Indexed News on:

--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on preserving and connecting California's Parks & Wildlife Corridors


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Developers Promise Financial Disaster in Oxnard if they aren't allowed to completely gridlock the city

By Scott Hadly
Ventura County Star
September 22, 2007

A proposed traffic initiative in Oxnard could cost the city $359 million in developer fees and tens of millions of dollars in future property tax revenue, a new city-commissioned study says.

The study, paid for by the city and done by the Weaver Research & Consulting Group, says a measure proposed by some residents to limit development around gridlocked intersections would halt 10 pending projects with a combined value of about $7.2 billion.

In all, those projects include about 8,300 planned homes and apartments and 13 million square feet of commercial and industrial buildings.

The city would lose out on property taxes from the development as well as fees developers have to pay for various impacts on services.

"What I find most ironic is that 29 percent of the loss is for traffic mitigation fees," said Nancy Lindholm, executive director of the Oxnard Chamber of Commerce, which recently challenged in court the wording of the initiative.

The chamber opposes the traffic measure — as do most of the Oxnard City Council members — saying it would hurt the city's economy and stifle needed development.

But supporters of the initiative say they took action because of the city's failures at dealing with the impacts of rapid growth in Oxnard over the past decade.

The city has 25 intersections ranked as deficient, where traffic comes to a near standstill during rush hours.

As currently drafted, the initiative would forbid development within five miles of congested intersections in Oxnard unless the gridlock is corrected.

The law would apply to projects of six or more homes or commercial developments larger than 5,000 square feet.

According to initiative backers, there are already 2,700 homes approved for construction in the city that will soon be built and plans for an additional 13,000 homes, which could bring as many as 75,000 more people to Oxnard. The city's current population is about 190,000.

"I would contend that developers do not cause growth," said Lindholm.

"People having children and all of us living longer is what causes growth. So the folks who are in the business of providing shelter are only trying to accommodate what's already coming."

But Councilman Tim Flynn, who supports the traffic initiative, said Oxnard has shouldered much of the growth in Ventura County and has suffered from that.

As for the study, Flynn said it overstates both the cost and future development numbers.

He said the 8,300 dwelling units the study says would not be built is an overstatement because about 3,200 of them have already been approved and would not be affected. Flynn said the lost future revenue figure is a red herring because it misses the point that developer fees and tax revenue are used to pay for city services needed to cover the impacts of growth.

Flynn said the document looks more like the first shot of a campaign to defeat the initiative than an unbiased report.

"I think it's misleading," said Flynn. "It's providing a worst-case scenario. With a majority of the council and the mayor opposed to the traffic initiative, they got what they wanted: a doom and gloom report. It's meant to scare people into not supporting the initiative."

Tom Cady, a former Oxnard assistant police chief and a member of the anti-initiative Citizens for a Prosperous and Safe Oxnard, disagreed.

Cady said the report just shows what opponents have said all along.

"You look at the fiscal impact and you just can't ignore that," said Cady.

"That's twice the budget of the library. I'd ask Tim what you would do to make up for that revenue?"

Thursday, September 27, 2007

San Diego joins opposition to toll road extension. More than 12 cities or counties disapprove of its route, which cuts through San Onofre park and wetlands.

By David Reyes, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

September 27, 2007

San Diego has joined a growing chorus of cities opposed to a toll road extension through San Onofre State Beach, surprising and disappointing tollway officials who are battling for support.

The San Diego City Council voted 6 to 2 Tuesday night to support the state Park and Recreation Commission's opposition to the route and urge the Orange County toll agency to find an alternative, said San Diego Councilwoman Donna Frye, who introduced the resolution with two colleagues.

Map "At stake is setting a precedent that says we should use our public parkland to accommodate more growth and development," Frye said.

The proposed roadway through southern Orange County is bad policy, she said.

San Diego joins more than a dozen cities or counties in the state that oppose the toll road extension. Among them are San Francisco, Los Angeles, Ventura County and the Orange County cities of Laguna Beach and Aliso Viejo, according to a coalition to stop the turnpike.

Although the council's action is nonbinding, Frye said the proposed route travels from Orange County into the northern part of San Diego County and is within San Diego's regional transportation plan.

The Irvine-based Transportation Corridor Agencies needs approvals from state and federal agencies to build the 16-mile Foothill South toll road, which would cross the northern half of the popular coastal park.

San Diego's action takes on greater emphasis coming just two weeks before the toll road's Oct. 11 hearing before the California Coastal Commission, said Sara Feldman, a spokeswoman for the California State Parks Foundation.

"This road is not a good traffic solution," Feldman said. "It cuts through the park and also through a wetlands. It could affect a nearby surfing beach where Trestles is located, and there are 11 endangered or threatened species in the San Mateo watershed."

Getting approval from the Coastal Commission, which regulates development along the state's shoreline, is viewed as the most difficult hurdle for toll road officials. Lance MacLean, chairman of Orange County's Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency, which has proposed the extension, said the road had been studied for nearly two decades and during that time had come under heavy scrutiny.

He was surprised that the item was put on the San Diego council agenda after the tollway agency had worked with Southern California regional transportation groups that debated the route.

"It was odd for the San Diego council to weigh in on a project, which, quite frankly, is not in their jurisdiction," MacLean said. Tackling an issue for a proposed project far away from a city council's legislative reach is an "easy political vote," he added.

"It's out of their jurisdiction and it allows them to appease the environmentalists," said MacLean, a Mission Viejo councilman.

