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The Rise of the Referendum

City councils in Azusa, San Juan Capistrano and San Clemente each approved major land use projects over the past few months.  All three of these projects are now in a battle for survival as voters attempt to overturn project approvals through the referendum process.

These three incidents should serve as a cautionary tale for property owners:  You don’t just need the support of decision-makers; you need the support of more than 50 percent of the voters.  This support should be secured prior to a vote of a city council or board of supervisors because referendum signature gathering begins immediately after project approval.

As Orange County’s leading public affairs firm, we’ve helped clients defeat referendum drives. In one instance, our efforts helped give Yorba Linda its own high school, as our YLHS YES! campaign for Shapell Homes turned back opponents.

Here’s a review of the basic process under state law (municipalities may alter this process by ordinance, so be sure to check):

  • Proponents have 30 days from approval of the ordinance to circulate a petition calling for repeal.
  • There is no title and summary or publication requirement.  Proponents may commence circulating the petition as soon as the ordinance is adopted.
  • The referendum must contain the full text of the ordinance or legislative act the proponents are challenging.
  • Proponents must gather signatures from not less than 10 percent of the registered voters in the city according to the last report of registration.
  • Any voter who has signed a petition may withdraw his or her signature by filing a written request with the elections officer at least one day before the petition is filed.
  • The ordinance that is subject of a referendum is automatically suspended once the referendum petition qualifies [NOTE – this stops any activity on your property related to the approvals you just received].
  • Once the city election official certifies the referendum has the requisite number of signatures, Council must either repeal the ordinance, or place the measure on the next regular municipal election, or call a special election to consider the ordinance.
  • If a special election is called, it must be held no later than 88 days from the date the election is called.
  • The City attorney prepares an impartial summary and the proponents and opponents prepare arguments for and against the referendum (and rebuttals) for the ballot statement.

A good reference:  California elections code section 9235-9242.  If you’re facing a referendum, or feel your project may face one upon Council approval, give us a call so we can talk strategy.

Laer’s Op/Ed on CalWatchdog

Laer is becoming quite the prolific op/ed writer.  His latest appeared today on the Pacific Research Institute’s CalWatchdog blog.  Here’s an enticing bit of it:

If Gov. Jerry Brown has any chance of draining California’s budget swamp of red ink, he’s going to need more than aggressive spending cuts and votes for more taxes, as he proposes. He’s also going to need a resurgence in California’s business environment, but at one of the state’s few commerce success stories, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, there are more signs of classic California non-competitiveness than there are of a return to health for the state’s business sector.

Yes, activity is up by single digits over last year at the ports, which are America’s busiest, as companies slowly bring in more goods from Asia to rebuild inventories they had let drop through the Great Recession. But even as more than 12 million containers will be unloaded at Southern California docks this year, there are grave threats to the future of Southern California’s logistics behemoths, and they’re posed by exactly the same elements that threaten the rest of the state’s economy – powerful unions and California’s incessant compulsion to be a world leader in the environmental movement without thought to the cost.

Please read the rest of the op/ed by clicking through to CalWatchdog.

Happy New Year, You’re the Bane of the World’s Existence

The Center for Biological Depravity…er, Diversity, announced its top 11 priorities for bringing the U.S. economy to a halt in 2011.  It was going to go with 12, but making sure Jerry Brown appointed an ultra-enviro to head California’s Resources Agency has already been crossed off the list.

As you’d imagine, this year’s agenda is filled with plans to protect a whole slew of species from various man-made dangers.  If you’re a wolf or a bluefin tuna, this just might be your year.  Humans…not so much.  After taking baby steps last year, the Center hid in the middle of its list a rather Maoist priority to “Challenge the Overpopulation Paradigm.”  That’s right Joe Citizen, you and your 2.3 adorable kids (and their future kids) now have big fat target on your back.  As if an economic meltdown and global terrorism weren’t enough.

We’ll continue to encourage other groups to tackle overpopulation this year. We’ll distribute hundreds of thousands of condoms and ramp up the overpopulation dialogue through high-profile projects, including a study on the connection between overpopulation and diminishing water supplies in the Lower Colorado River Basin, the Center’s unique newsletter, Pop X, and targeted actions to Congress.

We’ll be interested to see their study on the Colorado River, which is facing challenges.  But that’s more so from several years of drought than too many newborns from too many “What Happens in Vegas…” nights.

Maybe the Center is grabbing for headlines to boost its coffers.  Maybe it’s tired of fighting on the environmental front lines and has chosen to try the back door.  Maybe it just doesn’t care for chubby babies with good short games.  Maybe all of the above.

Either way, it’s time to come to grips with the fact that you and your family are the bane of the world’s existence.  Happy New Year!

Read the rest of the Center’s 2011 priorities here.

It’s a Wet La Nina

This chart shows rainfall as of 8 p.m. yesterday at the Costa Mesa measuring station. The dotted red line is the long-term seasonal average, and the blue line represents season-to-date rainfall for the 2010-2011 rain year, which runs from July 1 to June 30.  As you can see, we’re already just three-quarters of an inch behind the average rainfall for an entire year – and it’s only December … and it’s still raining.

It’s obvious that we’re in the midst of a “wet La Nina” year, which leads us to many ponderings.

