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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Sept. 1, 2015
Can California's economy keep its momentum? (Los Angeles Times)
After falling harder than most regions, the California economy has been one of the brightest spots in the U.S. economy — currently the most stable in the world — and experts say the underlying fundamentals point to continued growth.
REVENUE & TAXATION / MUNICIPAL FINANCE
Democratic hopes for California tax increases hinge on GOP votes (The Sacramento Bee)
Proposals include increasing the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and raising vehicle registration fees by some $35 a year, imposing a new levy on managed health care plans and adding a $2 tax to each pack of cigarettes. Democrats have also discussed extending temporary sales and income taxes set to expire in 2016 and 2018. A handful of Republicans would have to join majority Democrats to raise taxes in the special session.
Modesto council weighs creating downtown benefit district (The Modesto Bee)
The City Council is expected to decide Tuesday whether to form the Downtown Modesto Community Benefit District, which would levy assessments on property owners that district advocates say would pay for improvements to make downtown cleaner, safer and more attractive, and which would bring in more visitors and investment.
Walnut Creek tax measure on horizon (Bay Area News Group)
The city is heading toward a $3 million- to $3.5 million-a-year budget deficit within the next few years, and the City Council will consider the first steps on the path to asking voters to tax themselves to close the gap.
Santa Maria sees spike in hotel tax revenues (Santa Maria Times)
Santa Maria's hotel industry saw its greatest transient occupancy tax revenues in nearly a decade in the most recent fiscal year -- a 13-percent increase from last year, according to the Santa Maria Chamber of Commerce and Visitor & Convention Bureau.
State Senate OKs bills seeking equal pay, restricting drones, barring bullhooks (Los Angeles Times)
Alarmed by the growing number of hobbyists sending drones into the California sky, state lawmakers are working on a series of proposals that would bar the devices from being flown over wildfires, prisons, schools and homes.
CAP & TRADE
Democrats have lots of ideas on spending cap and trade cash (KQED)
At issue is more than $2 billion in revenue already raised from cap and trade auctions, money paid by California companies for credits to offset their greenhouse gas emissions.
WATER / DROUGHT
When the wells run dry: California families cope in drought (AP)
Farming in Tulare County brought in $8.1 billion in 2014, more than any other county in the nation, according to its agricultural commissioner. Yet 1,252 of its household wells today are dry, more than all other California counties combined.
(Video) A town without water (Time)
Unintended consequences of conserving water: leaky pipes, less revenue, bad odors (Los Angeles Times)
Under orders to slash water use amid a historic drought, cities and towns across the state saved about 75 billion gallons in July, eclipsing Gov. Jerry Brown's once-daunting order for a 25% reduction. But, in a paradox of conservation, water agencies say the unprecedented savings — 31% in July over July 2013 — are causing or compounding a slew of problems.
(Interactive) Look up drought report cards for California’s urban water districts (Los Angeles Times)
Farmworkers see jobs, earnings shrivel in California drought (NPR)
More than 21,000 people are out of work this year from California's drought, according to a study from the University of California, Davis. The majority are in agriculture. Those farmworkers lucky enough to have a job are often working harder for less money.
Feds reduce flows out of Folsom Lake to conserve Sacramento region’s water supply (The Sacramento Bee)
The U.S Bureau of Reclamation will cut flows out of Folsom Lake in half by the end of the week as water levels at the reservoir near historic lows.
California takes new approach on water regulation for pot farms (The Sacramento Bee)
Lt. DeWayne Little is a supervisor in a unique state effort that identifies growers willing to work with authorities to monitor water use and environmental impacts from marijuana cultivation. The compliance program signals a shift in regulatory oversight of an industry that has existed in a murky legal area since California became the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996.
Sonoma County residents' battle with wineries is about more than water (Los Angeles Times)
When state water regulators this summer announced emergency drought restrictions to protect salmon in some of those same watersheds, residents were shocked to find that agricultural properties faced no water cutbacks.
Sonoma wine grape growers voluntarily cut water use by 25 percent (Capital Press)
Wine grape growers operating 68 properties representing about 2,000 acres in the northern San Francisco Bay area will use water conservation and best management practices in their vineyards to achieve the reduction, the Sonoma County Winegrowers announced.