Frye took exception with MacLean's view.

"It's not out of our jurisdiction," she said. "The city of San Diego is known, at least in the past few years, as being more environmentally conscious than some of our neighboring cities to the north."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Help keep motorized vehicles out of Northern Sierra Nevada National Forest sensitive habitat, watersheds and unprotected wilderness; Letters Needed NOW!

Eldorado National Forest
Route Designation
Comments Needed
DEADLINE: October 22
The following comes from Vicky Hoover at the Sierra Club.
The Forest Service, which has recently called unmanaged motorized vehicle recreation a major threat to America's spectacular public lands, is changing over to a national off-road vehicle (ORV)-management system of allowing recreation off-road vehicle use on designated routes only, instead of general cross-country use anywhere except where specially prohibited. To make this major (and long needed!) change, the Forest Service has undertaken the enormous task of designating off-highway travel routes on all National Forests. Each forest is dong separate planning. Here in California, right now, the Eldorado National Forest (which is just south of Lake Tahoe and north of the Stanislaus National Forest) has released its Travel Management Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to confine vehicle use to specifically designated roads and trails. The comment period for this plan ends Oct. 22.
The public has an unprecedented opportunity RIGHT NOW to write to keep motorized vehicles out of sensitive habitat, watersheds and unprotected wilderness. Here are some general talking points to put into your OWN words, to begin your comment letter, before you ask for adoption of Alternative E, with two important changes:
** The law requires the Forest Service to minimize damage from off-road vehicles. It does NOT require the Forest Service to fulfill ALL the demand for motorized routes that now exists or may ever exist.
** When figuring out where motorized routes of travel should be the Forest Service should keep in mind the needs of the MANY, many visitors to the Forest who do NOT come for motorized-vehicle recreation. They shouldn't discriminate against people who wish to hike or families who want to go for a walk from a campground without being disturbed by noise, dust, or pollution of off-road vehicles. (There are two relatively small wilderness areas on the Eldorado Forest, the Desolation in the north, and the Mokelumne in the south. These don't accommodate all the visitors who just wish for some short and quiet walking places, without the challenge of accessing wilderness.)
** The Forest Service must consider how any new motorized route they add to their travel system contributes to the problem of fragmenting habitat for wildlife. (Since wildlife cannot speak up for themselves, the Forest Service must take special care to assure that providing for human recreation minimizes the harm to wildlife, both plants and animals.) Special concern must be given to sensitive species.
In addition, the Forest Service must be careful not to allow more routes in the travel system than the agency has the staff and funding to monitor, manage, restore, AND enforce. One of the problems of off-road vehicle use has been precisely the lack of adequate monitoring, restoration of impacts, and enforcement of regulations. The agency must consider how THIS plan will facilitate those essential management actions.
Specifically: Urge the Forest Supervisor to adopt Alternative E, with the following important changes:
· Alternative E should adopt the seasonal closures and over-the-snow requirements of Alt. C: "Seasonal closure on all designated system trails and native surface roads from Nov. 1 through April 3. Wheeled motor vehicle over-the-snow travel allowed on surfaced roads only with 12 inches of snow or more and no ground contact." These closure dates can be shortened by the Forest Supervisor if dry weather warrants opening the forest to vehicles.
· In the Rubicon River area, Hunters Trail (11E09), Gray's (aka Frey's) Trail (11E04), Deer Creek Trail (14E11) should not be designated for motorized use. Reason: The Rubicon Canyon is an historic hiking/backpacking/fishing area. Hunter's is one of the most popular hiking trails on the Georgetown District. Because it is relatively level, it is one of the easier trails for the very young, the elderly or infirm. Fishermen use the trails to access the excellent trout fishing in the Rubicon. Motorized use conflicts with traditional quiet recreation in numerous ways. Dirt bike noise echoes in the canyon, spoiling the natural quiet. Tell the Forest Service motorized use of these trails will create/continue significant user conflicts.
Important: Point out that Alt. E also reduces damage from the other leading "threats" identified by the Forest Service: Fire, noxious weeds, and habitat fragmentation.
Comments on the Travel Management DEIS will be accepted until October 22, 2007. Comments may be submitted by mail to:
Forest Supervisor Ramiro Villalvazo
Attn: Travel Management DEIS
100 Forni Road
Placerville, CA 95667
By fax: 530-621-5297
Or by leaving a message on the project hotline: 530-295-5666.
Click here for more information on the Eldorado's DEIS.


Ventura County Judge to weigh 3 arguments by neighbors opposed to plan for Mountclef Ridge Greenbelt

A contentious battle over a hilltop between Thousand Oaks and the Santa Rosa Valley took another turn Monday when a Ventura County judge ordered bulldozers to stop grading the foundation for a 6,000-square-foot house just north of the crest of Mountclef Ridge.

The temporary restraining order was issued by Judge Glen Reiser, and it prevents developer Michael Dubin from working on his land until the judge makes a final determination on three legal arguments made by neighbors opposed to the construction.

Some residents in the area want the land preserved as open space, part of a narrow neck of undeveloped wildlands that link the Santa Monica Mountains to Los Padres National Forest. The Thousand Oaks City Council has already bought three adjacent Mountclef Ridge lots from Dubin for open-space use, but voted 4-1 last November to allow the house to be built.

Dubin's attorneys said their client will idle the bulldozers until the judge makes a ruling, which is expected late next month.

"It simply keeps the status quo until he makes a final decision," said lawyer Chuck Cohen.