First, why do reporters insist on thinking La Nina years will be dry and El Nino years will be wet? That’s a trend, for sure, but if there’s one thing any reporter should know, it’s to ask questions and not assume trends will repeat themselves.  A modicum of research would show plenty of precedents for years that went the other way.

Second, we always wonder about the effect of wet years on California’s heated water politics.

Since the water bond was proposed in 2009, we’ve now had two years of relief from drought.  That means very little in the larger picture, especially since we still have reservoirs to refill (including Lake Mead, which recently dropped to its lowest elevation since Hoover Dam was built), but people tend to be more willing to spend money on water supply when the well’s running dry.

Will the wet winter make it harder to pass the bond if it returns to the ballot in 2012?  We realize that the state’s fiscal condition will be more important than rainfall levels in most people’s minds, but wet winters certainly won’t make the campaign any easier.  Still, the messages in support have the advantage of being true:  A wet year is an aberration; we have to plan as if we were going to have dry years. Supporting construction of an new, sustainability-based water infrastructure for the State isn’t just necessary, it’s the environmentally right and economically right thing to do.

Third, as a public affairs firm here in Southern California that has written probably at least ten thousand words promoting water conservation, we worry that this wet December will cause people to get sloppy about their water use.  To them we say, striving for efficiency in your water use is something that should become a lifestyle commitment, something you do without thinking because it’s important for the health and well-being of our society.

Lastly, I have to admit I’ve also been thinking about the bozos who installed our landscaping at our home.  Our undersized and poorly placed drain pipes allow water to seep in around the side door of our garage whenever it rains like this – and last night, as I stood barefoot in the cold water, sweeping it down the sidewalk towards the driveway and the rain gutter, I admit the thoughts I was thinking about those landscapers weren’t exactly alive with the Christmas spirit!

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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LP&A Creates New LinkedIn Group for Water Policy Professionals

Thanks to Laer Pearce & Associates, professionals that work with water policy around the world now have a LinkedIn group where they can discuss topics related to helping set and navigate water policy.  The Water Policy Professionals group encourages members to discuss legislation, communication strategies, regulations, incentives and news regarding policy on water supply, quality and pricing.  It will also include job postings and other networking functions.

Laer set up the group because he believes idea-sharing and open communications can help to find consensus on highly contentious issues – or at least move the discussion forward instead of having it bog down in rhetoric wars.

The group is a sister to LP&A’s other LinkedIn group, Water Conservation Professionals, which has 513 members. Seven people joined Water Policy Professionals in its first 30 minutes.

LP&A has been working on water-related issues for more than 20 years and is actively involved in helping to set policy for water issues on local, regional and state-wide levels.  We currently serve four water and wastewater agencies and CalDesal, a nonprofit advocating for pro-desalination policies and regulation in California.

Water Weekly 3: A veteran pol and a veteran plant

What were the three biggest California water 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 every Thursday, or you can follow LPAWater 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:

A Veteran Returns to Big Problems

Jerry Brown isn’t that kind of veteran – and a big Veterans Day THANK YOU to those of you who are! – but he is a veteran of the governor’s office … which makes us wonder why he’d ever want to go back.  Brown is committed to rebuilding California’s water infrastructure and fixing the Sacramento Delta’s environmental problems, but that stuff is pretty far down his list of priorities.  And now, with the budget deficit pegged at $25.4 billion we’re also wondering:  Will water ever get its due?

Read Capitol Weekly’s story listing Brown’s priorities and problems

Why wasn’t the deficit news published before the election?

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Land Weekly 3: Friendlier or Snippier Times Ahead?

What were the three biggest California water 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 every Thursday, 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:

Friendlier Feds, Snippier State Regulators?

According to political insiders – and pretty much anybody who’s ever dealt with an appointed regulatory body – having more Republicans in office generally is good news for permit-seekers in the housing industry.  So the outcome of last week’s election should bring some hopey, changey prospects in the short-term nationwide, as the GOP takes over key committee posts in the House and a slew of new Republican governors take office.  Here in California, it’s a whole different story.  Tuesday meant at least four more years of Jerry Brown, whose agenda will be topped, said CalWatchdog’s Steven Greenhut at a recent luncheon, by environmental issues and slowing (or stopping!) new development.  That’s not exactly change we can believe in.

Read the Real Estate Channel‘s take on the GOP win

Read MSNBC’s take

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Local Land-Use Matters Split November Ballot

The San Diego Union Tribune identified 17 key local land-use matters before California voters on Tuesday.  After all the votes were cast, nine resulted in positive news for the building industry, while eight weren’t so great.  See the rundown below.

Merced County Measure C: Voter Confirmation of Zoning Changes - Failed

Considered a slow growth initiative and known originally as the “Save Farmland Initiative,” Measure C would amend the county’s general plan to require voter approval whenever ten or more acres would be converted from agricultural or open space to residential use.

Yes 43.84%

No 56.16%

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Land Weekly 3: New Lawns, New Species, New Priorities

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:

Raking of Muck Slows Raking of New Lawns

Political wonks like the crew at LP&A love the craziness and drama that comes with election season.  But it turns out that homebuyers just might not be so keen on it.  According to Shea Homes CEO Bert Silva, political attack ads “just don’t put people in the mood to buy a new home.”  Our fingers are cautiously crossed that today’s political battles will bring the beginnings of a path toward less regulation and greater economic certainty come November 3, and that should surely put those weary homebuyers  – and homebuilders – in better spirits.

Read The Orange County Register article here

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