The California Coastal Commission has adopted a Local Coastal Plan (LCP) for the City of Malibu, despite objections from city officials. The commission voted 10-1 for the plan. Litigation is likely.
It is only the second time the commission has imposed an LCP on a local jurisdiction. Two years ago, the state Legislature gave the commission until September 15, 2002 to adopt a plan for Malibu, and the commission met the deadline with two days to spare. Malibu is one many local governments that never adopted an plan to guide land use in the coastal zone, even though the Coastal Act required such plans to be completed more than 20 years ago. Because there has been no LCP for Malibu, every project has required Coastal Commission review, and the panel often spends a quarter of its monthly meeting dealing only with small projects in that one city.
Approximately 150 people testified during a two-day public hearing in September. Rock star Don Henley and environmentalists spoke in favor of the plan, while property owners complained that the plan would block even minor home remodeling projects.
The plan designates about half of the city as "environmentally sensitive habitat area," and limits new development in an ESHA to 25% of a parcel. The plan also calls for beach access points every 1,000 feet for the length of Malibu's 27 miles of coastline. But the plan allows development of the proposed civic center project, which includes a hotel, offices, stores, a public plaza and park. That project remains subject to voter approval, as required by a 2000 ballot measure.
A Southern California developer lost another round in a legal and political fight against a competitor. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge David Yaffe upheld the City of El Segundo's environmental impact report for a 2.1 million-square-foot office and retail development near Los Angeles International Airport.
Thomas Properties Group is behind the project, but Kilroy Realty, whose headquarters is nearby, has unsuccessfully fought the project (see CP&DR Local Watch, May 2002). During the last four months, El Segundo voters have rejected a Kilroy-sponsored referendum on the project, and Yaffe has upheld both the city's processing of the project, and now the EIR.
Ventura County Superior Court Judge Henry Walsh has refused to block a vote on a ballot initiative that would allow development of 1,390 housing units on 730 acres of hillside pasture. Opponents of the "Open 80 plan" — so named because 80% of the 3,800-acre site would be designated open space — argued that the state constitution bars initiatives that benefit a corporation. But Walsh ruled the constitutional provision did not apply to a limited liability partnership such as project proponent Lloyd Management Corporation.
A 2001 ballot initiative aimed at blocking expansion of Burbank airport has been struck down. The initiative prohibited any construction at the airport unless a 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. curfew and a 10% cap on future growth were imposed. The city sued over the initiative, arguing that the measure conflicted with state law and environmental regulations. Los Angeles County Judge Richard Montes agreed with the city and called the initiative "unconstitutionally vague."
For the third time, Kern County supervisors have approved two proposed dairies for a combined 28,000 cows southwest of Bakersfield. The fate of the controversial Borba dairies project is now in the hands of a Superior Court judge, who has twice before rejected the county's environmental impact report.
Kern County is also negotiating with dairy industry representatives for funding of a program EIR, which the county hopes to use as a basis for allowing up to 35 additional "by-right" dairies, Planning Director Ted James said.
To the north, Kings County officials this summer adopted a dairy element of the general plan and a program EIR.
A proposal that the Bush administration says would make forests more fire resistant has sparked its own firestorm of controversy as it makes its way through Congress. The "Healthy Forest" initiative seeks to speed environmental review of forest-thinning projects, eliminates citizens' ability to appeal U.S. Forest Service decisions on some logging and brush-thinning, and prevents judges from issuing temporary injunctions to stop forest thinning projects.
During a speech in Oregon in late August, President Bush said, "We have a problem with the regulatory body there in Washington. I mean, there's so many regulations, and so much red tape, that it takes a little bit of effort to ball up the efforts to make the forests healthy. And plus, there's just too many lawsuits, just endless litigation."
Environmentalists are vigorously fighting the proposal, calling it a giveaway to timber companies. U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein has been working on a compromise.
Major environmental groups have come out in opposition to a $1.6 billion bond to repair the Hetch Hetchy water system that serves about 30 Bay Area cities (see CP&DR Public Development, April 2002). San Francisco owns and operates the system, and voters there will decide on the bond. Groups including Environmental Defense, the Planning and Conservation League, and local Sierra Club chapters — all of whom wield great influence in The City — oppose Proposition A because the bond would not provide money for a study of restoring Yosemite National Park's Hetch Hetchy Valley, which Congress allowed San Francisco to dam during the early 20th century.
The City of San Jose has doubled the size of its housing program, which was already the state's largest. In September, city officials approved a five-year plan to spend $2.1 billion in city, state, federal and private funds, with about one quarter of the money coming from the city and its redevelopment agency. The money is intended to build 6,000 additional housing units, acquire and renovate 2,000 units, provide rehabilitation loans for 7,200 units, and offer first-time-buyer loans to 500 school teachers.
San Jose has established a task force to create a new growth plan for the city's rural southern end where the city earlier approved a controversial 6.6-million-square-foot campus for Cisco Systems (see CP&DR In Brief, November 2001, CP&DR, June 2000). Cisco has since put the project on hold. Mayor Ron Gonzales and the City Council appointed the Coyote Valley Task Force to draft a plan that permits at least 50,000 jobs and 25,000 homes, and maintains a greenbelt between San Jose and Morgan Hill. Environmentalists and affordable housing advocates, however, said the 20-member panel was tilted toward development interests.
Two separate lawsuits have been filed over Sacramento County's approval of the 6,000-acre Sunrise-Douglas Community Plan and a subset of that plan, the 10,000-unit Sunridge Specific Plan (see CP&DR Local Watch, August 2002). A lawsuit by Legal Services of Northern California and the Western Center on Law and Poverty claims the county broke a 1996 agreement to earmark about 1,000 acres for affordable housing. Meanwhile, the Environmental Council of Sacramento has challenged the project EIR, arguing that it did not adequately address the impact of extensive groundwater pumping on the Cosumnes River.
City officials from Woodland and Davis have signed a nonbinding agreement that prohibits either city from annexing territory in a two-mile-wide buffer of farmland between the two Yolo County cities. "I like to think of it as a friendly separation," Davis Mayor Susie Boyd said at the ceremonial signing in early September.
The El Dorado Hills Incorporation Committee has sued the El Dorado County Local Agency Formation Commission. Incorporation proponents argue that the LAFCO violated their civil rights by demanding up front nearly a quarter of a million dollars for application process and an EIR.
Yuba County has begun processing an application for what would be a new town in the oak savanna east of Marysville, near Beale Air Force Base. The 2,900-acre Yuba Highlands project would have 5,100 residential units and roughly 1 million square feet of retail and industrial space. Gallelli Real Estate of Roseville is the project applicant.
The area has been the subject of large-scale development proposals in the past, and a community plan for the area calls for 9,000 housing units, but little has been developed so far.