Mark Burley, a Santa Rosa Valley resident and member of a group called "Save Our Ring of Green," said the restraining order "is important so that while the judge makes a decision, the habitat doesn't get destroyed.

"It's an important wildlife corridor, and one of the last connections to prevent the Santa Monica Mountains from becoming a wildlife island," he said.

The house in question would be built on the Santa Rosa Valley side of the ridge, northwest of the California Lutheran University campus.

Federal biologists have said hilltops east and west of Thousand Oaks are key links for animals like mountain lions to migrate.

Radio tags have detected mountain lions crossing Highway 118 near Simi Valley.

Thousand Oaks assistant city attorney Tracy Noonan said the judge's order is not unusual in a lawsuit based on environmental laws.

The city is defending Dubin's right to build the house because it has issued him lawful building permits and was named in the environmental group's lawsuit.

The action claims that state environmental protection laws and city hillside grading ordinances were not followed. It was filed by Santa Monica attorney Frank Angel.

Burley said his group still holds out hope that Dubin can be persuaded to sell the parcel, the last of four pieces of the property he bought in 2001 for $700,000.

Water Flows Again Through the Auburn Dam Site

North Fork American River

The North Fork American River flows again.

With little public fanfare on September 4, 2007, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) restored flowing water to the North Fork American River at the former site of the Auburn Dam. The channel opening is a key step in an ambitious plan to restore the North Fork and open the canyon to public recreation. It also represents another nail driven into the coffin of the controversial Auburn Dam.

When Auburn Dam was under construction in the early 1970s, the North Fork was blocked with a temporary dam made of dirt and gravel and the river’s flow was diverted through a tunnel. The dry river bed was then extensively reworked to create the foundation for the dam. But escalating costs, Reagan-era cost-sharing reforms, concerns about earthquake safety, and public opposition eventually sidelined the dam proposal and the temporary dam blew out in the 1986 flood. But continued use of the tunnel and a large gravel berm allowed PCWA to divert water from the river and bypass the dam site segment.

North Fork American River

The tunnel will be capped and public facilities added.

Fifteen years later, conservationists (including FOR’s formidable Ron Stork and our local allies with Protect American River Canyons) recruited then Attorney General (AG) Bill Lockyer to research whether the Bureau’s and PCWA’s continued use of the tunnel as a diversion site was in the public interest. The AG’s office concluded that the use of tunnel resulted in the river drying up at the site, which is a violation of state regulations. Under pressure from the AG, the Bureau agreed to close the tunnel, restore the river bed, and provide modest public recreation facilities. The project included construction of permanent pumps for PCWA’s water diversion.

Today, the permanent pumps are in place, the physical channel has been restored, and water now flows through the formerly dry riverbed. Where there once was a dam site, there is now river. In the next few months, the Bureau will close the tunnel and complete interim public access facilities (a river take out and parking area). Over time, the channel will naturally re-vegetate. A public ceremony to celebrate the North Fork’s restoration is planned for next spring. Because construction activities continue, daily public access will not be allowed to the river segment until at least January 2008.

For more information concerning the North Fork Restoration Project, please contact Ron Stork at (916) 442-3155, x220, email:

Read the Sacramento Bee article.

Watch it flow, a short video (mpg).

Legislation to Increase Fundraising Ability

for West San Francisco Bay Parks District
Needs Your Support


9/21/07 Dear BAOSC members:

I respectfully urge each Council member to support legislation
sponsored by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (MROSD)
that will increase needed resources to purchase and preserve vital
public open space lands by increasing the District’s debt term for
its “notes” from 20 years to 30 years. This request is a little
unusual, as normally the Council would go on record as supporting
such legislation, as we have planned; however, in the case of AB 697
(Ruskin), Craig Britton has run into a roadblock on this fairly
simple legislation and feels that only overwhelming support will
counteract a rather philosophical opinion on the part of the staff
for the Senate Local Government Committee that has stalled this
bill. It passed out of the Assembly on a unanimous vote!

As many of you may know, AB 697 (Ruskin) was designed to achieve this
minor amendment to MROSD’s enabling legislation during the last
legislative session, but was unexpectedly held up by the Senate Local
Government Committee, turning it into a two-year bill. The Committee
will take up this issue again soon and your support is critical for
its passage. (East Bay Regional Park District, MORSD’s sister
agency, already has this authority by legislation passed in 1987).

Extending the debt term will help ensure that the District can
continue to protect the peninsula’s natural environment and create
opportunities for public recreation. AB 697 would benefit the public
by saving taxpayer money and producing more funds to purchase and
preserve open space lands.

The committee staff will compile a report on this bill and it’s
important that your letters are mentioned in the “supporters”
category. Some talking points and a sample letter are attached to
this message – please feel free to use them. Of course you may
customize the letter to fit your organization.

Please fax the attached sample letter to the committee members:
Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod, (Chair) ……. FAX 916.445-0128
Senator Dave Cox (Vice Chair) ……………… FAX 916.324-2680
Senator Tom Harman ………………………… FAX 916.445-9263
Senator Christine Kehoe ……………………… FAX 916.327-2188
Senator Michael Machado ……………………. FAX 916.323-2304
Committee staff director Peter Detwiler ………FAX 916.322-0298

Thank you very much for helping pass this important bill!

