Local News RoundUp
The Local News RoundUp is the League's daily news clipping service of articles related to California cities and local government.
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July 30, 2015
Dear RoundUp Readers,
The RoundUp is back from its hiatus -- but with a twist. We’re experimenting with publishing on Tuesdays and Thursdays, only, at midday. Please let us know what you think about of the newsletter and that schedule by emailing email@example.com.
WATER / DROUGHT
(Press release) California water use drops 27.3 percent, exceeds 25 percent mandate for June (pdf.) (State Water Resources Control Board):
With record-breaking heat throughout much of the State in June, Californians continued to conserve water, reducing water use by 27.3 percent and exceeding Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s 25 percent mandate in the first month that the new emergency conservation regulation was in effect.
California's big cities say June water-saving goals were met (AP):
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the state's largest agency serving 4 million people, said it met its 16 percent savings target. Utilities serving San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco said savings far exceeded their goals from the state.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduces $1.3-billion California drought-relief bill (Los Angeles Times):
Feinstein's proposal would funnel $1.3 billion over the next decade to storage, desalination and other projects. Her plan is in marked contrast to one approved by the GOP-controlled House, which would pump more water to San Joaquin Valley growers by rolling back environmental protections. It is unclear whether areas of apparent common ground — including money for storage projects and efforts to control invasive predator species in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta — will bring the warring sides together.
California's drought spurs unexpected effect: eco-friendly development (NPR):
Planning is under way, for instance, for one of the first eco-friendly communities in California's predominantly agricultural Central Valley. The site is in the town of Reedley, 30 miles southeast of Fresno.
California drought could wipe cities off map if their water runs out (CBS Sacramento):
Wells are going dry, jobs are harder to come by and families are already moving, either to different states or even Mexico in search of work.
Official: Well failures probably understated (The Hanford Sentinel):
As the problem of dried-up residential water wells worsens amid punishing drought, county supervisors moved closer to adopting a program to help rural homeowners in desperate straits. Supervisors instructed Kings County Emergency Services Coordinator Michelle Speer to move forward with a plan for isolated residents who have run out of water.
County offering water for north county residents (Visalia Times-Delta):
A lot of attention on the Valley’s water crisis has focused on wells that have gone dry in East Porterville, but as the drought draws on, wells in other parts of the county are going dry, too.
Stanislaus County leaders approve more drought relief for homes with failed wells (The Modesto Bee):
Homeowners with failed wells in Stanislaus County are waiting for nine months or longer for overbooked drillers to sink new wells. In the meantime, there’s no water in the pipes for showers, cleaning the dishes or washing clothes. Tuesday, supervisors decided to team with Self-Help Enterprises to deliver temporary storage tanks to eligible homes.
Opinion: El Niño vs. the Blob: Here's why California's drought probably won't end anytime soon (Mother Jones):
The signs are looking good for California to have a wetter-than-normal winter, as El Niño shifts atmospheric jet streams from the tropics northward, pushing stormy weather from Mexico and Central America onto the US West Coast. But there are a few major caveats.
Raising Shasta Dam too expensive for federal government (Chico Enterprise-Record):
The federal government will not pay the nearly $1.3 billion to raise the height of Shasta Dam up to 18 1/2 feet, according to a report released on the feasibility of the project. The report stops short of recommending approval because of cost and financing issues.
Video: California drought renews focus on capturing, recycling stormwater (CBS Sacramento)
Opinion: Drought-prone cities get real with gray water (Next City):
Gray water is “gently used water from your bathroom sinks, showers, tubs and washing machines,” according to a leading advocacy source, which can be reused for irrigation. It’s a literal bucketful of untapped potential, given that an average shower uses about 17 gallons and washing machines use between 14 and 40 per load.
Fullerton looks for answers to plug Laguna Lake that's leaking 80,000 gallons daily (The Orange County Register):
A consultant hired by the city to determine the sources of water loss at Laguna Lake says the lake’s bottom is too porous. The only guaranteed fix would involve draining the lake and reconstructing the bottom, the consultant said.
Sacramento plans to boost groundwater production, drill new wells (KFBK)
Salmon surveys find low fish counts on Salmon, Trinity rivers (Eureka Times-Standard):
A survey sponsored by the Salmon River Restoration Council and U.S. Forest Service that covered the entirety of the Salmon River found only 256 adult Chinook salmon on July 24 — the fourth lowest count in 20 years and a large deviation from the some of the highest counts from recent years.
Salmon numbers 'alarming' in Yuba River (Marysville Appeal Democrat):
This June, 17 salmon were counted at Daguerre Point Dam. Last year, 408 salmon were counted. This July, 11 salmon were counted, while lasted year 204 salmon were observed at the dam.