North Orange County water money flows to city officials (The Orange County Register)
Two officials in north Orange County received hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past five years for service related to the private water company that serves their cities.
'Brown is the new green' as grassy medians go by the wayside amid drought (The Orange County Register)
In one of the most visible signs of water cutbacks, street medians that once varied from city to city are now increasingly united behind a single, common aesthetic: no grass. Municipalities have turned off the sprinklers on medians, and are ripping out thirsty turf in favor of native plants, mulch and faux alternatives.
Galt water usage down 38 percent (Lodi News)
“We are very proud of the efforts put forth by Galt residents, businesses, school districts and the Galt Parks and Recreation Department,” Galt Public Works Director Steven Winkler said.
Roseville eases up on watering restrictions (The Sacramento Bee)
Roseville residents got a reprieve from tighter restrictions on outdoor water use, as city officials postponed imposition of once-a-week irrigation.
What would it take to end California’s drought? (The Conversation)
The prospect of a rainy year raises the question: what would it take for the drought to be over? The answer to that question turns out to be more complex than it might seem.
Watch thousands of tiny red crabs invade Channel Islands (Los Angeles Times)
Researchers may have found another telltale sign that the strengthening El Niño will be Godzilla-like.
Drought and heat waves are much more likely to mix, researchers say (Los Angeles Times)
A drought can make a hot day hotter, while a heat wave can make dry conditions even drier. Now scientists are making the case that heat waves and droughts have become more likely to overlap throughout most of the United States.
Is the drought killing California's giant sequoias? (Los Angeles Times)
Despite signs of stress — leaves turning brown after four hot and dry years — most of the sequoias seem to be holding up.
Drought making some California fruit smaller, tastier (Capital Public Radio)
When a crop's hydration is restricted it leads to lower water content and higher sugar content -- hence more flavor.
Company aims to ship fresh water from Alaska to drought-plagued California (USA Today)
An Alaska company is planning to be the first to ship massive amounts of fresh water to drought-plagued California, potentially as much as 10 million gallons a month.
Local theater group puts on drought-focused performance amid water restrictions (The Berkeley Daily Californian)
About 250 children, parents and residents observed a performance at Live Oak Park focused on the ongoing drought as a part of the city of Berkeley’s efforts to increase water conservation awareness.
Editorial: Thumbs up: Cities show they can save a lot more water (The Palm Beach Desert Sun)
Californians are proving that they can respond forcefully when called upon.
Editorial: California’s doing great on water conservation — but only above ground (San Francisco Chronicle)
A massive, unaddressed problem is the fact that California’s groundwater is being used far faster than it can — or will — be replaced.
Editorial: O.C. doing right thing with drought; state not so much (The Orange County Register)
While the drought is worthy of concern, residents are, and have been, doing their part. The state, on the other hand, has not; government negligence regarding the State Water Project, once the envy of the world, is as much to blame for our water woes as is the drought.
Opinion: California’s Katrina is coming (Wired)
Most of the state’s water is drawn from the Delta, protected by levees that pretty much amount to mounds of dirt, even when compared to infrastructure that infamously failed New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. Hurricanes don’t hit NorCal, but these levees are alarmingly susceptible to disaster. If enough were to breach—in an earthquake perhaps, or severe El Niño storm—sea water from San Francisco Bay could rush in, tainting the water supply serving two-thirds of the state. The worst-case scenario could cause up to three years of severely curtailed water for most Californians.
Opinion: How the drought has affected San Francisco's devastating lack of public restrooms (Los Angeles Times)
The historic drought has afflicted Californians in many different ways. Suburbanites have had to reconsider the concept of the verdant lawn. Farmers have had to fallow fields. Merchants in San Francisco, it would seem, have stopped washing down their streets. Water conservation, combined with a dearth of public restrooms, has led to an olfactory assault on denizens and tourists.
Calif. gives water polluters a pass, greens say (Courthouse News Service)
California's Central Valley water board lets oil and gas companies pollute groundwater used for drinking and irrigation, environmentalists say in a petition to the State Water Resources Control Board.
California farmers claim EPA water rules extend to dirt fields (KHTK)
Farmers say federal regulators are going too far and are taking away their water and chipping away at their property rights under a new rule. The Environmental Protection Agency says any bodies of water near a river, or standing water that can affect waterways will fall under federal regulation.