Bettina Ring, Executive Director
Bay Area Open Space Council

September 20, 2007
Senator Gloria Negrete McLeod
Standing Committee on Local Government California State Senate Sacramento, CA 95814 FAX 916. 445-0128

AB 697 (Ruskin): SUPPORT

Dear Chairperson McLeod: [Organization] strongly urges you to support AB 697 (Ruskin), which would increase needed resources to purchase and preserve vital public open space lands in the San Francisco Bay Area by increasing the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s (MROSD) debt term from 20 years to 30 years. We understand that AB 697 was introduced during the last session and that it is now a two-year bill. We are also aware that your Committee will again take it up in early 2008. As you know, rising real estate prices threaten the region’s open space District’s financial ability to purchase the last remaining natural open space lands. The Midpeninsula area is one the hardest impacted by these rising costs. We support decisive action by the MROSD to buy open space areas to protect our natural environment and create opportunities for public recreation. AB 697 would benefit the public by saving taxpayer money and producing more funds to purchase and preserve critical open space lands. The District has a stable source of income through local property taxes and has received Moody’s highest rating on their notes. Because short-term rates in the current bond market are not much different than long-term rates, the District would not have to pay higher interest rates for paying back its debt over a longer-term. The extension of the District's debt is appropriate also because the District's financing is only aimed at the purchase of land for preservation as open space – and the public will own this land in perpetuity, thereby creating a lasting legacy for generations to come. We ask for your help in ensuring the passage AB 697 to achieve this apparent minor, but critical change in the District’s enabling legislation that would save taxpayers money and increase funds to purchase and preserve essential public open space lands that are vanishing quickly.

Sincerely, (Organization)
cc: Senators of the Local Government Committee, Assemblymember Ira Ruskin, Senate Local Government Committee Staff Director Peter Detwiler


Protect Orange County's Heritage in the Santa Ana Mountains

On October 2, 2007, the Orange County Board of Supervisors will be voting on a proposal to develop 12 mansions on a cultural and ecological gem in the Santa Ana Mountains.

The proposed project would consist of 12 custom equestrian estates in the area known as Holtz Ranch, a natural wildlife and cultural site that reflects Southern California circa 1900 and a gateway to the Cleveland National Forest. The southern end of the proposed site is part of a key wildlife corridor, and two of the proposed lots contain significant Juaneno Indian historical sites. Silverado Creek, federally listed as an impaired waterway, runs through the site as well.

The endangered arroyo toad has been found along Silverado Creek, and it's highly likely that arroyo toads are present on the development site. These toads are the only known population in the 2,700 square miles of the San Ana River basin, which includes parts of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Relying on flawed studies, county planning officials insist that there are no endangered toads on or near the project site and refuse to analyze or mitigate the harm the project would do to them.

Recognizing the unique ecological and cultural values of Holtz Ranch, environmentalists have successfully fought proposals for intensive development on the property for more than 30 years. Please ask the county to ensure that the special features of this place on the edge of the Cleveland National Forest aren't lost.

Get involved by ATTENDING THE UPCOMING MEETING of the Board of Supervisors and/or SENDING A LETTER OR EMAIL to the supervisors:

Meeting of the Board of Supervisors of Orange County
333 W. Santa Ana Blvd., First Floor
Santa Ana, CA 92701

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Coastal Commission to Hold Hearing, Make Decision Whether to Allow Toll Highway Thru San Onofre State Beach Park

Save the Date—October 11 th ! Attend the October 11th California Coastal Commission (CCC) meeting in San Pedro and tell the Coastal Commissioners to deny the proposed Foothill South Toll Road through San Onofre State Beach. The most important hurdle before the TCA is the powerful, non-partisan Coastal Commission. The Coastal Commission will be meeting in October to decide whether to approve construction of the toll road in the coastal zone. Additionally, the Coastal Commission is charged with making sure the TCA’s road doesn’t pollute the water or harm the surf at Trestles. We expect that the TCA will spend a lot of time and money convincing the CCC that their road is a good idea. We need you to attend the Coastal Commission meeting and let the Commissioners know that Trestles and the San Mateo Campground are too important to be sacrificed for a “pay to drive” road.

Please mark your calendars and plan to take a day off of work or school to join us at this important hearing on October 11 th . The hearing will be held at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Harbor Hotel at 601 S. Palos Verdes Street , San Pedro CA 90731. We will also be providing free bus transportation to those who are interested. Do your part to ensure that a great campground, great community and great surf beach remain livable, pristine and protected. We owe it to our community, our kids and future generations. For more information contact Robin Everett at or call 949-361-7534 Sincerely, Friends of the Foothills Campaign.
State Agrees to Pay $3.5 Million to Block Dairies near Allensworth Historic Park

9/20/2007 L.A. Watts Times (AP)

The state has agreed to pay $3.5 million to a Tulare County farmer to prevent two large dairies from being built near a park that pays tribute to a black community founded by a freed slave. Under the agreement reached Sept. 10, the state Department of Parks and Recreation will pay Sam Etchegaray to guarantee he won’t build dairies near Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park.

Etchegaray will still own the land and can continue farming it, but he will be barred from running “any type of animal Operation” on the two parcels he had targeted for dairies. The bill requires final approval by the state Public Works Board. “ Today’s agreement protects the cultural and historical significance of Allensworth State Park, while at the same time respecting private property rights,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a statement. The park, which historians and black leaders consider sacred ground, is named after Col. Allen AlIensworth, who founded the town in 1908. Allensworth became the only California town founded and operated by blacks.

