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Archive for the ‘Coastal Commission’ Category

Home Is Where The Good Quotes Are

I heard two great lines at the recent No Place Like Home conference at the Disney Grand Californian.

The first was from British philosopher Samuel Johnson: “The end of all striving is to be happy at home.” Amen. Laer Pearce & Associates has been involved in the regulatory approvals of 400,000 homes, and we hope they are bring much happiness to their owners.

Lakewood as it came to market

The second came from the dinner keynote speaker, Kevin Starr, former California State Historian and author of a fantastic multi-volume  history of our state. He asked, “Will there be there new Lakewoods in California’s future, or only new Carmels?” Lakewood, of course, is the massive suburban housing tract that meant a new beginning for thousands of post-World War II Angelenos.

Starr’s question is sad, indeed. California is supposed to be the place you go to realize your dreams, but the ever-increasing price of admission is turning too many away.  One study of the added costs regulations impose on housing found that out of 250 cities studied, the 20 with the highest regulatory burden are all in California.

That’s ridiculous, and it’s what we at Laer Pearce & Associates have dedicated our careers to fighting. California has a chronic supply/demand disparity caused only in part by a large population and an appealing climate and mystique.  More, it’s regulations. litigation and and legislative and judicial foolishness that make California a place that has priced out the up-and-comers. Home costs in California have risen so much, and regulations have become so snobbish and excluding that it is hard indeed to imagine a new Lakewood.

That’s too bad and it doesn’t bode well for our state’s future. Neither does the fact that thanks to the Coastal Commission, it’s just as hard to imagine a new Carmel.

Crazifornia: Three Crappy Regulatory Battles

Here’s Laer’s latest column on California’s crazy regulatory environment, which is cross-posted at CalWatchdog.

For a lot of very good reasons, California’s environmental regulators have earned a reputation for being, well, crappy to the rest of us. Three ongoing California regulatory battles over poop reinforce their already well-deserved reputation.

The first battle is between the California Coastal Commission and the city of Morro Bay over the city’s proposed new wastewater treatment plant. The city, called by some the Gibraltar of the Pacific because the massive Morro Rock dominates its harbor, made the terrible mistake of wanting to do the right thing. It, along with the Cayucos Community Services District, wants to replace an aging wastewater treatment plant with a new facility that will clean wastewater to higher levels and produce recycled water.

Less pollution going into the ocean and less fresh water used to water yards seem like good ideas … except to the California Coastal Commission. The Commission’s executive director, Charles Lester, has decided coastal towns should move their unsightly infrastructure away from the coast, to inland locations. There’s one little problem with this idea: It defies gravity.

Sewage treatment plants are located at the low point of local geography – the coast in California – because it’s much cheaper to let the sewage flow by gravity to the plant than it is to pump it uphill to an inland plant. In Morro Bay, the Commission’s staff, on its own, found a site about one mile from the coast it decreed to be the superior location for wastewater treatment. It is recommending the Commission force the city to build the plant there.

If the eco-bureaucrats prevail, they will turn the three-year project into a ten-year one and raise its cost from $60 million to $90 million. They will also saddle Morro Bay’s 10,000 residents with higher bills, since it takes a lot of money – and burns a lot of carbon fuel – to pump sewage uphill. This fact seems to be lost on the Commission’s staff, which claims it wants to move infrastructure off the coast not for aesthetic reasons, but because of sea level rise caused by global warming … which in turn is caused, we’re told, by burning a lot of carbon fuel.

The matter was on the Commission’s October agenda, but staff pulled it when the city pointed out major inaccuracies and flawed assumptions in the staff’s report.

Cormorant Poop

Then there’s the battle over cormorant, pelican and sea gull poop that’s piling up on the rocks in the tony San Diego coastal enclave of La Jolla.  Scenic, rocky La Jolla Cove has become an open cesspool, resident Ed Witt told the Union Tribune, adding, “You couldn’t operate a zoo like this.” The problem started when much of La Jolla’s rocky shore was put off limits to humans, encouraging birds to flock to the rocks, relieving themselves with impressive regularity.