High water savings are killing valley trees (The Livermore Independent):
With a Valleywide water conservation effort of 46 percent in June, compared to the same month in 2013, the Valley may lead or be near leading the state in water conservation efforts. The price of that water conservation appears to be not only brown lawns, but also the death of trees that have depended on the irrigation of those lawns.
Kern County to consider cracking down on oil field waste water pits (Los Angeles Times):
The Central Valley Water Board will consider a cease-and-desist order Thursday against a Kern County company that operates dozens of unlined pits holding oil field waste water. The board says it has evidence that a plume of oil waste from one or more of the 27 pits has contaminated groundwater.
Sacramento County supervisors retain water-waste fines on pot growth (The Sacramento Bee):
Sacramento County supervisors broadened a recent ordinance declaring outdoor marijuana cultivation a waste of water, maintaining higher fines despite objections from medical marijuana advocates.
Opinion: You Don't Drink Treated Sewage? Gross! (Bloomberg View):
This clear liquid doesn't go straight to Orange County's taps. About a third of the 100 million gallons produced every day by the $623 million treatment facility, which was built in 2008 and expanded this year, gets pumped into the ground not far away, about five miles from the coast, to keep Pacific Ocean salt water from seeping into the aquifers under the county.
Opinion: Drought solutions are porous pavement, fewer pesticides and herbicides (San Jose Mercury News):
Soil alive with microorganisms, also referred to as soil with organic material, retains up to 10,000 times more water than soil without. When we treat our landscapes with chemicals to kill weeds, we've done little to discourage evaporation and runoff.
Opinion: Sacrificing the Delta to hose down LA sidewalks (Manteca Bulletin)
Opinion: It’s a forever thing in Big Bear (Big Bear Grizzly):
We love seeing stories on the TV news or in newspapers in larger California cities about the latest conservation measures. They seem to think xeriscape is brand new, and something their community discovered. They weren’t paying attention when Big Bear Valley’s residents, water purveyors and even nonprofit organizations began creating beautiful xeriscape gardens. Heck, Big Bear even has a xeriscape garden tour.
Opinion: Aging pipes are poisoning America's tap water (Citylab):
In 2013, America received a “D” in the drinking-water category of the American Society for Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure. The report found that most of the nation’s drinking-water infrastructure is “nearing the end of its useful life.” Replacing the nation’s pipes would cost more than $1 trillion. The country’s wastewater infrastructure also got a “D” grade.
Greens want SoCal clean water law enforced (Courthouse News Service):
California illegally exempts 84 cities in Los Angeles County from stormwater discharge rules and lets them just work on the plans, no matter how long it takes, environmentalists claim in court. The Natural Resources Defense Council and Los Angeles Waterkeeper sued the State Water Resources Control Board and the California Regional Water Quality Control Board, Los Angeles Region in Superior Court on July 24.
Old North Davis joins parking lawsuit against city (The Davis Enterprise):
A lawsuit against the city about allowing a single disabled parking space got a whole lot more interesting. Local attorney Michael Harrington is fighting the city over a decision he says in court documents could set a precedent for commercialization of his residential neighborhood, and the Old North Davis Neighborhood Association has just joined his cause with an amicus brief.
TRANSPORTATION & INFRASTRUCTURE
Congress approves stopgap bill to keep highway projects going (Los Angeles Times):
With just a day to spare, Congress approved a stopgap measure to fund the federal highway program, sending President Obama the legislation to avert a Friday shutdown of transportation projects nationwide. The $8-billion bill will keep federal projects on track for the next three months, but the temporary nature of the fix creates a new crisis point in fall, as Congress has been unable to agree on a long-term solution.
Q&A: California is falling apart; here's why (Los Angeles Times):
On July 19 the collapse of a "functionally obsolete" bridge shut down nearly 50 miles of Interstate 10. What was the problem? Too much rain, too little infrastructure. Infrastructure? Don't stop reading: Your life, literally, depends on infrastructure. Steven P. Erie, a political science professor at UC San Diego, says that if California infrastructure were a student in his class, he'd give it an "F."
California DMV cracks down on misuse of disability parking placards (Los Angeles Times):
The department launched "Operation Blue Zone," which has DMV investigators searching applications for telltale irregularities — including requests that all have the same medical diagnosis, the same handwriting and the same doctor's signature.
$2.2M approved for Bay Area hydrogen refueling stations (Foster City Patch):
The 12 stations to be completed will be located in Berkeley, Campbell, Foster City, Hayward, Los Altos, Mill Valley, Mountain View, Oakland, Redwood City, North First and North Fourth streets in San Jose, San Ramon, Saratoga, South San Francisco and Woodside.
Santa Monica bike sharing, car sharing programs set for approval (Santa Monica Lookout):
Breeze, the City’s bike sharing program, gets a test run in late August to be followed by the launch of the full system in November. The program calls for 500 bicycles at between 65 and 75 stations.