Friday, September 21, 2007


From the What are they nuts? department:

Road Builders and State's Finance Department Propose a Dense, Concreted-Over Future for California, Saying We Must Accomodate More Growth

"Needed by 2050: decked freeways, tunnels, tolls, trains"

By Rong-Gong Lin II and Jeffrey L. Rabin, Times Staff Writers
July 11, 2007,1,687520.story

Building the roads and transportation infrastructure needed to accommodate Southern California's surging population could cost more than $100 billion, according to planners, leaving the region's taxpayers with a tough choice ahead.

Local transportation agencies said the Southland's freeways and mass transit need drastic changes to accommodate what state officials project as a 60% increase in the region's population by 2050.

That would probably include adding upper decks to some Los Angeles County freeways, new rail lines and building freeways or toll roads in places like the Antelope Valley, Orange County and Riverside County.

"We are thinking here of a big system, equivalent to the interstate system," said Hasan Ikhrata, director of planning and policy for the Southern California Assn. of Governments, referring to the freeway building boom of the 1950s and 1960s that revolutionized American auto traffic.

The population forecast, released Monday by the state Department of Finance, predicted that California's population would swell to nearly 60 million by midcentury. Southern California's population would reach 31.6 million by 2050, up from 19.5 million in 2000.

Some demographers believe that the state will only reach those numbers if it provides adequate public infrastructure. Others worry that the growth will come even without more roads, making congestion worse.

"The Westsiders won't cross the 405. The west San Gabriel Valley people will stay in their little pocket," said Dowell Myers, USC professor of urban planning and demography. "We're going to live and work more in villages."

Politicians and transportation planners have been grappling for decades with how to make road improvements keep up with the rising population — and many admit that they have largely failed. The percentage of highways in the state deemed congested rose from 32% to 43% from 1992 to 2002, according to a California Department of Transportation study, which defines congestion as rush-hour traffic that moves at 35 mph or less.

In November, California voters approved a $19.9-billion transportation bond measure, hailed as a major milestone.

But the planning studies put the bill for keeping congestion in check at $140 billion in the next 30 years for six Southern California counties.

Paying for the improvements will be difficult. Many counties — including Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside — already have a sales tax for transportation projects.

Many say boosting the gas tax would be the most logical way to collect more revenue. But it is politically unpopular with prices at the pump so high. California and the federal government each impose a gasoline tax of 18 cents a gallon, a rate that has not changed since the early 1990s despite a sharp rise in gas prices. Because the tax has not been adjusted for inflation, California has struggled merely to maintain its existing roads.

And without more roads, "we will be in a serious congestion crisis from the Oregon border to Mexico," said Eric Haley, executive director of the Riverside County Transportation Commission.

One reason the potential fixes cost so much is that there is so much less raw land than there was in the 1950s. As a result, officials must go to great lengths to engineer new roadways:

• Several of the routes considered most crucial by traffic planners require tunneling under neighborhoods or mountains. These include extending the 710 Freeway through South Pasadena, creating a link under the Santa Ana Mountains from Riverside to Orange counties and boring a tunnel from the Los Angeles Basin through the San Gabriel Mountains into the Antelope Valley.

Los Angeles County has the most severe land crunch, so officials say the only way to significantly improve capacity is to double-deck freeways. A portion of the 110 Freeway in South L.A. is a model, allowing carpools and buses in special elevated lanes.

• Toll roads are gaining new attention because officials could use future revenues to borrow money to build the highways. Officials have talked about an expressway connecting the fast-growing high desert regions of Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, and construction is almost completed on a 10-mile toll road east of San Diego.

• The surge in Riverside County's population — expected to leapfrog Orange and San Diego counties and become the No. 2 county in the state — also means the many assumptions about transportation need to be revised. Ikhrata said north-south roads that connect far-flung suburbs in the Inland Empire are needed, rather than the traditional east-west roads that connect those suburbs to Los Angeles.

Besides moving the growing number of commuters to work, government planners predict a 400% increase in cargo movement over the next 30 years, further taxing the freeway system and probably requiring truck-only toll lanes on heavily traveled routes such as the 710, 60, 5, 10 and 15 freeways.

Planning is just beginning for a toll road system for trucks that would cover the heavily traveled route from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to the warehouses and logistics facilities of the Inland Empire, from which cargo is distributed across the United States.

"Do we have the political willingness to come out and say this is needed for the state? That, unfortunately, we are going to charge some people for it but it has to be done?" Ikhrata said. "Look, if we're really going to have 60 million people in California, you need these lanes and you need more. You need to accommodate growth, period, unless you're OK driving 5 mph."

Yet, major freeway expansion will be difficult. Any effort to greatly expand the capacity of urban freeways in Los Angeles is likely to run into a buzz saw of opposition from environmentalists and homeowners who don't want more auto traffic and exhaust in their backyards.

In Orange County, plans to build a 16-mile toll road through San Onofre State Beach has sparked opposition from environmentalists and surfers.

And decades of opposition from South Pasadena has stalled Caltrans from completing the missing link of the 710 Freeway, which would offer trucks on the Long Beach Freeway an alternate route to the Central Valley or the Inland Empire.

Now, Caltrans and the MTA are studying a multibillion-dollar tunnel, an idea that continues to run into opposition from some South Pasadenans.

The 710 Freeway fight underscores the debate across the region about how transportation agencies use the money they have.

