Worthy topics for Jerry Brown – but it’s an election year

Worthy topics for Jerry Brown – but it’s an election year

By Phillip Matier And Andrew Ross : sfgate – excerpt

Gov. Jerry Brown pretty much kicked off his re-election campaign the other day with his State of the State address when he told the assembled lawmakers and media, “I used to say, ‘Take the ins and throw them out – take the outs and throw them in.’ I don’t say that anymore.”

So let’s look at some of the issues that may give Brown fits, starting with his two biggest projects – the largely unfunded, $68 billion high-speed rail line and the twin tunnels that would send Northern California water south.

Neither one is exactly a winner with voters these days.

“I certainly wouldn’t vote for them,” said state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, who happens to be the front-runner to succeed retiring Rep. George Miller in Washington – which is where much of the money for those projects would have to come from… (more)

Brown Suspends Environmental Law in Drought Declaration

Brown Suspends Environmental Law in Drought Declaration

by : kcet.org – excerpt

The state’s foremost environmental law no longer protects wildlife or the environment from the effects of the state’s response to the drought, after an emergency drought declaration was signed by Governor Brown at a press event in San Francisco Friday morning.

Buried in the language of the declaration, unmentioned at the press event which focused on voluntary conservation programs, is a clause exempting the state’s responses from having to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the backbone of the state’s environmental protection law.

The declaration claims that compliance with CEQA would get in the way of swift reaction to the effects of the drought emergency.

Here’s the text in question, section 9 of Friday’s drought declaration:.

9. The Department of Water Resources and the Water Board will take actions necessary to make water immediately available, and, for purposes of carrying out directives 5 and 8, Water Code section 13247 and Division 13 (commencing with section 21000) of the Public Resources Code and regulations adopted pursuant to that Division are suspended on the basis that strict compliance with them will prevent, hinder, or delay the mitigation of the effects of the emergency.

Division 13 of the state’s Public Resources Code is the technical, “codified” name for CEQA.

The section also exempts the Department of Water Resources and the Water Board from compliance with section 13247 of the state’s Water Code, which means the agencies don’t have to comply with water quality plans.

The exemptions apply to the agencies in carrying out orders in the drought declaration relating to dam releases and transfers of water between the State Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Both CEQA and the requirement that agencies follow water quality plans serve to protect California’s beleaguered fish populations, including the Central Valley’s salmon runs and the Delta smelt, which is listed as Endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.

Water quality violations in the smelt’s habitat have recently restricted agricultural water diversions from the Sacramento River: if more water is diverted as a result of exemptions from state environmental law, the smelt — whose population fell to a near-record low in the past year — could be history: its range is restricted to a narrow band in the delta where seawater and freshwater mix, and diversions in a drought year could push that “mixing zone” too far inland for the fish to survive.

Meanwhile, exempting the state’s water agencies’ drought measures from CEQA means that diversions and transfers won’t be subject to third-party scientific analysis or public comment.

Though the exemptions went unmentioned at the San Francisco press conference, they aren’t a particular surprise from Brown, a longtime foe of CEQA. We’ll be tracking the implementation of this exemption and reporting on comment from water and wildlife activists as the story develops… (more)

CEQA Works on Governors drought state of emergency declaration

CEQA Works on Governors drought state of emergency declaration

Dear CEQA Works members:

Long time no talk. As I’m sure most if not all of you are aware, Governor Brown today made his drought emergency declaration. While there are many positive aspects of the declaration – raising awareness of the drought, added pressure for reduced water usage, release of funds to address the drought, etc. – there are also some significant concerns with the announcement, including the suspension of some water quality laws and CEQA (see # 5 of his declaration) to allow for more water transfers. We are working to assess what this could mean and develop a gameplan to address. Before this announcement, I was planning to send out a CEQA Works update next week highlighting various CEQA-related bills (not many thankfully) and other rumblings from the Capitol, but wanted to give everyone an early heads-up with the drought declaration. I will send a more detailed CEQA update next week (including our thoughts on the drought declaration), and plan to set a call in February. Thanks all!

Note: – the CEQA section is order #9 in the Governor’s drought declaration (though #5 also raises concerns with consolidating the Federal Central Valley Project with the State Water Project, which presumably would be done without CEQA per order #9).