PENSIONS & LABOR
In strategy shift, CalPERS looks to cut financial risk (Los Angeles Times)
Even before the stock market's recent fall, staffers at the California Public Employees' Retirement System were worried about what they call "negative cash flows." The shortfalls — which totaled $5 billion last year — are created when contributions from taxpayers and public employees who are still working aren't enough to cover monthly checks sent to retirees.
San Bernardino pension shift to save $2.7 million (Public CEO)
Bankrupt San Bernardino approved a plan disband the city fire department and annex the city to a large county fire district. Part of the expected savings is $2.7 million a year from avoiding future CalPERS rate increases. City firefighters now in CalPERS would be transferred to the San Benardino County Employees Retirement System. And the county system is said to face lower rate increases, because it has more quickly paid down pension debt.
ENERGY & SUSTAINABILITY
Brown seeks to broaden California's clean-energy reach in the West (Los Angeles Times)
Gov. Jerry Brown is working on an ambitious plan for transmitting electricity across state lines and bolstering California's role in the region, according to energy officials. The plan would integrate PacifiCorp, a utility serving six Western states, into the electricity grid run by the California Independent System Operator, which is based in Folsom.
HOMELESSNESS / POVERTY
UCLA study finds million-plus elderly Californians in poverty (The Sacramento Bee)
More than 300,000 elderly Californians are officially poor, as measured by the federal government, but their numbers triple to more than 1 million when the “hidden poor” are counted, according to a new study from UCLA’s Center for Health Policy Research.
California senate rejects bill that would prevent tickets for sleeping in cars (AP)
Lawmakers have rejected a bill that would block California cities and counties from giving parking tickets to people found sleeping in legally parked cars.
An earthquake is going to hit L.A. Then what? (CNN)
In Los Angeles, the looming disaster is not a hurricane, but a long-overdue eruption of the massive San Andreas Fault, which seismologists say is the most likely source of a large earthquake in heavily populated Southern California.
TECHNOLOGY & TELECOMMUNICATIONS
Challenges of closing the digital divide (Western City)
California has reached 97 percent broadband deployment and could hit its statutory target of 98 percent by the end of 2015. Although broadband service is available, not all residents are able to afford it. For residents of small communities and older neighborhoods with clunky broadband or no broadband access at all, being counted among the 3 percent left out makes all the difference.
Gov. Brown creates new online security center (AP)
Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the creation of a new security center Monday that will be responsible for strengthening online security to prevent cyber-attacks on state agencies.
CITY PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT
City Council approves massive Souza Dairy project (Elk Grove Citizen)
Elk Grove City Council members approved the first project planned for a massive 1,200-acre development area in the southern part of the city. This project includes nearly 1,100 homes, eight parks, and a school site.
Oakland kicks off downtown roadmap to help streamline development (San Francisco Business Times)
Oakland is kicking off a two-year discussion to create a new roadmap for its downtown. The plan may include zoning changes, street improvements and other guidelines in the city's core near the 12th and 19th Street BART stations. The goal is to provide more clarity for development and potentially accelerate the approval process by creating environmental impact review for the area, which future projects could use.
Petition drive aims to force vote on Caruso project (The San Diego Union-Tribune)
A group of Carlsbad residents launched a referendum drive aimed at forcing a public vote on a Los Angeles-based developer’s plan to build a shopping, entertainment and open-space destination on the south shore of the Agua Hedionda Lagoon.
Opinion: Oakland is cool (Planetizen)
Building on its physical assets, city planners are succeeding in efforts to bring vitality to the Uptown district in Oakland, CA by supporting new housing development and enlivening what was once a preeminent arts and entertainment district.
Santa Rosa's big rent control debate (The Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
After a hasty foray into the subject earlier this year, the City Council will convene an in-depth exploration of rent control, or rent stabilization, as modern versions are known. Few issues facing the city are as complex or polarizing.
Mapping gentrification and displacement in San Francisco (Citylab)
To better understand the complex forces at play in the Mission District and other neighborhoods losing residents, UC-Berkeley and UCLA researchers developed the Urban Displacement Project, which maps the change of urban demographics in the region.
Kate Steinle slaying prompts Bay Area counties to cooperate with immigration officials (San Jose Mercury News)
In the two months since Kate Steinle's death in San Francisco at the hands of an illegal immigrant with a criminal record ignited a national immigration policy debate, four Bay Area counties -- Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Marin -- have agreed to notify ICE when inmates flagged by the agency for possible deportation are about to be released.
