhile, a moratorium on commercial development in neighboring Sacramento County appears that it will remain in place until next year. Yolo supervisors imposed the ban so that the county can update the 27-year-old Davis Area General Plan. According to a county fact sheet, a great deal has changed since the plan for the rural area was adopted, including establishment of a federal wildlife area, adoption of new county farming and open space policies, implementation of conservation efforts along riparian corridors, signing of a Davis-Woodland agreement to create a greenbelt between the cities, approval of an initiative requiring voters to decide on Davis annexations, and increasing development pressure. The moratorium was spurred when the City of Davis asked the county to reconsider a permit for a 5,000-square-foot produce stand near Interstate 80. The county shut down that project in May and imposed the moratorium in June. Across the river in Sacramento County, developers are complaining about a ban on new commercial projects. The county imposed the moratorium in April because the inventory of land available for multi-family housing fell about 80 acres short of the amount mandated by a court in 1996 to settle an affordable housing lawsuit. There is a link between affordable housing and commercial uses because the county allows development of multi-family housing in some commercial zoning districts, Planner Eddie Hard explained. Approving more commercial development would further deplete the inventory of land for multi-family housing projects. The county cannot escape the moratorium until it gets an updated housing element certified by the state or rezones land for multi-family housing. The county's focus is on the housing element, with workshops scheduled to begin this month and state certification — the county hopes — by January 2004. A moratorium on retail development in South Pasadena, adopted because city officials said there was a parking shortage, has been thrown out by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Dzintra Janavs. She ruled that the City Council violated the state open meeting law by approving the moratorium in closed session. The developer of a strip shopping center halted by the moratorium, HFP, LLP, filed the lawsuit. Santa Cruz County has sued three redevelopment agencies to recover tax increment that the county says it overpaid to the agencies. The lawsuit says redevelopment agencies in Santa Cruz, Scotts Valley and Capitola owe the county a combined $499,000. The county says it miscalculated the tax increment each agency should have received from 1992 through 2002. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed reducing critical habitat for 15 rare plant and animal species that rely on vernal pools by 1 million acres. The critical habitat designation would apply to 740,000 acres in 31 counties, but not to land previously designated in Butte, Madera, Merced, Sacramento and Solano counties. Federal officials reconsidered the critical habitat designation first made in September 2002 after developers complained that the agency did not consider the economic consequences. So federal officials did just that, which led to the exclusion of the five counties and areas elsewhere. Environmentalists vowed to fight the plan. A federal judge has barred the City of Santa Ana from counting ballots in a mail-in election regarding traffic barriers. The election was an advisory vote on whether the city should keep two-year-old barriers between the single-family French Park and the apartment-oriented French Court neighborhoods. The American Civil Liberties Union sued because only property owners could vote. The ACLU contended the process favored wealthy French Park residents over poorer, predominately Latino residents of French Court and the neighboring Logan district. U.S. District Court Judge Cormac Carney sided with the ACLU. The fate of the barriers, which the city erected to block cut-through traffic, remained unresolved.