In Los Angeles County, for example, a 1 cent per $1 sales tax goes mostly to pay for mass transit, operating buses and rail lines. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is building two lines, one to Culver City and the other to East L.A. And Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing for a $5-billion subway along Wilshire Boulevard.

Other counties have focused more resources from their sales taxes on road expansion. But officials are quick to point out that those revenues only go so far.

"We already are struggling to meet the demand of the current population, and so adding to that is definitely going to be a big hurdle," said Cheryl Donahue, spokeswoman for San Bernardino Associated Governments.


60 million Californians by mid-century,1,3304797,full.story?ctrack=4&cset=true

Riverside will become the second most populous county behind Los Angeles and Latinos the dominant ethnic group, study says.

By Maria L. La Ganga and Sara Lin, Times Staff Writers
July 10, 2007

Over the next half-century, California's population will explode by nearly 75%, and Riverside will surpass its bigger neighbors to become the second most populous county after Los Angeles, according to state Department of Finance projections released Monday.

California will near the 60-million mark in 2050, the study found, raising questions about how the state will look and function and where all the people and their cars will go. Dueling visions pit the iconic California building block of ranch house, big yard and two-car garage against more dense, high-rise development.

But whether sprawl or skyscrapers win the day, the Golden State will probably be a far different and more complex place than it is today, as people live longer and Latinos become the dominant ethnic group, eclipsing all others combined.

Some critics forecast disaster if gridlock and environmental impacts are not averted. Others see a possible economic boon, particularly for retailers and service industries with an eye on the state as a burgeoning market.

"It's opportunity with baggage," said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., in "a country masquerading as a state."

Other demographers argue that the huge population increase the state predicts will occur only if officials complete major improvements to roads and other public infrastructure. Without that investment, they say, some Californians would flee the state.

If the finance department's calculations hold, California's population will rise from 34.1 million in 2000 to 59.5 million at the mid-century point, about the same number of people as Italy has today.

And its projected growth rate in those 50 years will outstrip the national rate — nearly 75% compared with less than 50% projected by the federal government. That could translate to increased political clout in Washington, D.C.

Southern California's population is projected to grow at a rate of more than 60%, according to the new state figures, reaching 31.6 million by mid-century. That's an increase of 12.1 million over just seven counties.

L.A. County alone will top 13 million by 2050, an increase of almost 3.5 million residents. And Riverside County — long among the fastest-growing in the state — will triple in population to 4.7 million by mid-century.

Riverside County will add 3.1 million people, according to the new state figures, eclipsing Orange and San Diego to become the second most populous in the state. With less expensive housing than the coast, Riverside County has grown by more than 472,000 residents since 2000, according to state estimates.

But many residents face agonizingly long commutes to work in other areas. And Monday, the state's growth projections raised some concerns in the Inland Empire.

Registered nurse Fifi Bo moved from Los Angeles to Corona nine years ago so she could buy a house and avoid urban congestion. But she'd consider moving even farther east now that Riverside County is grappling with its own crowding problems.

"But where am I going? People used to move to Victorville, but [housing prices in] Victorville already got high," the 36-year-old said as she fretted about traffic and smog and public services stretched thin. "We don't know where to go. Maybe Arizona."

John Husing, an economist who studies the Inland Empire, is betting that even in land-rich Riverside County, more vertical development is on the horizon. Part of the reason: a multi-species habitat conservation plan that went into effect in 2005, preserving 550,000 acres of green space that otherwise would have vanished.

"The difficult thing will be for anybody who likes where they live in Riverside County because it's rural," Husing said. "In 2050, you might still find rural out by Blythe, but other than that, forget rural."

Husing predicts that growth will be most dramatic beyond the city of Riverside as the patches of empty space around communities such as Palm Springs, Perris and Hemet begin to fill in with housing tracts. The Coachella Valley, for example, will become fully developed and seem like less of a distinct area outside of Riverside, he said. "It'll be desert urban, but it'll be urban. Think of Phoenix," he said.

Expect a lot of the new development in Riverside County to go up along the 215 Freeway between Perris and Murrieta, according to Riverside County Planning Director Ron Goldman. Thousands of homes have popped up in that area in the last decade, and Goldman said applications for that area indicate condominiums are next. The department is so busy that he's hiring 10 people who'll start in the next month.

"We have over 5,000 active development applications in processing right now," he said.

No matter how much local governments build in the way of public works and how many new jobs are attracted to the region — minimizing the need for long commutes — Husing figures that growth will still overwhelm the area's roads.

USC Professor Genevieve Giuliano, an expert on land use and transportation, would probably agree. Such massive growth, if it occurs, she said, will require huge investment in the state's highways, schools, and energy and sewer systems at a "very formidable cost."

If those things aren't built, Giuliano questioned whether the projected population increases will occur. "Sooner or later, the region will not be competitive and the growth is not going to happen," she said.

If major problems like traffic congestion and housing costs aren't addressed, Giuliano warned, the middle class is going to exit California, leaving behind very high-income and very low-income residents.

"It's a political question," said Martin Wachs, a transportation expert at the Rand Corp. in Santa Monica. "Do we have the will, the consensus, the willingness to pay? If we did, I think we could manage the growth."

The numbers released Monday underscore most demographers' view that the state's population is pushing east, from both Los Angeles and the Bay Area, to counties such as Riverside and San Bernardino as well as half a dozen or so smaller Central Valley counties.

Sutter County, for example, is expected to be the fastest-growing on a percentage basis between 2000 and 2050, jumping 255% to a population of 282,894 , the state said. Kern County is expected to see its population more than triple to 2.1 million by mid-century.

