By Jason Ruiz :ibpost – excerpt Citing flaws in how the environmental impact report was conducted, a Contra Costa Superior Court Judge handed down a final ruling on the proposed BNSF Railway’… Source: Final Ruling On SCIG Railyard Requires New Environmental Impact Report Before Project Continues
By ELIZABETH WARMERDAM : courthousenews – excerpt
(CN) — State officials don’t have to pay landowners to access their property for environmental testing as part of a massive tunnel project that will divert water to Central and Southern California, the state’s high court ruled Thursday.
The decision reversed an opinion by the Third District Court of Appeal stating that because the testing would constitute a taking of private property, the owners would be entitled to a determination of the market value of the property rights the state was acquiring for the project.
The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state can obtain a court order specifically authorizing the state Department of Water Resources, or DWR, to conduct the proposed geological activities on the properties at issue.
The court said that the precondemnation entry and testing statutes at issue do not limit the activities the state may perform to those that are only innocuous or superficial, rejecting the landowners’ claim that the state overreached in invoking the statutes for the testing at issue.
Although the decision did not specify that rent payments would be required, the Supreme Court did state that landowners can propose limitations on the testing and can seek compensation if they can show that the testing damages their land.
The court upheld the statute as authorizing the type of activities DWR sought. But it agreed with the property owners that the statute did not provide for the right of a jury trial for compensation of damages that may occur. There will be continued litigation as the court referred the matter back to the appellate court,” Matteoni said.
DWR representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday…(more)
PDR lost on Potrero HIll. Opponents weigh appeal option.
By:bizjournals – excerpt
A 395-unit housing project, one of the biggest ever proposed in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, won final approval at the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday in a contentious three-hour hearing. Opposition to the project underscored continued backlash against development in the area, which has seen a building boom with over 3,000 units approved or in the pipeline following the 2009 Eastern Neighborhoods Plan.
The Board of Supervisors voted 9-1 to uphold the environmental review of the project, comprised of two buildings at 901 16th St. and 1200 17th St., from developers Walden Development and the Prado Group. The Board rejected an environmental appeal from neighbors of the project who opposed its size and also alleged that the city didn’t properly study the project’s environmental impacts on the community. The decision affirmed a previous Planning Commission approval of the…
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By J.K. Dineen : sfgate – excerpt
montereyherald – excerpt
The issue with the California American Water slant well isn’t if it is successfully pumping seawater, it is that Cal Am is simultaneously increasing seawater intrusion in the Salinas River Basin aquifers.
This is what the multimillion-dollar Castroville Seawater Intrusion Project (CSIP) was designed to stop. CSIP was doing a good job until the test slant well started drawing seawater into the aquifers. Now nearby growers’ wells are displaying significant increases in saltwater intrusion.
No one from Cal Am or the so-called Hydrological Working Group has taken the time to check with these growers to confirm this.
Now multiply that effect by eight production slant wells drawing water from the aquifer and you can kiss the CSIP investment goodbye.
Because the slant well was originally designated a test well, it was not required to pass the California Environmental Quality Act requirements. However, Cal Am has redesignated the test slant well as a production backup well. Are they are trying to circumvent CEQA? Why?
Finally, it’s all about cost, an estimated $6,000 per acre-foot for Cal Am water vs. an estimated $2,000 for publicly owned desalinated water.
Which would you like to pay?
— Charles Cech, Monterey… (more)
What we need to change in Sacramento: How do we change the pilot, test program exclusion to CEQA reviews? This is how “they” are getting away with a lot of projects. This needs to be on the list of questions we ask Wiener and Kim and everyone running for state office. Cities all over the state are having the same problem with these “tests” turning into permanent changes, by-passing CEQA reviews or public debate.
Last month, more than ninety corporate CEOs, tech investors and their allies called for quick passage of what the governor describes as his “affordable housing” plan. They assert that this plan would solve a housing crisis that threatens their businesses and the region’s economy. And recently in the San Francisco Examiner, a local politician added a Trump-like promise claiming that the governor’s plan would “make San Francisco affordable again.”
These claims appeal to the desperation of tens of thousands of Bay Area residents who are facing soaring and unaffordable rents and out-of-reach home prices.
What the CEOs and politicians don’t explain is that the plan, Trailer Bill 707, is really intended to accelerate housing construction for the wealthy. Under 707’s requirements, in order to gain one unit of affordable housing most cities will be required to allow the development of up to twenty high-end housing units. Such a policy cannot address the needs of most people.
It is a formula for exacerbating inequality. Building more high-rise mansions than housing for working- and middle-class households is also both socially and environmentally unsustainable.
Aimed at compelling suburbs to build more housing, 707 will actually enable more development in the hottest markets — San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose — while removing the negotiating leverage that these cities now have to win community benefits. It essentially prohibits local governments from considering or controlling for impacts, which is why it is opposed by every major environmental organization in the state including the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and League of Conservation Voters…
The attack on environmental reviews in urban areas is particularly alarming. First, 707 defines “urban” to include sites that are surrounded with developments on three sides. Developments bordering a park or a wetland on the fourth side would be entitled to these exemptions. Even the Coastal Commission is at risk of losing its power to protect the coast. Giving developers an “environmental” free pass will spur inappropriate development on some of the region’s most sensitive locations.
Second, the proposal ignores the reality that many (if not most) sites in cities were zoned without environmental analysis. For example, we have neighborhoods in San Francisco with zoning that theoretically allows for 200-foot projects. But when those neighborhoods were zoned for such heights there was little or no analysis of the full impacts of developing the entire neighborhood at that height level. The “wind tunnel” effects of such development could pose a risk to all but the sturdiest of pedestrians. Yet the governor’s “by right” proposal would prohibit The City from requiring any study of a project, including a wind analysis. Cities would be required to approve projects based merely upon developer applications.