244 immigrants arrested in four-day sweep across Southern California (Los Angeles Times)
“One of the challenges we’re facing is because of state law and local policies, more individuals who are potentially deportable with significant criminal histories are being released onto the street instead of being turned over to ICE,” agency spokeswoman Virginia Kice said. “I think to infer from [the sweep] that potentially foreign nationals are committing more crimes is flawed.”
California lawmakers send hit-and-run alert system bill to governor, again (AP)
Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s latest bill would allow law enforcement agencies to use the Amber Alert system to broadcast yellow alerts about suspected hit-and-run drivers. It would be limited to incidents that result in death or serious injury.
LAPD officers are on patrol with body cameras starting today (Los Angeles Times)
After nearly two years of fundraising, testing and crafting policy, Los Angeles police officers hit city streets Monday morning wearing the chest-mounted cameras. The roll out marked a significant moment for the LAPD, pushing Los Angeles forward in becoming the largest U.S. city to use the devices on a widespread scale.
Human trafficking: Count of victims underscores S.F.’s challenges (San Francisco Chronicle)
San Francisco’s first effort to document the scope of human trafficking in the city identified nearly 300 known or suspected victims in the second half of 2014 alone and highlighted the challenge of addressing a crime in which women, men and often children are exploited in society’s shadows.
Sacramento oil spills would be risky but rare, new report says (The Sacramento Bee)
Benicia city officials have concluded a proposal to transport large amounts of crude oil daily on trains through Sacramento and Northern California would create a “potentially significant” hazard to the public, but say a spill is probably only a once every few decades occurrence.
WASTE & RECYCLING
L.A. trash agency ordered to clear backlog of illegal dumping complaints (Los Angeles Times)
The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation is being ordered to clear a backlog of tens of thousands of outstanding requests dating back to 2010 to clean up illegally dumped trash.
If L.A. bids for 2024 Olympics, will taxpayers be on the hook? (Los Angeles Times)
When Los Angeles City Council members vote on pursuing the 2024 Summer Olympics this week, they will be deferring an issue that will probably return to haunt them: Whether city taxpayers should be made liable for budget overruns on the event, which is expected to cost at least $5.8 billion.
L.A.'s Olympic Village plans raise eyebrows (L.A. Biz)
The nonprofit exploratory committee’s bid includes plans to build the Olympic Village near the Los Angeles River on a site that currently serves as a transportation center for Union Pacific Corporation. However, according to a report issued yesterday, “Union Pacific has indicated that, although they are supportive of the Los Angeles Olympic bid and they are committed to working with the city, they currently have no plans or desire to vacate the site.”
City spends nearly $1.5 million defending police Chief Suhr in whistleblower case (San Francisco Examiner)
San Francisco spent nearly $1.5 million defending police Chief Greg Suhr in a whistleblower lawsuit that alleged Suhr had a record of skirting the law, which he has denied. The $1,479,883 price tag included the settlement paid to former police department employee Kelly O’Haire plus the 3,030 hours spent on the case by city attorneys.
Widow of Vacaville city employee will get $275,000 (The Fairfield Daily Republic)
A $275,000 supplemental life insurance policy should be paid to the widow of a 47-year-old employee in the city Public Works Department who did not work on New Year’s Day – the start date for the policy he had enrolled in months before his Jan. 6 death that year, a state court ruled.
OPEN GOVERNMENT & TRANSPARENCY
Compton mayor's charity tie-in to State of the City talk raises eyebrows (Los Angeles Times)
When Compton Mayor Aja Brown delivered her first State of the City address last month, the city arranged for residents to watch the event on a big screen at a local gym. Attendees at the free viewing were offered hot dogs and potato chips. But those who were willing to shell out at least $100 to a local charity were invited to a more exclusive gala at a city-owned community center, where guests were treated to wine, stuffed chicken breast and cheesecake before the mayor's speech. The beneficiary of that event was a charitable organization founded by the mayor and her husband.
Simi council adopts tougher regulations for massage businesses (Ventura County Star)
The Simi Valley City Council passed tougher regulations for the city's massages businesses, some of which police say are fronts for prostitution.