Index
Tuesday
Apr222014

LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Bay Area): Berkeley, litigation, city council redistricting: "Berkeley at war with itself over redistricting" ....

* San Francicsco Chronicle (Chip Johnson):  "Berkeley at war with itself over redistricting" - From the Chronicle:

It's a radical move for a city to file a lawsuit against itself, but when a majority vote of the council is ignored, or bypassed, it becomes a viable option. That's the route chosen by the city of Berkeley, which last month filed suit against three council members to enforce a redistricting map approved by the Berkeley City Council late last year on a 6-3 vote.

Councilmen Jesse Arreguin, Max Anderson and Kriss Worthington are named as defendants along with a handful of citizens who took an active role in supporting a referendum to halt use of the new map. The lawsuit asks the court to order the Alameda County Registrar of Voters and the Berkeley city clerk's office to use the new map in the November election. A hearing is scheduled for next Tuesday and the courts have promised a swift ruling to allow the registrar's office time to prepare materials with new district boundaries for the election.

Matthai Chakko, a spokesman in the Berkeley city manager's office, declined to comment on the pending litigation. But litigation hasn't tongue-tied the opposition to the new maps. They're flinging accusations of gerrymandering, collusion and power politics..............................

Tuesday
Apr222014

POLITICS/SPORTS (Bay Area): Golden State Warriors, move from Oakland to San Francisco, change in plans for new arena in S.F.: "Warriors shift arena plans to Mission Bay"; also, "Warriors find they can't beat bay" ....

* San Francisco Chronicle:  "Warriors shift arena plans to Mission Bay" - From the Chronicle:

The Golden State Warriors have abandoned their plan to build an arena on Piers 30-32 just south of the Bay Bridge and instead have purchased a site in San Francisco's burgeoning Mission Bay to hold a new 18,000-seat venue. The Warriors bought the 12-acre site from Salesforce.com at an undisclosed price in a deal signed Saturday night, said Rick Welts, the Warriors' president and chief operating officer. The team plans to have the arena ready for the 2018-19 NBA season.

The shift in location provides the Warriors with predictability and fewer regulatory hurdles. It also eliminates any need for voter approval, which may have become necessary for the Pier 30-32 venue that Mayor Ed Lee once called "my legacy project." The change has assuaged some of the project's most vocal critics, who opposed building a 125-foot-high arena near the Embarcadero amid concerns about traffic, environmental harm during construction and blocked views of the Bay Bridge.

"To me, everybody wins here," Welts said. "We never lost sight of the overriding goal, which was to bring the Warriors to San Francisco and build this world-class sports and entertainment venue that the city has never had."

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The Warriors will own the site outright, rather than leasing it from the Port of San Francisco, and the team says the arena will be entirely privately financed - a rare instance of a modern sports venue that would use no taxpayer funds or public land.

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The Warriors' planned arena is part of a redevelopment area and growing biotech hub. . . . . . . .

Lee and other officials see the arena as a catalyst for development in the neighborhood. . . . . . . .

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The Warriors have already spent about $20 million on design, engineering, consultants and other work for building on Piers 30-32. Some of that will transfer over, Welts said...........................

***ALSO, Related:

* San Francisco Chronicle:  "Warriors find they can't beat bay"

Tuesday
Apr222014

LOCAL GOVERNMENT/DEVELOPMENT (Los Angeles County): Santa Monica Mountains, tougher restrictions on development: "County moves to stop 'unrestrained' development in Santa Monica Mountains" ....

* Daily News:  "County moves to stop 'unrestrained' development in Santa Monica Mountains" - From the DN:

Within months, Los Angeles County will have the power — for the first time — to enforce tougher restrictions on development in its scenic Santa Monica Mountains, including banning the building of mansions on ridgelines and vineyards on hillsides.

Under a land-use plan debated for decades but now approaching final approval, the county would become the primary guardian of an 80-square-mile area with gorgeous landscapes and fragile ecosystems that impacted by multimillion-dollar construction projects. Previously, such development had to go through both the county and California Coastal Commission. The latter, however, is expected to hand over its responsibility to the county sometime near the end of summer, once a land-use plan is in place that meets state guidelines.