Los Angeles leaders ban high-capacity gun magazines after string of US mass shootings (AP):
California is one of a handful of states that give local government considerable latitude to enact gun regulation. The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to close a loophole in state law that bans the manufacture and sale of large-capacity magazines, but not their possession.
Many SDPD reforms done, chief tells council (The San Diego Union-Tribune):
federal audit sparked by misconduct within the San Diego Police Department has led to significant changes in how supervisors are trained, the department's leaders said Wednesday, but progress has been slow in improving an early warning system meant to zero in on troubling behavior.
Millbrae red light cameras generate record number of citations (KGO):
In one month alone, red light cameras in Millbrae generated over 1,500 citations. The majority of citations were issued for right turns, instead of running red lights.
OPEN GOVERNMENT & TRANSPARENCY
California officials arranged $28 million in payments to favored nonprofits (The Sacramento Bee):
California lawmakers and other state officials arranged for donors, many with business at the Capitol, to contribute $28 million to nonprofit organizations, local museums and other favored causes during the first half of the year, according to the most recent filings with the Fair Political Practices Commission.
Fined councilman-elect points to other politicians that broke San Jose election law (San Jose Mercury News):
City officials are scrambling for answers after learning that nearly half the City Council violated an election law by failing to report thousands of dollars in late campaign contributions -- and it might have been the city's fault.
California beaches remain open as source of oil slick sought (AP):
The Coast Guard hopes lab tests will determine the source of a mysterious miles-long oil slick floating about 1,000 yards off California's Santa Barbara County shoreline.
Opinion: A way for freeway-close Southern California cities to get paid for the privilege (San Gabriel Valley Tribune):
Southern California communities need those funds to improve air quality and environmental health in the region. The cities along the 605, 5, 710, 60, 91 and 405 freeways should be key recipients of AB 32 funds, and Pico Rivera, along with its neighboring cities, can use them to implement innovative solutions to fight air pollution at a local level.
PENSIONS / LABOR
California public pension proposal would create ‘uncertainties,’ analyst says (The Sacramento Bee)
Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor said this week he doesn’t know what would happen if a new public pension ballot proposal becomes law. “There is significant uncertainty as to the magnitude, timing, and direction of the fiscal effects of this measure and its effects on current and future governmental employees’ compensation,” Taylor wrote in a Tuesday letter to Attorney General Kamala Harris.
California pension funds saw $100 billion gain in 2013-14 (The Sacramento Bee):
California’s state and local government pension systems saw their assets climb by more than $100 billion during the 2013-14 fiscal year, outpacing the national trend by several percentage points, according to a new Census Bureau report.
Editorial: Consider privatizing services (The Riverside Press-Enterprise):
With local government budgets set, it is time for all city and county governments to evaluate what services they provide in-house and, at the very least, consider alternative means of providing services. In a problem seen throughout the state, local governments in the Inland Empire are all too often faced with the specter of rising expenditures and lagging revenues. And as public safety costs and pension contributions escalate, options are running out.
California workers’ comp costs still on rise (The Sacramento Bee):
Reforms have saved billions of dollars, the WCIRB report says, but total medical costs have continued to increase, with the average medical benefit per claim 90 percent above the national median.
San Bernardino, police negotiators agree on contract (San Bernardino Sun):
After more than two years of police leaving San Bernardino, saying the lack of a contract robbed them of a sense of stability in a city where many residents say crime is their top concern, the police union and city negotiators both say they’ve agreed on a new contract.
Labor board rulings lead to deal with firefighters (Menlo Park Almanac):
Firefighters will be receiving a total of $1.5 million from the Menlo Park Fire Protection District as a consequence of the district's having engaged in unlawful piecemeal bargaining and acting unilaterally, according to a set of rulings by the state Public Employment Relations Board.
CITY IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Opinion: If you care about California, care about Salinas (Zócalo Public Square)
Do you worry about the future of California? Then you should worry about Salinas. Because if the Monterey County city of 155,000 can’t build itself a brighter future, then it’s hard to imagine other struggling places doing the same.
Opinion: Latino incomes are rising, so why are their homeownership rates dropping? (Citylab):
The homeownership rate for Hispanic Americans was 45.4 percent in 2014—the lowest it’s been since 2000, and the first time it’s dropped below 46 percent in the same time period. This rate has steadily decreased every year since 2007.
Why S.F. evictions are on the rise (San Francisco Chronicle):
The number of rent-controlled San Francisco tenants receiving eviction notices is rising sharply, the latest evidence that the city’s economy continues to drive the displacement of long-term residents.
Alameda: Council bolsters committee that reviews rent disputes (Bay Area News Group):
The City Council has strengthened the city committee that reviews disputes between landlords and tenants, a move that comes amid reports that rising rents are forcing people from their homes throughout the Bay Area.
