Clarity Blog

Clarity Blog

Posts Tagged ‘PG&E’

Water Weekly 3: Erin Brockovich moving to Michigan?

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:

Your Wake-Up Call, Ms. Brockovich!

The town of Hinkley, made famous when Julia Roberts played crusading almost-a-lawyer Erin Brockvich, was sadly back in the news this week when the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board reported the notorious PG&E chromium 6 plume was back. It’s bad stuff, for sure, but let’s at least try to report the facts and not get into cancer-causing hysterics.  PG&E responded wisely, offering to purchase homes in affected areas – a pretty cheap solution, given Hinkley home prices.

Read the Regional Board’s “talking point” document

Read a typical “cancer causing” media over-statement

From EPA, the health effects facts – see page 5

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Voters Send Mixed Messages on Ballot-Box Planning

Did you follow Measure N on the June 8 primary ballot up in Sutter Creek? No? Well we did track it, because it was one of the only referenda in the primary challenging the approval of a housing project. At the polls, 586 residents of the Amador County town voted “yes,” and 594 voted “no,” meaning the City Council’s earlier approval of the proposed Gold Rush Ranch and Golf Resort has been overturned – by eight votes.

[Update: Absentee ballots turned the election around, swinging the results to a 12-vote victory for Gold Rush Ranch's advocates.]

Closer to our home in Orange County – and closer to our client list – was Mission Viejo’s Measure D. The ballot-box planning initiative grew out of public opposition to an assisted-living facility project we worked on – a project that died in the economic downturn long before Measure D was placed on the ballot. After a spirited campaign, 62.4 percent of Mission Viejo voters emphatically said “no” to ballot-box planning.

In other conflicting election results:

  • Voters in the City of Brentwood denied an initiative making it possible to develop about 750 acres, but…
  • Voters in Santa Clara paved the way for a new San Francisco 49ers stadium.

So what can the builder/developer community take away from these results?

On the surface, not much. Very different towns voted very differently on very different ballot measures. But the fact they were even on the ballot is a great example of the public’s current low regard for both government and private companies – and their growing desire to have more say in the development process.

Need more proof? Just look at PG&E’s Proposition 16. PG&E spent nearly $25 for each of the votes it got in favor of the company’s self-serving proposition. Opponents spent less than a nickel for each of the votes they gathered, successfully playing David to PG&E’s Goliath. Mercury Insurance suffered a similar, less costly, defeat on its corporate venture into propositions.

Neither proposition was particularly reprehensible, so the vote shows that Californians don’t like it when corporations try to make laws. The folks with Gold Rush Ranch may have suffered from a similar dislike and distrust of corporations.

Lack of Public Trust May Lead to More Referenda

So, if you’re a big corporation and there are laws you’d like passed, go through the legislature – voters can be too unpredictable.

And if you must launch or fight a referendum, know that it’s definitely winnable, but prepare for a tough slog because voters up and down the state have little trust in either government or big business, and are clamoring for more input in anything affecting their quality of life. Our approach has always been to get more than 50 percent of the community behind a project as we go through the city or county approval process, so our client is well prepared, should a referendum be in the cards. In today’s environment, planning for a referendum from the beginning will make it much easier to accomplish your goals in the end.