The proposed Solano County new town got more publicity than any planning story in recent memory -- despite being barely a proposal. But maybe California could learn a little from the visionary nature of the whole enterprise.
Ten years ago, Suisun City was one of the nation's great redevelopment success stories. Plagued by violent, drug-dealing gangs, it literally bulldozed their strongholds to make room for a fancy civic center. The city reclaimed its neglected waterfront and approved the construction of hundreds of homes in a traditional neighborhood development.
The Solano County city became a case study for planners, new urbanists and journalists. But all the success and awards have not lessened a feeling that Suisun City's redevelopment still has a long ways to go.
In the third decision in an emerging line of cases regarding antiquated subdivisions, an appellate court has refused to recognize the legality of a parcel shown on a 1909 subdivision map. The First District Court of Appeal ruled the Solano County map did not satisfy the requirements of the Subdivision Map Act's grandfather clause because the law in effect in 1909 did not address the "design and improvement" of subdivisions.
An appellate court has upheld an airport land use compatibility plan that a Solano County landowner argued was overly restrictive.
The court rejected the landowner's contention that Solano County's Travis Air Force Base Land Use Compatibility Plan (TALUP) was inconsistent with an Air Force plan because the TALUP used a tighter noise threshold and assumed greater airport use than did the Air Force. The court found nothing in state law that prevented the country from being more restrictive of growth around an airport.
In a decision deferential to city officials, an appellate court has upheld the City of Vacaville's approval of an 860-acre project as compatible with the general plan. The decision also provides the first published ruling on the recently amended state density bonus law, which the court applies very broadly.
The California Supreme Court has ruled that an airport land use compatibility plan qualifies for a "common sense" exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act.
Perhaps more importantly, the court opened the door for the first time to the idea that displacement of development — often an arguable consequence of a plan that favors one type of development over another — might be an issue that should be analyzed under CEQA.
Voters in two small towns rejected development during special elections in April. Voters in the San Gabriel Valley city of Sierra Madre approved a referendum that requires projects of a certain size in downtown to go before voters. Meanwhile, voters in the Solano County city of Dixon rejected a proposed horse track and entertainment facility.
Both elections were close, and the land use battles in both cities appear far from over. The balloting may provide cautionary tales for planners, as both elections occurred after lengthy planning processes.
Voters in the northern Solano County city of Dixon will decide in April on a project that could change the nature of town: A horse racing track and entertainment center capable of handling events for up to 50,000 people, plus more than 1 million square feet of hotel, entertainment, retail and office development.
In its first ruling directly addressing the validity of "antiquated subdivisions," the California Supreme Court has held that maps recorded prior to adoption of the first precursor to the Subdivision Map Act in 1893 do not create legal parcels for today's purposes.