Sacramento County sues to block Delta tunnels – and it’s not alone

: sacbee – excerpt

Sacramento County led a cascade of area governments suing the state in an effort to block the Delta tunnels, saying the $17 billion project would harm local farmers, endangered fish and low-income communities at the south end of the county.

The lawsuits come as the tunnels project, championed by Gov. Jerry Brown as a means of improving south state water supplies, makes headway with environmental regulators. In July, the state announced that the massive project complies with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, and wouldn’t hurt fish, wildlife or human health in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

Elected officials in the Sacramento area long have opposed the project and have formed an alliance, called the Delta Counties Coalition, dedicated to fighting the tunnels. Sacramento County filed its lawsuit Thursday, as did the Placer County Water Agency, the cities of Stockton and Antioch and a consortium of commercial fishermen’s groups. Additional lawsuits were expected to be filed by Monday, the legal deadline for attacking the tunnels project with a CEQA suit… (more)

Office of Planning and Research Releases Updated General Plan Guidelines

pillsbury : jdsupra – excerpt

On August 2, 2017, the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (“OPR”) released its first update to the General Plan Guidelines (the “Guidelines”) since 2003. The Guidelines provide guidance to cities and counties throughout California on the preparation and content of their General Plans, which govern land uses and zoning within their jurisdictions. The updated Guidelines contain new recommended policies, information resources, and  reflect recent legislation regarding General Plans.

Under Government Code section 65300, cities and counties must adopt and periodically update their General Plans. The process can be costly and time consuming, which tends to discourage frequent updates, especially by small municipalities with limited resources… (more)

Housing crisis: Will California force its cities to OK more building?

By Katy Murphy : mercurynews – excerpt

State lawmakers are desperate to address a statewide problem that has been decades in the making.

Amid a housing crisis that is displacing the poor and forcing millennials and countless others to look outside the Bay Area to live, all eyes turned this week to the tiny Peninsula town of Brisbane where a developer wants to build thousands of homes on a 684-acre swath of wasteland.

Powerful tech companies, state lawmakers and pro-growth activists from around the region implored the City Council on Monday to allow housing on land once used as a rail yard and a landfill ​— an idea many residents oppose. But after hearing passionate arguments from both sides, the City Council shelved the decision, prolonging a land-use debate that has dragged on since 2005….

In the nine-county Bay Area, the median price for a single-family home has topped $800,000. And nearly one-third of renters statewide — 1.5 million households — spend more than half their income on rent, according to state estimates

As soon as next week, lawmakers are expected to unveil a package of affordable-housing bills that will include new tools to prod cities and counties to add their share of housing — at least, in theory.

“I think that many of my colleagues understand that individual decisions by city councils and boards of supervisors are having an extremely negative and detrimental impact on our region,” said Assemblyman David Chiu, a former San Francisco supervisor who chairs the Assembly’s housing committee. “When you have so many decisions going the wrong way on proposed housing that meets all local laws and planning and zoning requirements we have to do something different.”

But none of the pending housing bills — as written — would immediately force the city of Brisbane’s hand. And some cities have flouted existing laws with similar goals….

A more controversial proposal, Senate Bill 35, by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, would speed up the approval process for housing developments — limiting local reviews — in cities and counties that have failed to meet state goals for home-building.

Gov. Jerry Brown has made it clear that he will only sign a deal with money for affordable housing if it includes provisions to fast-track development — which, he argues, will make housing construction cheaper and quicker… (more)

A number of lawsuits are being waged by both sides of the density debate and a few of them are mentioned in this article for those who want to delve deeper. Interesting to note is the mention of the nine-county area that many recognize as the counties in the Plan Bay Area.

The argument is largely over local versus state jurisdiction. Our Governor and Lt. Governor are suing SF for the right to develop the city waterfront. What does this tell you about the pressure coming out of Sacramento? Perhaps we need to involve the citizens in a state-wide ballot over the loss of their rights.

Brown’s blunder down under

Editorials : Guest Opinion: By Andy Caldwell : capoliticalreview – excerpt
Please note the story originated on a site that is now a private site, so the linked version is coming from a secondary site. As net neutrality loses out we will see a lot more of these secondary stories. This one may be purchased for $2.50.

The biggest news story last week appeared in the classifieds. The legal notice declared a summons for all interested persons to appear in court in Sacramento as a defendant in a lawsuit. The lawsuit names the California Department of Water Resources vs. All Persons Interested in the matter of the Authorization of California Water Fix Revenue Bonds. That would be you.

