Calif. Central Valley Sank 3 Feet During Historic Drought

By Matthew Renda : courthousenews – excerpt

PALO ALTO, Calif. (CN) – While this past winter busted California’s five-year drought, a new Stanford University study shows how the dry years did permanent damage to Central Valley aquifers.

A satellite remote-sensing study performed by Stanford researchers shows a portion of the Central Valley sank by as much as three feet due to overpumping of groundwater during the drought, permanently reducing the region’s capacity for water storage.

“California is getting all of this rain, but in the Central Valley, there has been a loss of space to store it,” said study co-author Rosemary Knight, a professor at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences.

The alteration of the clay layers that comprise the San Joaquin Valley translates into a permanent loss of natural storage capacity of anywhere between 360,000 to 600,000 acre-feet of water, the study says.

As a point of comparison, the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir – which provides water to San Francisco and is roughly the size of the Yosemite Valley – holds about 360,000 acre-feet of water… (more)

Next time you hear about rising sea levels remember that land can also sink. the effect is the same. San Francisco is embarking on a plan to blend groundwater with Heth Hetchy water for half the city’s water customers. EIRs do not seem to study the effects of removing ground water or much else that effects the environment and as we know there is no real mitigation done to protect one from any of the negative results anyway.

 

Timeline: Lawyers for Developers Share Tactics to Blunt CEQA

By Kevin Stark : SFpublicpress – excerpt

Why the rush to build on the lowest levels of the bay?

In 1995, the Diablo Valley Ranch, a drug rehab facility in Contra Costa County, planned to expand. The problem? According to neighbors, the land it wanted to build on was contaminated with oil and toxic chemicals.

The company made what was then an obscure argument: The California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA, the state’s premiere environmental law, did not require developers to consider how the environment might influence its project, only how the project would affect the environment.

Today, developers are using the same reasoning to push back on the ability of Bay Area cities to regulate waterfront development and protect residents from rising sea levels, a product of human-caused climate change. Over the last two decades, as developers won over judges in more and more state courts, lawyers began peppering these phrases in environmental impact reports, lawsuits and responses to public comment…

November 2016: RULING

Mission Bay Alliance v. Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure; Golden State Warriors Arena LLC — The Court of Appeal rules in favor of the Golden State Warriors basketball team in its application for a $1 billion development including a sports arena and office complex. The legal challenge had focused on the effects on traffic and wind patterns, mentioning sea level rise only parenthetically.

Defendants argue correctly that CEQA does not require analysis of the wind impacts on the project. “[T]he purpose of an FSEIR is to identify the significant effects of a project on the environment, not the significant effects of the environment on the project.”

December 2016: ACTION

San Francisco’s Natural Resources Management Plan — The City of San Francisco, which owns a golf course and natural area in coastal San Mateo County, issues a wide-ranging parks management plan calling for keeping the level of wetlands artificially stable. In comments, the Sierra Club objects that the proposal “will lack any resiliency in the face of increased climate stress and inevitable sea-level rise.”

“The purpose of an EIR is to provide public agencies and the public in general with detailed information about the effect which a proposed project is likely to have on the environment.”(more)

Regardless of how your feel about global warming and sea level rise, pay more attention to who supports the candidates if you don’t like these rulings.

California appeals court rules group can file suit against an air quality management district

by Melissa Busch : norcalrecord – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO — A California appeals court recently ruled that a neighborhood group can sue an air quality management district under the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA) in its efforts to prevent asphalt production at an aggregate operation site.

On March 23, the California First District Court of Appeal reversed a Mendocino County Superior Court decision. The superior court dismissed a CEQA claim filed by Friends of Outlet Creek against the Mendocino County Air Quality Management District and Grist Creek Aggregates LLC.

The appeals court reversed the decision on the grounds that there is established precedent, which allows CEQA claims against air quality management districts, according to court records.

However, the court further stated that this ruling does not allow Friends of Outlet Creek to challenge any of the county’s land use designations or authorizations pertaining to this site, according to court records.

The only relief the group, which aims to protect Outlet Creek and its habitat, can obtain through the lawsuit against the air quality district is the “invalidation of the authority to construct,” the court held… (more)

The Sad State of the University Degree for Planners & Designers

by Rick Harrison : newgeography – excerpt

For the past four decades, technology has improved nearly all aspects of our life – except for the physical land development patterns of our cities. The 1960’s suburban pattern, still in use today, is unsustainable. However, the ‘architectural’ answer to the ‘planning’ problem of sprawling subdivisions has been to simply go backwards to the gridded past.