So why not just wash off the poop? That would be fine, regulators at the Coastal Commission and San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board say, but only if the city submits a plan describing every detail of how they’ll do it – what methods and materials they’ll use, how they’ll protect the ocean and how they’ll ensure pooping pelicans and cruddy cormorants aren’t bothered.

If the clean-up plan poses any perceived threat to birds or marine life, then the California Department of Fish & Game, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service stand poised to join the battle.

It’s not even possible to create a timeline for reaching a solution to this monumental problem, since the Regional Water Quality Control Board has deemed it a low priority. Residents and business owners, who fear the smell will drive away tourists, disagree.

Home Invasion

San Diego’s Regional Water Quality Control Board – which I fought unsuccessfully when it decreed that rainwater becomes toxic the moment it hits the ground – is the cause of the third poop battle as well.

Because it succeeded in defining fallen rain as toxic, the Board now exerts its authority beyond the prior limits of its purview, the gutter, and reaches into people’s yards. This change is reflected in proposed new regulations that  would subject homeowners to six years in prison and fines of $100,000 a day if they repeatedly let dog poop sit un-picked up in their own backyards.  Similar punishments would be meted out to those who repeatedly allow their sprinklers to hit the pavement and those who wash their car in their driveway.

The Board’s goal is to cut the amount of bacteria in runoff that reaches the ocean. That reminded me of a study conducted some years ago – in Morro Bay, interestingly enough. Scientists collected samples of ocean water and isolated the DNA from fecal coliform found in it to trace its source. They found it to be overwhelmingly not pet or human in origin, but the DNA of coyotes, rabbits, deer, seals, sea birds and fish.

What will California’s regulators come up with next? Diapers for dolphins?

 

Crazifornia: Regulating the rockets’ red glare

The following article by Laer appears on today’s Daily Caller website:

It should come as no surprise that the leftist legislators and authoritarian bureaucrats who run California are vehemently opposed to fireworks shows. After all, the shows are always fun and usually patriotic.

And against them they are. The California Coastal Commission has led the charge with a multi-year assault on the Sea World theme park in San Diego, which blasts fireworks over Mission Bay every night. That effort shipwrecked on the rocks of Sea World’s considerable political clout and even more considerable legal budget, so the Commission looked for a more vulnerable, less wealthy target.

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A Picture Can Defeat A Thousand Arguments

Take a moment to consider this photo of fish swimming about happily in the seawater intake of an ocean desalination plant in Perth, Australia.

The photo notwithstanding, opponents of desalination plants often attack them because of the supposedly horrible things the plants’ seawater intake and brine dispersal systems do to marine life.  Since most (all?) regulators haven’t put on scuba gear to judge the reality for themselves, the opponents’ arguments often are persuasive.

They need not be.  Proponents of desalination can respond to this line of attack with  scientific studies countering the claims, and should – but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words – even a thousand words in a scientific study.  And a video is worth much more.

Please view the video linked below.  Once you’ve viewed it, you’ll wonder how the opponents of desalination get away with their claims.

Desalination Close-up

As you saw, there is no indication marine life is being harmed by either the intake or brine dispersal systems of ocean desalination plants.  In fact, just the opposite appears to be true – the critters are thriving.  How are they going to counter that?

Here at LP&A, we spend a lot of time writing messages, but we know that sometimes it’s best to put away the keyboard and just show the message.

The Land Big Three: Nothing but the truth so help me CARB

What were the three biggest late-breaking California water stories?  Well, the news-heads and policy wonks here at Laer Pearce & Associates have compiled them for you here.  You’ll find the Big Three here, or you can follow LPALand on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news and analysis. You can also sign up to receive the Big 3 via email here.  This edition:

CARB Sets a Standard It Can’t Meet

The California Air Resources Board apparently didn’t read the First Amendment before it decided to propose a regulation prohibiting false statements made to its board or staff.  Now we don’t condone lying, but if enacted, the new policy would have CARB deciding what’s true and what’s not.  Scofflaws could face various “penalties” to be named later…by CARB.  And as we’ve seen with CARB’s recent use of phony data and resumes to push its agenda, any dissenting opinion may be fair game for this new carbon-clouded truth Gestapo.

