Voters in Sierra Madre have approved an initiative that gives owners of property on the city's historical landmarks registry 120 days to withdraw their properties from the landmarks list. The vote on Measure 02-A during the April election was 1,419 (61.3%) to 897 (38.7%).
The San Gabriel Valley city's historic landmarks registry contains 79 properties, mostly single-family homes from the early 20th century. The city tightly regulates any changes to the structures. However, some property owners have complained that they never consented to the listing and have battled to get their real estate off the registry.
In 1998, Sierra Madre voters approved a city-sponsored ballot measure that removed 29 homes from the registry. However, historical preservationists sued because the city did not perform an environmental review prior to putting the measure on the ballot. The case went all the way to the state Supreme Court, which ruled that ballot measures placed before voters by public agencies must receive scrutiny under the California Environmental Quality Act (see CP&DR Legal Digest, May 2001). The court distinguished citizen-sponsored initiatives.
After that ruling, a group called Citizens for Property Rights got the initiative qualified for the April ballot. The latest election still may not settle the issue, as historic preservationists vowed to continue fighting.
In a symbolic move, two Bush administration Cabinet secretaries opened the main irrigation canal in Southern Oregon's Klamath Basin in late March. Interior Secretary Gale Norton and Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman opened the headgates that help irrigate 240,000 acres of farmland in Oregon and Northern California.
Only 11 months earlier, the Bureau of Reclamation announced it was reducing 2001 water deliveries by 80% so that more water would be available for the endangered sucker fish and for two Indian tribes downstream in California (see CP&DR Environment Watch, October 2001). The bureau's decision caused widespread protests, and Bush administration officials vowed to reconsider the situation.
"We have to find ways to balance the needs of the ecosystem and of people," Norton said during the March ceremony, at which environmentalists and Indians protested.
An infrastructure panel appointed by Gov. Davis has issued its final report addressing numerous planning issues, including the need for more housing development. The California Commission on Building for the 21st Century recommended passing a new school bond, adopting a state energy infrastructure policy, lowering the voter threshold for local transportation tax hikes from two-thirds to 55%, and adopting a state water infrastructure plan. The panel further urged establishment of a new state infrastructure fund, and creation of a public-private entity "to support needed and cost-efficient infrastructure planning and investment."
Unlike many past infrastructure reports, this latest document includes recommendations for housing and land use. To boost housing production, the panel recommended the state:
o Reform the state-local fiscal relationship so that local government has incentives to meet regional housing production goals. Possibilities include swapping local sales tax revenue for more property tax revenue, capping the property tax shift to schools, and regional tax revenue sharing.
o Provide more funding for brownfield cleanup and redevelopment.
o Establish a permanent housing incentive fund to reward communities.
o Offer incentives for interregional and multi-disciplinary planning.
o Provide more resources to cities and counties with housing elements that are in compliance with state law.
o Resolve construction defect litigation. Possibilities include a better dispute resolution system, home buyer warranties, and more training for construction workers and building inspectors.
o Promote the use of master environmental impact reports and streamline the California Environmental Quality Act.
Regarding land use in general, the commission recommended the state:
o Provide matching funds and technical support to help local governments update general plans.
o Provide better data, technical assistance and planning grants to local and regional agencies.
o Adopt inter-agency planning models.
o Fund resource conservation planning, such as multi-species habitat conservation plans.
o Use "scientifically accepted standards" to regulate brownfield cleanup.
o Provide money for "best practices in zoning and building codes so communities can achieve more efficient land use and adopt new models of development, such as mixed-use and transit-oriented development."
The report is available at www.bth.ca.gov/invest4ca/
A proposed 450-acre expansion of the Sunshine Canyon Landfill into the City of Los Angeles has been rejected by the city's Environmental Affairs Department, which said Browing Ferris Industries' application was incomplete. Within hours, BFI withdrew the application temporarily.
The huge garbage dump, which straddles the city-county border near Interstate 5, operated for years inside the city before its permit expired 11 years ago. Los Angeles County permitted landfill operations to resume in 1996. In 1999, the Los Angeles City Council approved expansion into the city — a decision that was a catalyst for the San Fernando Valley secession movement. Browning Ferris hoped to get a permit approved to open the city portion of the facility this spring.
Mayor James Hahn said he is "committed to closing all landfills within our city limits" and he endorsed the decision to reject the application.
Mountain View City Councilman Mario Ambra was convicted of willful misconduct and removed from office in April. A jury found Ambra guilty of violating the city charter by bullying the planning director and other city employees. One week after the verdict was issued, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge John Herlihy formally removed Ambra from office, although Ambra had submitted his resignation the prior day.
Earlier in the trial, Judge Herlihy dismissed three counts against Ambra related to his attempts to use the planning department to harass a neighboring property owner so the property owner would sell out to Ambra. According to grand jury testimony, Ambra wanted to develop the site next to his home on Rengstorff Avenue. However, the court ruled that Ambra did not have a financial interest in the property where his home is because the real estate is held in a trust established by his father.
Housing advocates have settled a lawsuit with the City of Folsom. Under the settlement approved by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly in April, the city will rezone 128 acres to allow development of about 2,900 units for very low- and low-income people. City officials also agreed to create a housing trust fund, impose a "linkage" fee of at least $1.10 per square foot on commercial and industrial development, and adopt an inclusionary housing ordinance.
In approving the settlement, Judge Connelly lifted a development moratorium on 600 acres. He had imposed the moratorium in December because the city had not approved any low-income housing units in recent years.
The Coronado City Council imposed a 45-day moratorium on mixed-use developments in early April and will likely extend it so that planners have time to complete a downtown specific plan, Community Development Director Tony Pena said.
A few years ago, the city decided to allow development of up to 74 residential units in the "limited commercial" and "central commercial" zoning districts of the Orange Avenue corridor. The city has approved an 8-unit project, and applications for two others were submitted, Pena said. However, all the projects are in the "limited commercial" zone. Planners hope to complete the specific plan by the end of the year before taking action on the latest mixed-use proposals.
The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that residents of mixed-use projects in the area have complained about noise and traffic from businesses.
Correction. The Public Development story in the April edition incorrectly characterized AB 2058 (Papan). The bill would allow public entities outside of San Francisco that rely on the Hetch Hetchy water system to form the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, which could issue bonds to fund system repairs.