Translation? Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to finance his Twin Tunnels project by way of a lawsuit. Each tunnel would be 150 feet below ground, 40 feet in diameter and 30 miles in length. The tunnel project would be as big a project as the English Channel tunnel and as big a boondoggle as Boston’s Big Dig…

Whereas most everyone agrees the Delta needs fixing, there is little agreement that the Twin Tunnels are the right fix. Hence, Mr. Brown is trying to move forward with this project by way of a lawsuit, which seeks to validate his authority to proceed without either voter, legislative or rate-payer approval…

I am very much afraid that Gov. Brown will actually make water less available due to the expense of this project, as it will make the state water unaffordable, leading to the cancellation of state water contracts. This will not just affect the parties that rely on state water directly. For instance, in Santa Maria, if state water becomes unaffordable, that means the city may end up using more groundwater than they do now. That will affect the water supply available to farmers.

Andy Caldwell is the executive director of COLAB and host of The Andy Caldwell Radio Show, weekdays from 3-5 p.m., on News-Press Radio AM 1290... (more)

This article is brought to you with the comments below based on our best knowledge of the situation. If anyone has better detailed information we will include that in a latter post.

All we know is that islands are being bought in the Delta by private corporations who may represent entities who want to claim riparian rights to the water in the Delta while farmers and others with water wells are being told their water rights may no longer hold for the water they are pumping on their land. If anyone has any other information on this subject, please let us know.

Meanwhile the city of San Francisco is starting to pump water to blend into the drinking water that they have been taking from Hetch Hetchy and residents are concerned about the quality and safety of this blended product.

People are switching to bottled water after recent attempts to make a big deal out of the great quality of the city’s Hetch Hetchy water supply, financial and legal constraints were enacted to convince people to drink tap water instead of bottled water. Now those constraints need to be removed since the water is no longer exclusively Hetch Hetchy, and some people with compromised health conditions will need to be careful with the blend.

This is especially important now that herbicides and other poisons are getting into our water system from such projects as the Beach Chalet. The voters approved the use of carcinogenic by-products that will leach into the soil near one of the aquifers on the west side.

 

Man Sues LA Over Parking Ticket, Gets 650,000 Payout

codecprime – excerpt

A man’s legal fight over a parking ticket he received three years ago ended successfully when the Los Angeles City Council approved a $650,000 payout to him on Wednesday, Aug. 2.

Cody Weiss sued the city back in 2014 after he got a parking ticket. He argued that the city unlawfully permits private for profit companies to process challenges to tickets, NBC4 reports.

Last year a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled in his favor and that decision was also upheld by the Second District Court of Appeal…

“The city and Xerox have been in violation of the law since 1995 when the law changed,” Marker added.

Mike Feur, an attorney for the city petitioned the California Supreme Court to review the decision over the parking ticket, but the state’s high court denied that petition in November, according to Fox News.

The high court upheld the lower court’s decision, which ordered LA to change its practice in allowing Xerox to handle all parking ticket challenges… (more)

California Supreme Court Ruling Bolsters Bullet Train Foes

By sanfrancisco.cbslocal – excerpt

U.S. law does not allow state-owned rail projects to completely bypass California’s strict environmental regulations, the state Supreme Court said Thursday in a decision that ensures further legal complications for the planned $64 billion bullet train between Los Angeles and San Francisco…

The high court overturned a lower court ruling and gave renewed hope to those who have used the California Environmental Quality Act to challenge the high-speed rail project championed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“It basically says that California has a right to control its own railroads and decide whether they should be required to consider carefully the environmental impacts of their projects,” said Stuart Flashman, who represents several San Francisco Bay Area cities in a lawsuit that claims the bullet train project violates the state’s environmental law.

Richard Frank, an environmental law expert at the University of California, Davis School of Law, said the ruling, however, was not a “sweeping or unqualified victory” for litigants who have challenged the high-speed rail project. That’s because the court also said in some cases, federal law will trump the state’s environmental act… (more)

Valley attorney wins lawsuit challenging adequacy of County’s Climate Action Plan

by Sonoma Valley Sun : sonomasun – excerpt

Superior Court Judge Nancy Case Shaffer in Santa Rosa has ruled in favor of local Sonoma Valley attorney Jerry Bernhaut’s lawsuit challenging Sonoma County’s Climate Action 2020 Plan. A lawyer with River Watch, a Sonoma County firm active in filing environmental challenges, Bernhaut’s suit argued that the county’s plan violated various provisions of CEQA, the California Environmental Quality Act…

Commenting on the ruling, Bernhaut said, “The court’s ruling validates River Watch’s contentions that:

1. By failing to account for GHG emissions from global tourist travel and global distribution of wine and other Sonoma County products, the CAP grossly understated the true GHG emissions generated by activities in Sonoma County…

Bernhaut added, “It’s time to admit that perpetual growth on a planet with limited resources and carrying capacity is not sustainable.”