CARB’s public notice on the proposed regulation

Read Laer’s Cal Watchdog op-ed on the policy

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Prop 26 – A New Way To Stop Projects?

Given how deft Sacramento is at hiding taxes as fees in order to avoid the mandatory two-thirds vote for taxes, who didn’t vote for Prop 26, so fees will also be subject to a two-thirds vote?  Well, actually 4.3 million Californians didn’t, by current count. Fortunately for wallet-watchers, 4.7 million voted yes.

But California is nothing if not the Land of Unintended Consequences.  Now it looks like Prop 26 could be a nifty new way for state regulatory boards like the California Coastal Commission or a Regional Water Quality Control Board, which are subject to its provisions, to delay new development projects.

Development fees are not subject to Prop 26, so if a new project is dinged a nice little bucket of cash to improve signals at some intersections it’s impacting, no special vote  is required.  That’s fine – the authors of the California Chamber-sponsored proposition anticipated that, and wrote the measure to protect developers.

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The Weekly 3 Land: Red tape and NIMBYs galore

What were the three biggest California land development stories of the past seven days?  Well, the news-heads and policy wonks here at Laer Pearce & Associates have compiled them for you here.  You’ll find the Big Three here, or you can follow LPALand on Twitter for up-to-the-minute news and analysis. You can also sign up to receive the Weekly 3 via email here. This week:

Red Tape…Fuggedaboudit

It’s a rare day when California can learn something from the state of New Jersey.  We’ll take the California shore over Jersey’s version any day, but Californians should be paying attention to what New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is up to.  The state’s newly elected leader is proposing the merger or elimination of nearly 300 boards and commissions – including many inactive or defunct groups created years ago, and some that have never met at all.  Sacramento, are you listening?

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The Weekly 3: Land Development

What are the three biggest stories each week in the world of California land development?  You’ll find them right here, or follow LP&A all week long on Twitter at @LPALand for up-to-the-minute news and analysis.  You can also subscribe to our e-blast to receive our Weekly Three directly. This week:

1. It depends what your definition of “is” is

Either a plant or animal species is threatened with extinction or it’s not.  Seems pretty black and white … or green.  So why is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service trying to list some populations of the Preble’s Meadow jumping mouse and other species as threatened, even though the species itself is abundant?  The Service’s motives are up for debate, but the consequences are as clear a new double-paned Energy Star window:  lots of land could soon fall unnecessarily under tough federal permitting requirements, and that’s no bueno for homebuilders and the successful habitat conservation planning efforts they’ve spearheaded.

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The Weekly 3: Land Development

August 2, 2010

What are the three biggest stories each week in the world of California land development?  You’ll find them right here each Monday, or follow LP&A all week long on Twitter at @LPALand for up-to-the-minute news and analysis.  This week:

What could you do with this raw land?

1. Builders beginning to buy raw land with eye on market turnaround.

Standard Pacific CEO Ken Campbell made the news recently when he predicted a 2014 housing comeback and said he’s buying raw land in a big way.  That’s a sure sign the supply of already-approved lots is drying up … and it also means there will be a new wave of activism from the environmentalist/NIMBY cabal.  New legislation and policy have prioritized infill development and attempted to make greenfield development neighborhood non grata in California.  That will make entitlement a challenge … but one with great potential financial upsides for those who purchase wisely.

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The Weekly 3: Land Development

What are the three biggest stories each week in the world of California land development?  You’ll find them right here each Monday, or follow LP&A all week long on Twitter at @LPALand for up-to-the-minute news and analysis.  This week:

1. Is Developing Alameda Point worth the hassle?

Alameda Point - What Could Have Been

The city of Alameda voted last week to terminate an exclusive negotiating agreement with SunCal for development of the city’s former Navy base, which closed 15 years ago.  SunCal invested nearly $15 million during its four-year process, but was stymied by ever-changing political winds, a city staff with personal agendas and a public that’s not happy without a fight on its hands.  SunCal came on board in 2006 after a partnership of Shea and Catellus got fed up and walked away, which begs the question:  Is developing Alameda Point worth the hassle?  >>Read More

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