In Southern California, San Diego County is projected to grow by almost 1.7 million residents and Orange County by 1.1 million. Even Ventura County — where voters have imposed some limits on urban sprawl — will see its population jump 62% to more than 1.2 million if the projections hold.

The Department of Finance releases long-term population projections every three years. Between the last two reports, number crunchers have taken a more detailed look at California's statistics and taken into account the likelihood that people will live longer, said chief demographer Mary Heim.

The result?

The latest numbers figure the state will be much more crowded than earlier estimates (by nearly 5 million) and that it will take a bit longer than previously thought for Latinos to become the majority of California's population: 2042, not 2038.

The figures show that the majority of California's growth will be in the Latino population, said Dowell Myers, a professor of urban planning and demography at USC, adding that "68% of the growth this decade will be Latino, 75% next and 80% after that."

That should be a wake-up call for voting Californians, Myers said, pointing out a critical disparity. Though the state's growth is young and Latino, the majority of voters will be older and white — at least for the next decade.

"The future of the state is Latino growth," Myers said. "We'd sure better invest in them and get them up to speed…. Older white voters don't see it that way. They don't realize that someone has to replace them in the work force, pay for their benefits and buy their house."




From El Paisano, newsletter of the Desert Protection Council, Summer 2007

In April, California’s Resources Secretary proposed a new Salton Sea Restoration Plan containing much that is good for the birds and other wildlife that depend on this vital stop on the Pacific Flyway. Mandated reductions in agricultural runoff, the sea’s only supply of fresh water, could cause it to shrink or evaporate completely, removing wetlands vital to migrating birds and releasing dust from the dry lakebed to pollute the air of Imperial and Coachella valleys. The new plan would provide more than 50,000 acres of habitat for a variety of species ranging from migratory birds to the endangered desert pupfish and would reduce air quality problems associated with the exposed lakebed.

But there’s a problem with the plan – a $7 billion problem. Along with its habitat and air quality measures (which will cost about $2 billion), the plan also includes the creation of two large recreational lakes that would cover additional wildlife habitat. These lakes would require the construction of giant dams and an equally large pumping operation to move water from one end of the sea to the other.

This massive engineering project will destroy more habitat and add to the air pollution problem. All of this proposed work puts the total cost of the plan at $9 billion – a high price tag against which the San Diego Union-Tribune has already editorialized. Is it likely that the state will ever spend this much to

“Save the Salton Sea”? The California Audubon Society doesn’t think so, and is instead supporting a phased approach that would ensure that the less-expensive habitat restoration takes place first.

For more information, visit Audubon’s Salton Sea web page (reprinted below):

Salton Sea Restoration Progress Report…

from around April 2007 (before State chose the final plan)

We’re in the home stretch now, poised to select the final restoration plan for the Salton Sea. Your letters and emails have really made a difference – in late April, the California Resources Secretary will propose a Salton Sea restoration plan that provides substantial habitat for the Salton Sea’s more than 400 bird species, protection of air quality and the endangered Desert Pupfish.

click for larger view
Lots of bird habitat but too much,
too costly lake

It would be a big victory for birds and wildlife except that it also includes two lakes primarily for recreation and development that triple the cost and pose enormous risks to the environment. The money and water needed for these recreational lakes could sink the whole restoration plan unless the habitat and air quality provisions are funded and implemented first. The estimated cost of the draft restoration plan is a whopping $9 billion, and contains the following elements:

The Good: Shallow saline habitat of approximately 60,000 acres; pupfish habitat and some deep water habitat; air quality mitigation on the exposed Seabed.

The Bad: A Marine Sea, larger than Lake Havasu, that would require pumping enormous quantities of water up from the southern end of the Sea, and a smaller recreation lake in the south on what should be prime habitat.

The Ugly: The rock source to construct the northern dam will require destruction of an entire mountain, likely to be endangered species habitat and with huge air quality impacts from the mining, transport and construction. The cost of these recreational lakes in the desert will be $5-7 billion more than the habitat and air quality elements of restoration. The water demand could jeopardize habitat and air quality needs.

click for larger view
Audubon’s preferred restoration plan

Audubon believes that it is extremely unlikely that $9 billion will ever be spent on Salton Sea restoration. We are working, therefore, to have the implementing legislation, SB 187, written to include the following provisions:

  • the final restoration plan contains sufficient habitat and is constructed in phases to ensure that the shallow saline habitat complex and air quality mitigation measures are built and implemented first;
  • the final restoration plan ensures that funding and water are used first to satisfy habitat and air quality needs;
  • the project level EIR is developed in an open and public manner similar to the process used to develop the programmatic level EIR; and
  • construction of the recreational lakes is subject to additional conditions including:
    • 90 percent of its cost is borne by local entities, and the source and transport of construction materials comply with all environmental protection laws;

The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake and a key stopover for literally millions of birds each year, including the threatened snowy plover and Yuma clapper rail. The Salton Sea straddles Imperial and Riverside Counties and though little known outside the birding world, the Salton Sea is a national treasure.

But the fate of this desert jewel hangs in the balance as the volume of water that sustains this 360-square mile lake will decrease by more than 30 percent within the next 20 years, rapidly shrinking the lake and increasing the amount of dust and salt that blows through the Imperial and Coachella valleys. The legal agreement allowing this water transfer from Imperial County to San Diego requires the state and federal government to restore the Salton Sea to “maximum feasible attainment” of historic levels of fish and wildlife. With your help, we can make a wildlife oasis out of this murky paradise.