S.F. supes OK new in-law units in 2 districts (San Francisco Chronicle):
The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed legislation Tuesday allowing for the creation of rent-controlled in-law units in Districts Eight and Three. It also placed on the November ballot a measure making it city policy to prioritize the use of city-owned surplus property for affordable housing and services for the homeless, with the exception of parks.
Opinion: Mapping America's renters (Citylab):
A map by the journalist and web developer Ken Shwencke shows just how much the rental market now dominates U.S. cities, even those traditionally defined by high rates of homeownership.
CITY PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
Opinion: Alameda County wants out as A’s, Raiders’ Coliseum landlord (San Francisco Chronicle):
Alameda County leaders want out of the pro sports business and have told Oakland officials that they are ready to sell their stake in the Coliseum complex, which houses the Raiders, A’s and Warriors.
Can Oakland’s Kaiser convention center deliver money for the masses? (San Francisco Business Times)
Emeryville-based Orton Development Inc., which the Oakland City Council picked to renovate the landmark last week, will include real estate crowdfunding platform Fundrise as part of its project team. The city-owned convention center appears to be one of the first large commercial real estate project in the Bay Area that would use crowdfunded investments. Oakland’s request for proposals last fall asked developers to explore community financing as part of their pitches.
Stanislaus County leaders support forming benefit district for downtown Modesto (The Modesto Bee):
The proposed benefit district would aim to promote, beautify and improve security downtown to make it more inviting for patrons and visitors. Improvements and services such as sidewalk cleaning or private security would be funded by assessments collected from property owners, including businesses, public agencies and nonprofit groups.
Indian graves said at site of lagoon project (The San Diego Union-Tribune):
Extensive and significant Native American cultural resources, including possible grave sites, exist on a 203-acre site in Carlsbad where a Los Angeles-based developer plans to create a shopping, entertainment and open-space destination, local tribe members say.
ENERGY & SUSTAINABILITY
BMW's plan to prevent electric cars from overwhelming the grid (Citylab):
The program kicks off this week with a group of 100 Bay Area i3 drivers who have given BMW the ability to rearrange their charging schedules in response to high demand. Using an app, drivers say when they need their car each day and BMW works with Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the local utility, to adjust charging schedules remotely, when necessary, based on real-time energy usage data. The goal is to smooth out demand peaks so the utility doesn’t need to ramp up extra production and consumers don’t have to pay peak rates.
L.A. City Council reinstates ban on unpermitted park and beach vending (Los Angeles Times):
The Los Angeles City Council voted to reinstate a ban on unpermitted vending at city parks and beaches, which could impose escalating fines and eventually misdemeanor charges against people who sell their wares or services there without getting city permission.
REVENUE & TAXATION / MUNICIPAL FINANCE
Long Beach releases budget with no cuts, but deficits loom (Long Beach Press-Telegram):
Officials anticipate what’s now expected to be a $630,000 surplus for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, however the city will soon wrestle with a $7.5 million deficit projected for fiscal year 2017 due largely to rising pension costs and decreasing oil revenue. Deficits are expected to continue vexing City Hall until fiscal 2020.
Beaumont: Report offers first hard look into city's finances (The Riverside Press-Enterprise):
Consultants are managing other consultants; accounting methods and cost justifications are unlike most other municipalities; and officials have not adjusted their budgeting to the rate of growth and change the city has experienced over time. These were among the key takeaways from a report that gave Beaumont officials the first hard look – albeit incomplete – at which revenues can be expected for the fiscal year that began July 1.
Antioch gets big reimbursement windfall from state (Bay Area News Group):
The city last month received a surprise $793,767 reimbursement from Sacramento for costs that it incurred over a decade ago in complying with mandates that the state imposed but didn't provide the money to carry out.
WASTE & RECYCLING
Another California county wants pharma to pay for drug take-backs (Wall Street Journal):
The Marin County Board of Supervisors edged closer to approving an ordinance that would expand an existing program and require drug makers to underwrite the cost. If the board finalizes the ordinance next month, Marin would become the fifth California county to take such a step.
Major Millbrae sewer rate hikes approved (The San Mateo Daily Journal):
Sewer bills in Millbrae will rise precipitously to pay for infrastructure fixes required under a lawsuit settlement, despite the wishes of residents who called on officials to delay the decision and develop more creative financing solutions.
IN OTHER CITY NEWS
Southland politicians voice support for potential L.A. Olympic bid (Los Angeles Times):
In the wake of Boston's dropping its bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, politicians from across Southern California have spoken up in favor of Los Angeles' being named as a replacement candidate. On Wednesday, Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) and 20 other members of Congress from the region sent a bipartisan letter to Larry Probst, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee.