My Word: Alameda needs moratorium on new development permits

Community Opinion by Eugenie P. Thomson, P.E. : eastbaytimes – excerpt

Catellus. Alameda Landing. Del Monte. The old Naval Air Station — Alameda Point. What do all these projects have in common? Level of service (LOS) is the only criteria the city of Alameda has ever used to evaluate the traffic impacts for these megaprojects — or any other project the city has pushed through, for that matter.

The LOS-based traffic studies for these development projects have all concluded that the traffic delays they produced would be grossly lower than the delays actually occurring on Alameda streets and morning peak traffic delays dropping at the West End by 2035. Yet now, with the Encinal Terminals project (589 new homes), the city has suddenly done an about-face:

“LOS has historically proven to be an inadequate measure in Alameda because residents experience delays (at) (sic) certain intersections, yet the LOS analysis indicates that the level of service at the intersection is adequate. The delay that is being experienced is the result of downstream congestion, not a result of the intersection design or the volume of cars moving through the intersection (source: Encinal Terminals DSEIR [pdf], page 250 or page 4.G-14).”

With those words, the city admitted that the traffic studies for the Encinal Terminals and all previous megaprojects are worthless. How strange is that? I’ve been raising this point for the past 20 years in a half-dozen or more letters to City Hall…

The people of Alameda are not anti-development. We simply want the facts, including honest projections of how a proposed development and the string of expected developments will affect the time it takes us to exit or enter the Island.

These projections must be realistic and market-based: How much housing will be added as a result of this project? How many jobs, and are those numbers realistic for an island without any earthquake-lifeline-caliber connections to the mainland? We want a good traffic plan, and we want to be assured the dollars exist to build out the traffic plan via public funding and developer fees and that future developments pay their fair share.

A formal and transparent risk analysis must be undertaken to review the city costs to support all the developments, the projections of job and housing growth, the costs associated with environmental and seismic risks, and the ways to finance the public infrastructure needed. This has been standard for major transportation capital programs like high-speed rail or BART extensions and is a requirement of funding; whoever provides the capital needs evidence and assurance that the projects will be successful.

As it stands, by the time we know the facts about a proposed project and who pays for what, the developers are long gone.

We need a moratorium on building permits for these new development projects until we have a clear understanding of all potential costs and traffic impacts. If you agree, speak up on the Encinal Terminals and Alameda Marina projects; these will soon go to council… (more)

 

Increase in cancer-causing compounds found in East Bay drinking water

ktvu – excerpt (includes video)

Photo by zrants

There is a high increase of cancer-causing compounds in East Bay drinking water.

East Bay Mud reported yesterday that the concentration of the contaminants is higher than its been in 20 years.

Lafayette and parts of the Berkeley hills are the most impacted areas, and are close to violating public health standards.

Water managers say the contaminant level is rising throughout the district. They add that the drought is partly to blame…

East Bay Mud says the water is safe to drink right now, but it is worried about people consuming it over a lifetime...(more)

Which genius at East Bay Mud said that? How can you determine a lifetime of consumption?

Officials Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter For Flint Water Crisis

The officials presided over a failure to maintain the safety of the city’s water supply, resulting in widespread lead poisoning among Flint children and 12 deaths connected to an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.

“People in Flint have died as a result of the decisions made by those responsible to protect the health and safety of families,” Schuette said during a press conference Wednesday… (more)

Assembly passes bill to limit land-use ballot initiatives

By Tim Redmond : 48hills – excerpt

Chiu, Ting both vote for measure that raises the threshold for citizen initiatives on development to 55 percent.

A bill that would make it harder for local residents to pass ballot measures limiting development has passed the state Assembly with almost no opposition – and so far, with almost no discussion in San Francisco, where citizen initiatives have been a powerful tool against an industry that often controls City Hall.

AB 943, by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago, was directly aimed at the growth-limiting Measure S in Los Angeles. But it could have sweeping impacts on cities and counties all over the state.

The measure would raise the threshold to 55 percent for any community-based ballot measure that would “reduce density or stop development or construction of any parcels located less than one mile from a transit stop.”

That’s all of San Francisco… (more)

Continue reading

San Francisco Approves Ordinance Expanding Density Bonuses for Affordable Projects

By Emily Bias : judsupra – excerpt

Almost 18 months after it was introduced, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors recently approved Ordinance 150969, which creates development bonuses for private development projects where at least 30% of the units are subject to affordability restrictions. Known as the HOME-SF Program, the legislation allows qualifying projects to exceed otherwise applicable height restrictions by up to 20 feet and allows developers to select three additional zoning modifications from a menu of options, which includes reductions in required rear-yard setbacks and modifications to parking, exposure, and open space requirements. HOME-SF projects must also include on-site family-friendly amenities, such as dedicated bicycle parking and stroller storage, open space, and yard dedicated for use by children… (more)

Judge Keeps Ban on San Francisco’s Tenant-Payout Law

By : courthousenews – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge refused Tuesday to vacate his judgment that the city of San Francisco had enacted an unconstitutionally burdensome ordinance requiring landlords to provide evicted tenants with massive lump-sum payouts.

The city wanted U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to vacate a judgment barring enforcement of the law, since its board of supervisors later amended the ordinance to lower the payout amount.

But Breyer said the judgment needn’t be vacated because the city essentially repealed its own law.