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The proposed land-use plan — a component of what is formally called a Local Coastal Program — won approval from the board on February 18 and the commission on April 10. It still requires further review, but final approval is expected within months.

The plan would cover the unincorporated portion of the Santa Monica Mountains west of the city of Los Angeles and east of Ventura County but excluding the city of Malibu.

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The Sierra Club, Heal the Bay, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, the Las Virgenes Homeowners Federation and the California Coastal Protection Network are among the groups that have expressed support for the plan.

Tuesday
Apr222014

SACRAMENTO: AB 852, proposed legislation, greater enforcement power for State Bar of California, commentary (Dan Walters): "State Bar trying again to expand its enforcement powers" ....

* Sacramento Bee (Dan Walters):  "State Bar trying again to expand its enforcement powers" - From the Bee:

The State Bar is something of an odd duck – a quasi-private, quasi-public entity that simultaneously regulates the legal profession and acts as a trade association and political advocate for lawyers. It’s as if the California Medical Association, the doctors’ trade organization, had merged with the California Medical Board, which licenses and regulates physicians.

Why the State Bar has those two somewhat disparate, conflict-laden functions is lost in history. Nevertheless, when it seeks legislation, there’s always uncertainty over whether it’s protecting the public from shoddy legal practices or enhancing its members’ finances.

That issue arose last year in Assembly Bill 888, carried by Sacramento Democrat Roger Dickinson, which would have empowered the State Bar to levy civil fines against those it deemed to be unlawfully practicing law. The State Bar and Dickinson insisted that new powers were needed to protect unsuspecting consumers from those offering legal services without being licensed lawyers. Practicing law without a license is already illegal, as it should be, but the State Bar said that persuading prosecutors to file cases is cumbersome. Therefore, it wanted power to pursue cases (and collect revenue) itself.

The bill drew sharp opposition from sub-professional groups, such as firms providing do-it-yourself legal forms. They saw it as a power play aimed at squeezing them out of business with threats of fines so that lawyers could obtain more clients and more money. The California Association of Legal Document Assistants, for instance, said AB 888 “is little more than a cleverly designed effort by the Bar to seek additional revenue from non-members of the Bar.”

Gov. Jerry Brown evidently agreed, because he vetoed AB 888, saying, “We already have adequate enforcement mechanisms and remedies to stop the unlicensed practice of law through the existing powers of the State Bar or through the authority of the attorney general and local prosecutors to bring civil and criminal actions.”

That, however, wasn’t the end of the story.....................

Monday
Apr212014

POLITICS (State, Local/San Bernardino): California Public Employees' Retirement System, San Bernardino bankruptcy, relief from pension payments, report/analysis, New York Times: "Bankrupt City Fighting to Open a Crack in California's Pension Agency" ....

* New York Times:  "Bankrupt City Fighting to Open a Crack in California's Pension Agency" - From the NYT:

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — When this bankrupt, working-class city took the unprecedented step in 2012 of stopping its required pension contributions — arguing that it could not otherwise make payroll — other financially stressed California cities took notice: Could San Bernardino defy Calpers, the powerful agency that administers the state’s huge pension system?

The resistance ended last year when the city resumed its payments. But now, with a mayor who swept into office last month promising to deal once and for all with skyrocketing pension costs, San Bernardino is in another fight with Calpers that could embolden other municipalities seeking relief from crippling payments to the nation’s largest public pension system.

“We are under the microscope, no question about it,” said Carey Davis, 61, the mayor. “San Bernardino took a different approach in bankruptcy as related to pensions, and everybody is waiting to see how it comes out.”

At issue is the $17 million in back payments and penalties that San Bernardino failed to make between declaring bankruptcy in August 2012 and resuming payments in July. Calpers has maintained that it is owed in full. But now in bankruptcy negotiations, the city is hoping to pay only a fraction of that, arguing that the city’s creditors must all share in the bankruptcy pain. The amount may be small, given the system’s assets, but if San Bernardino gets a reduction, the precedent could be huge, opening the door to other struggling municipalities using bankruptcy law to justify delaying or withholding payments to the pension system....................................