The County’s Climate Action Plan 2020 was adopted by Sonoma County last year, but River Watch’s legal action has placed the program on hold. The plan was that all nine Sonoma County cities would join the county and sign-on to the plan, conforming to its goals and methodology. That process was halted while the lawsuit proceeded, and now that the court has made its ruling, it’s unclear as to the next steps. The county can appeal the court decision, or it can decide to revamp and reissue the plan in accordance with the corrections and changes the court decision highlights.

Of particular note is the court’s reference to the need to use VMT calculations (Vehicle Miles Traveled) to better asses and calculate the full impacts of GHG (Greenhouse Gas emissions). During the recent, successful appeal of the certification of the EIR for the proposed hotel on West Napa Street, appellants objected to the fact that VMT methodology was not used to calculate the project’s GHG impacts, but city staff and the EIR consultant argued that calculations using VMT need not be used. It’s unclear what, if any, this court decision will have on that EIR, which is currently undergoing review and amendment…(more)

DWR Certifies EIR for WaterFix, Triggering 30-Day Deadline for Opponents to File Suit

by Downey Brand LLP : dsupra – excerpt

On July 21, 2017, the California Department of Water Resources (“DWR”) certified the final environmental document and issued its Notice of Determination for the California WaterFix, a significant new water infrastructure component proposed by DWR and United States Bureau of Reclamation. DWR’s action triggered a 30-day statute of limitations to raise CEQA challenges to the project, which has been the subject of steadily accelerating public discussion and debate over the last two years…

WaterFix, sometimes referred to as the Delta Tunnels, would divert water from the northern Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta just south of Sacramento, under water right permits held by DWR and Reclamation. According to its advocates, WaterFix is intended to improve and update the existing Delta conveyance systems, while preserving the vulnerable species populations that rely on Delta waters…

The approval is one of several required before the WaterFix project can move forward…

Our CEQA attorneys are carefully tracking these legal developments, and will offer thoughts and analysis in future alerts as this situation (and the complicated legal issues surrounding it) evolves… (more)

California WaterFix Reaches Key Milestone As State Environmental Review Is Certified

by ect  : eastcountytoday – excerpt

SACRAMENTO – Clearing another major milestone toward the modernization of the state’s water delivery system, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Friday certified the environmental analysis of the California WaterFix. Friday’s announcement follows recent federal biological opinions that confirm the project is consistent with environmental and wildlife protection standards.

“Today, we have reached our next important benchmark in moving California towards a more reliable water supply,” said DWR Acting Director Cindy Messer. “With this certification, our state is now closer to modernizing our aging water delivery system in a way that improves reliability and protects the environment.”

The WaterFix will modernize a 50-year-old water delivery system that is increasingly vulnerable to disruption by natural disaster and climate change. With new intakes along the Sacramento River, the project also would give water project operators the flexibility to divert water at times of high flow when the risk to native fish at the new diversion facilities is minimal, thus better balancing water supply and environmental protection needs…

For more information, including fact sheets about project costs, cost allocation, project delivery, and environmental benefits, visit www.californiawaterfix.com….(more)

Rare Outer Sunset housing development may use new local density bonus

By Michael Barba : sfexaminer – excerpt

The architect behind a rare four-story housing development in the Outer Sunset said he is considering using the new density bonus program in San Francisco to build more units and a taller structure than currently planned.

Architect Kodor Baalbaki designed the plans for a mixed-use building with 18 residential units at Lawton Street and 42nd Avenue, the current site of a 76 gas station. Proposed in June, the plans include two below-market-rate units under Proposition C’s inclusionary housing requirements.

The project is likely raising eyebrows in the Sunset for proposing a building taller than the two-story houses that fill the neighborhood. The Outer Sunset has one of the highest numbers of single-family homes in San Francisco and has largely been untouched by new development as cranes tower elsewhere.

The project would be one of the first known developments to add more units and height through the new Home-SF density bonus program from Supervisor Katy Tang, who represents the Sunset District.

Home-SF, which went into effect last Thursday, allows certain developers to build two stories above height-limits and add more density in exchange for 30 percent on-site affordable housing.

While Baalbaki said using the density bonus is under consideration, there are still issues that need to be pencilled out, such as pricing, height and the number of affordable units on-site.

“I actually had a phone call from the office of Supervisor Katy Tang and we talked about it and I asked them for more information,” Baalbaki said. “I believe more information could clarify this issue and we are willing to technically find out if there is a way of making this happen.”… (more)