“The court likewise concludes that the city’s voluntary action mooted this case,” Breyer wrote... (more)

 

Sterling Natural Resource Center Receives Favorable Ruling From San Diego Superior Court

marketwired – excerpt

Ruling certifies wastewater treatment project in compliance with California Environmental Quality Act

HIGHLAND, CA–(Marketwired – May 22, 2017) – The Sterling Natural Resource Center (SNRC) today announced a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled in its favor in a lawsuit filed by the City of San Bernardino against coordinating agencies San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District (Valley District) and East Valley Water District. The lawsuit, which challenged the recycled water project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the toughest environmental law in the United States, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), was overthrown by the judge in SNRC’s favor on all accounts. The positive ruling affirms the SNRC is in compliance with CEQA, and allows the project to advance with its plans of creating a state-of-the-art recycled water facility.

“This ruling brings the San Bernardino Valley one step closer to building a project that will reduce the amount of water used only once locally and then sent down the Santa Ana River for Orange County to treat and reuse,” said Valley District Board President Susan Longville. “The Sterling Natural Resource Center will treat up to 10 million gallons of wastewater every day that will be used to recharge our own local groundwater basin year after year.”

Recently, the State Water Resources Control Board authorized a 1211 permit to the SNRC, a crucial permit that will allow the project to move forward with its plans of recharging the Bunker Hill Basin with up to 10 million gallons of recycled water daily. It also received a Section 7 authorization, a positive affirmation of the project’s EIR by federal agencies U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corp of Engineers, among others.

The Sterling Natural Resource Center will bring hundreds of temporary construction jobs, directly and indirectly initiate nearly 1,400 jobs, offer job training and educational opportunities to local students and provide a community gathering space. Many local business owners and community members have spoken out in support of the project and all that it brings to our community.

The City of San Bernardino cited public health, cost and environmental concerns in the lawsuit against the project’s EIR, but the court found no evidence to prove any of its claims against the Sterling Natural Resource Center.

“This is a major win for the residents of Highland and San Bernardino,” said East Valley Water District Board Chairman Ron Coats. “This victory means that the Sterling Natural Resource Center will move forward with development and taxpayer dollars will no longer be spent on legal fees.”… (more)

 

Oregon Organic Farm Threatened With Forced Herbicide Use Reaches Settlement With County

vineyards1

by Darren Smith : jonthanturley – excerpt

Last weekend we featured two articles (HERE and HERE) describing a controversy involving the forced use of chemical herbicides on an organic farm that according to County officials was out of compliance in controlling noxious weeds that were threatening neighboring farms and crops.

The 2,000 acre organic farm in North Central Oregon is facing what could be a be an existential threat to its operations after county weed control authorities sent notice mandating that the farm use chemical herbicides to eradicate weed growth.

I attended the public hearing held at the Sherman County seat located in Moro, Oregon. Due to a very high volume of interest expressed by residents and those outside the community, the venue was changed from the County Courthouse to a gymnasium at the Sherman County High School. There was a great deal of uncertainty manifest in this hearing with strongly held opinions on many sides and one can say with near certainty that the publicity generated caused turmoil in this small community. In fact, the concern was so great, that a number of law enforcement officials were dispatched to the area to provide security to address a worry that things might get out of hand. But in the end the two sides reached an agreement that precludes the forced use of herbicides–and offered both a carrot and stick for both parties to strongly consider…(more)

How much damage can the government do before the public reacts? It appears we had two good outcomes in two states this week that prove when the public protests buildings casting shadows on parks and forced use of poisons on organic farms the government sometimes still listens.

Continue reading

Plan Bay Area 2040 Open House This Week in San Francisco

satprnews – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO, May 15, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) invite the public to an open house in San Francisco (Bay Area Metro Center, Yerba Buena Conference Room, 375 Beale Street) on Wednesday, May 17, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to learn about an update to the region’s long-range transportation and housing roadmap known as Plan Bay Area 2040. This meeting in San Francisco is one in a series to be held in all nine Bay Area counties between May 4 and May 22. For more information about upcoming meeting times, dates and locations in all nine counties, please visit the Plan Bay Area website: www.PlanBayArea.org(more)

Calif. court rules against appeal filed by Sierra Club, others over vineyard permit

by John Sammon : legalnewsline


Sonoma County Vineyard photo by Zrants

SAN FRANCISCO (Legal Newsline) – Two Sonoma County vintners received a judgment in favor of their proposed wine making operation when an appeal by the Sierra Club was turned back by the state’s 1st Appellate District Court of Appeals.

The court found in favor of the defendants Ronald and Ernest Ohlson, operators of the Ohlson Ranch, who applied for a permit to turn grazing land on their property into a grape vineyard. The Agricultural Commissioner of Sonoma County (commissioner) issued the permit after making a determination the issuance was a “ministerial” act, and therefore exempt from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) standards…

However, the court determined the permit was ministerial in nature because unless a public agency could shape the proposed project in some way that would respond to concerns raised in an EIR (Environmental Impact Report), the environmental review would be a “meaningless exercise.” CEQA customarily does not apply to non-discretionary (ministerial) projects. A ministerial approval simply involves a comparison of a project with specific standards or checklists(more)

 

CEQA Changes Proposed

By : landuse – excerpt

Over the past four months, Sacramento lawmakers have introduced a number of bills to tinker with the state’s premier environmental statute, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). While it is too early to know whether any of the proposed changes to CEQA will be enacted, each could impact the building industry.  Below are a few to watch as they wind their way through the legislature:… (more)

We are tracking some California state bills here.