Without a high degree of architectural and landscaping detail, this model, known as New Urbanism, does not work. As such, there are few (if any) affordable New Urbanist non-subsidized developements. The Congress of New Urbanism (CNU) boasts of their success in gentrification, but instead of reinventing ‘design’ to address the problems, the architect’s answer is to make site plan function as if it as a simplistic rectangular floor plan.

The CNU objective is to create a pedestrian oriented society and do everything possible to do away with car ownership. To combat suburban sprawl, they attack those who invest in suburban homes even though they represent 80 percent of the housing market growth. Even with the nearly three decades New Urbanists have promoted this singular solution, there are relatively few actual CNU projects.

ne of the largest groups of CNU followers are university professors who teach young, impressionable minds that suburbia is terrible and only high density is the answer. These students go deep into debt thinking that they will be part of a vast new era of change, however, when they look for employment in the real world, they are miserably unprepared. The technical skills taught in Urban Planning and GIS (Geographic Information Systems) revolve around software and training supplied by ESRI, and for architectural or civil engineering students, most likely an AutoCAD targeted module like Civil3D or Revitt, the current industry-leading software products… (more)

 

Kentucky Coal Mining Museum in Harlan County switches to solar power

Housed in a former commissary building and tucked into the hollers of Harlan County — the heart of Kentucky mining country — is a museum dedicated to all aspects of extracting coal from the state’s mountains.

Mining equipment decorates its walls, while a two-ton block of coal at the front door greets visitors. Children can climb on the museum’s 1940s model electric locomotive that once carried Kentucky men into the mines. An exhibit dedicated to Loretta Lynn (who wrote and who is the “Coal Miner’s Daughter”) sits on the third floor. Guests can even wander through an actual underground coal mine.

Not much about the Kentucky Coal Mining Museum screams modern. Its website — nay, websites — boasts early 1990s Web design, and its advertisement on YouTube appears to have been shot on a handheld camcorder. It sits next to City Hall on Main Street, the only thoroughfare of Benham, Ky. That’s to be expected from a museum dedicated to an old form of energy, which is what makes its own power methods so interesting.

The museum is switching to solar power in hopes of saving money on energy costs, as reported by WYMT and EKB-TV. The installation of solar panels began this week…(more)

Eye on the State: Environmental care part of smart housing policy

Op-ed By and : sfexminer – excerpt

Over the next few months, legislators will be debating new housing legislation — both state and local — to meet the pressing needs of California’s growing population. It is good that our legislators are facing the state’s affordable housing crisis head-on; having a decent home for everyone is critical. But as we work to meet that need, we must also ensure that the environment is not harmed.

Creating vibrant and complete urban communities requires a strong commitment to protecting and enhancing the quality of urban life. Some of the features shared by healthy urban communities include convenient public open spaces, parks, playgrounds and natural “unimproved” spaces. Creating these communities must also involve a commitment to preserving existing affordable housing, preventing displacement of low- and moderate-income residents, protecting cultural heritage, providing efficient public transit and sheltering existing communities from unreasonable economic and physical disruption.

It’s also critical that urban areas be non-polluting, so as to minimize our impacts upon this planet’s resources and environment.

When there is a lot of pressure for one set of needs — in this case, housing — there is the temptation to ignore other needs. There is a tendency to say that “just for this project” it is acceptable for the developer to ignore the need to carefully consider the impact on the environment.

One such short-sighted idea currently being discussed is to allow projects to be approved by-right and, in the process, to bypass environmental review now mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act…(more)

 

2017 CEQA 1st QUARTER REVIEW

By : aklandlaw – excerpt

By William W. Abbott, Diane Kindermann, Glen Hansen, Brian Russell and Dan Cucchi

Welcome to Abbott & Kindermann’s 2017 1st Quarter CEQA update. This summary provides links to more in depth case write-ups on the firm’s blog. The case names of the newest decisions start with Section 3 and are denoted by bold italic fonts…(more)

Read the cumulative CEQA review and pending cases at the California Supreme Court.

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