Bruce Reznik
Executive Director, Planning & Conservation League/PCL Foundation

Governor says state is above the law when it comes to drought

Governor says state is above the law when it comes to drought

centralvalleybusinesstimes – excerpt

California’s primary environmental protection law, the California Environmental Quality Act, doesn’t apply to the state when it comes to the drought.

Fish or whatever CEQA tries to protect will no longer have that shield under Gov. Jerry Brown’s declaration of a state of emergency because of the drought. Also to be ignored is compliance with water quality plans.

In the governor’s mind and declaration, the state Department of Water Resources and the Water Board can ignore CEQA if it hampers the release of reservoir water or transfers of water between the state and federal irrigation projects… (more)

Comments on the source suggested, as well as messages to state officials.

SF Supe Wants To Encourage Construction By Dumping Density Limits

SF Supe Wants To Encourage Construction By Dumping Density Limits

by scott wiener : baycitynews – excerpt

A San Francisco supervisor today introduced legislation that seeks to encourage the construction of more affordable housing in the city by removing density limits for certain projects.
Under the legislation proposed today by Supervisor Scott Wiener, new developments with 20 percent or more affordable units will not have those units count against the project’s density limits.
Under current city laws, developers must provide at least 12 percent affordable housing for any new project of 10 or more units or must pay a fee to the city for the construction of affordable housing elsewhere.
Wiener said his legislation would provide another alternative that will encourage the creation of more affordable units without reducing the number of market-rate units being built… (more)

The proposal would also eliminate all density limits for projects with 100 percent affordable housing, according to Wiener.

Current San Francisco law counts all units—affordable or market-rate—against density limit totals.

“We are in the midst of a severe housing crisis, a crisis that threatens our city’s diversity and livability, and we need much more permanently affordable housing,” Wiener said.

“There is never one magic bullet” to solve the city’s shortage of affordable housing, but “this legislation will move us in that direction,” he said.

SF Supe Proposes Increased Scrutiny, Crackdown On Tenancies-In-Common
San Francisco tenancies-in-common could soon face closer scrutiny under legislation that was proposed by a city supervisor on Tuesday.
Supervisor Eric Mar proposed an ordinance that he said would “bring balance to what right now is an unregulated market.” Tenancies-in-common are arrangements in which multiple parties own shares of the same property…
Mar said the city currently doesn’t keep track of how many rental units are lost each year when apartments are taken off the market to be converted to TICs.
His legislation would require that the city’s Planning Department sign off on the conversion of an apartment building into a TIC and require that the property be subject to the same housing and building codes as new construction… (more)

State wades into S.F. waterfront height-limit fight

Grassroots Actions

By John Coté :sfgate – excerpt

State land-use officials are questioning the legality of a proposed San Francisco ballot measure that would require voter approval to exceed height limits along the waterfront.

The measure, which supporters are trying to qualify for the June ballot, would affect at least three major waterfront development projects that are a central part of Mayor Ed Lee‘s vision for growing the city’s economy, including the Golden State Warriors‘ plans for a waterfront arena just south of the Bay Bridge.

The ballot measure is of “questionable validity,” according to a letter sent Monday to City Attorney Dennis Herrera by Mark Meier, the chief legal counsel for the State Lands Commission. The agency, which has authority over state lands, including the San Francisco waterfront, has “concerns about the legality of this proposed initiative” because it would supplant the city’s decision-making authority – which is…

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How San Francisco creates its own housing crisis

Grassroots Actions

ByScott Wiener :sfgate – excerpt

A fight played out last month at San Francisco’s Board of Permit Appeals that was a perfect microcosm of why the city has a housing shortage: It demonstrated an aversion to new housing, coupled with an expensive planning process, topped off with arbitrary decisions…


Many citizens in San Francisco disagree with the position that the author takes here. The entire point of the argument is that the project is seeking exceptions to the zoning and the Eastern Neighborhoods plan that were meant to protect the cultural and historical areas of the city. The developers are afraid of losing this fight. That along with passage of the waterfront height limits initiative would put a damper on the free-for-all building spree San Francisco is experiencing. Much of the argument centers on the disagreement in which should come first, the infrastructure to support an increase in…

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