There are many other specific concerns regarding this top down approach to governance and planning. But we close here with a broader objection. As long-time advocates for affordable housing and for environmental protections, we are both deeply troubled by how the governor’s plan pits these core values against each other. We believe that such short-term thinking is wrong in principle and repeats our history of unsustainable, market-driven development. We need leadership that sets our state on a path toward developing truly affordable housing that respects both our natural and urban environments…
Cindy Wu is a member of the SF Planning Commission, and Sue Vaughan is chair of the Sierra Club SF Group... (more)
By: bizjournals – excerpt
Tech titans are gathering to support Gov. Jerry Brown’s “as of right” proposal to reduce approvals needed for new projects that include affordable housing, even as some local elected officials have opposed the bill.
Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, Yahoo Inc. CEO Marissa Mayer and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner are among dozens of tech and business leaders who support the bill, in a letter from the Bay Area Council, the largest local business group.
Other supporters include SV Angel venture capitalist Ron Conway, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman and Max Levchin, founder of Affirm and Paypal. (Disclosure: Mary Huss, publisher of the San Francisco Business Times, is a member of the Bay Area Council’s Board of Trustees and is also listed as a supporter.)
The bill would remove discretionary reviews from projects with 20 percent affordable housing or 10 percent near transit, which could cut down the often multi-year approvals process for new development.
“The companies represented by these CEOs employ hundreds of thousands of workers statewide who are suffering because of the state’s epic housing shortage,” said Jim Wunderman, president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, in a statement.
“The lack of supply and resulting skyrocketing rents and home prices are taking a particularly steep toll on those at the lower rungs of the economic ladder who cannot compete for housing in this market and are being evicted, dislocated and marginalized,” said Wunderman.
Another supporter, Sam Altman, president of the prominent startup incubator Y Combinator, which provided early funding to Airbnb, Dropbox and Reddit, also wrote a blog post in support of the legislation.
“I believe that lowering the cost of housing is one of the most important things we can do to help people increase their quality of life and to reduce wealth inequality,” he wrote. “A huge part of the problem has been that building in the Bay Area is approved by discretion; even when developments comply with local zoning, they can still be vetoed or stalled by local planning commissions, lawsuits, or ballot measures.”… (more)
By Adele Peters : fastcoexist – excerpt – (with charts and maps)
Rethinking a city for new coastlines that don’t exist yet
By the end of the century, some of San Francisco’s million-dollar apartments and multimillion dollar houses will be underwater. A recent report calculated that property worth a total of $77 billion is at risk from rising seas in the city.
“We developed a digital map showing how much property would be in the bay, as opposed to what’s on land today,” says Paul VanderMarck, chief strategy officer at Risk Management Solutions (RMS), the company that mapped out the risk for the city…
Armed with the new maps, San Francisco is currently creating a strategy to try to save as much property as possible. “It’s almost inevitable that, in the end, the plan will be a combination of multiple approaches,” says VanderMarck. “One approach in some areas will be to surrender to the fact that seas are rising—it’s impractical, either economically or for other reasons, to try to defend against that in certain areas.” In other places, the city may build higher walls or other defenses…(more)
Maybe not CEQA but this is related
Last week the California Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could determine whether the right to vote on local taxes, which is constitutionally guaranteed by both Propositions 13 and 218, will cease to exist.
The case, California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, at first glance seems limited to a narrow technical question: When a local initiative seeks to impose a new tax, does the issue need to be put to the voters at the next general election or can the proponents, relying on other laws, force a special election? But in answering that question, the lower court ruled that taxes proposed by initiative are exempt from the taxpayer protections contained in the state constitution, such as the provision dictating the timing of the election.
The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), which filed the petition seeking Supreme Court review, was alarmed because the constitution’s taxpayer protections include the right to vote on taxes. If local initiatives are exempt from those protections, then public agencies could easily deny taxpayers their right to vote on taxes by colluding with outside interests to propose taxes in the form of an initiative, then adopting the initiative without an election.
The import of the case was not lost on those who dislike Proposition 13’s requirement that local special taxes – those imposed for specific purposes – receive a two-thirds vote of the local electorate. For example, backers of a tax to subsidize a new sports arena in San Diego were hoping that the lower court ruling would allow them to impose a special tax with only a simple majority vote…
Taxpayers of all stripes and interests will be watching this case very closely. California is already a hostile place for taxpayers so losing the right to vote on local taxes would simply be adding to the pain… (more)
The bottom line is the tax-and-spend folks are not happy with Proposition 13 or Proposition 218 (which closed gaps on Prop 13), and activist judges like to knock down “misguided” voters’ wishes. So, the 4th District Court of Appeals said that Proposition 218 does not apply to voter initiatives; it applies only to government-originated initiatives.
Say I am the Restoration Authority and want a $500 parcel tax. I team up with the Bay Area Council, the BAC pays a gazillion signature gatherers, and places a voter initiative on the ballot at a special election timed so there is very little voter turnout and special-interest activists can vote my measure in with 50+1% of the yes vote.
So the HJTA, said “What!? Not so fast!” and took the case to the CA Supreme Court.
The 4th District Court ruling is bizarre, and if allowed to stand it would eliminate the intent of Proposition 218. Any proponent, including governing bodies, could team up with powerful special interest lobbies to pass a tax via an initiative. We recommend that voters who wish to retain their power to decide how and by whom they will be taxed support the efforts of the organizations working to overturn this 4th District Court ruling.