Thursday, September 20, 2007


Off-Roaders Mad About Habitat Destruction Mitigation Requirements for New Off-Roader Parks

Off-Road Park Cost Questioned

Mike Cruz, Staff Writer

San Bernardino County Sun 9/2005

From 11/2005 issue: published by the American Sand Association

RIVERSIDE - County officials still are pursuing a controversial plan for an off-road park in Laborde Canyon, even though a recent state audit questioned whether the park would benefit the state’s off-road program.

The California Bureau of State Audits concluded in a report released last month that the Laborde Canyon off-highway vehicle, or OHV, park, to be located in the Badlands south of Beaumont, would come at an enormous cost roughly $27 million and may not provide enough benefit for its high price.

To keep plans on track, Riverside County officials plan to meet with the state auditor and the departments of Fish and Game and Parks and Recreation in the next 30 to 45 days to smooth over issues raised in the report and ensure the park becomes a reality.

"That OHV park is absolutely essential for Southern California,’ said Tom Mullen, interim general manager of the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority.

Mullen said he would rather see more off-road parks to support the sport’s growing numbers than off-roaders using unauthorized open space and habitat conservation areas for riding.

Most of the cost, about $23 million, is needed just to purchase extra acreage to offset the negative impacts of off-roading, provide access to the parcel and cover expanded use, according to the state audit. The other $4 million would create the state vehicle recreation area.

The reason for additional mitigation acreage, at least 3,000 acres, is because the proposed off-road site is in a sensitive area noted in the county’s Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, officials said.

To expand the proposed park from 600 to 1,200 acres as planned, the OHV division would have to purchase mitigation acreage at a 5-to-1 ratio for between $19,000 and $38,000 per acre, according to the audit.

The numbers were negotiated between Fish and Game and Parks and Recreation officials, Mullen said.

Some people in the off-road industry applauded the audit for bringing what they feel are exorbitant costs to light and hope the issues raised will stop the Laborde Canyon proposal as it stands today.

"We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that unfair expenditure, mostly for land that we can’t even use, doesn’t take place," said Roy Denner, president and CEO of the Off-Road Business Association and a close ally of the La Verne based American Sand Association.

The county has an option to purchase the Laborde Canyon site from defense contractor Lockheed Martin and then transfer its ownership to the state. But both the county and state are awaiting environmental reports from Lockheed Martin and site cleanup estimates before making any decisions, officials said.

Lockheed Martin, which once tested rockets on the site, is still conducting tests for contaminants such as perchlorate, dioxane and trichloroethylene, said spokeswoman Gail Rymer.

Testing is not complete, and cleanup processes may not start until 2008, but off-road use is possible much earlier if tests show there is no exposure pathway, Rymer said.

Given the high cost and questions surrounding the Laborde Canyon proposal, the audit was unable to ascertain the overall benefit of purchasing the site.

"We asked the director for any analysis that would demonstrate that the Laborde Canyon project is the best use of the OHV trust fund to provide OHV recreation opportunity,’ the state report stated. "However, none of the documents provided answered our question.’

In response, state officials said OHV money has been allocated for the proposal but not spent. The state is awaiting the environmental report from Lockheed Martin and the state Department of Toxic Substances Control to determine cleanup costs before making any decisions, said spokesman Roy Stearns.

"We can’t really commit to (an off-road) park until we know what contaminants are out there and how they would be dealt with,’ Stearns said, acknowledging questions about whether Laborde Canyon is the best location. "The auditors have raised questions that we must examine.’


The State’s auditor concluded:

“The division and the department have used money from the OHV trust fund for questionable purposes. Specifically, for three of its recent land acquisition projects, with planned costs totaling $38 million, the division and the department could not provide analyses that showed the value of these purchases to the OHV program. The division has purchased Deer Creek Hills, and Onyx Ranch and Laborde Canyon are still under consideration, and based on the available documentation, these projects do not appear to be the best use of the funds in implementing the OHV program. In each case, project land will be devoted largely to protecting or preserving natural or cultural resources with a relatively small portion or no portion at all available for OHV recreation.” (California State Auditor/Bureau of State Audits
Summary of Report 2004-126 - August 2005

H2O Halt
L.A. City must shore up water supply before expanding

L.A. Daily Journal editorial 9/17/2007

IN a city whose government is consumed with expansion - densification! taller buildings! - Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine seems to be alone in asking an obvious question: Do we have the water? This isn't an academic inquiry. Earlier this month, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that, in the interest of protecting the delta smelt, an endangered fish, the state would need to start endangering Southern Californians by slashing water imports by as much as 30 percent. The ruling came after a historically dry winter, the likes of which meteorologists are predicting again for 2007-08. Meanwhile, the city of Long Beach has had to start rationing its water supplies, and there's reason to think L.A. might eventually need to do the same. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California has warned that mandatory rationing could become necessary for the first time in 16 years. "We have a serious problem statewide and before we get to mandatory rationing here, we need to know where we stand," says Zine, stating what should be, but isn't, the obvious in City Hall. "We need to look at all new developments, conversions and additions to make sure we have enough water." Seems pretty self-evident, no? You can't have a city without adequate water, and L.A.'s residents shouldn't have to endure draconian limits on their water usage just so developers can maximize their earnings by packing as many people into a project as possible. But that reality seems to be lost on city leaders, who continue with L.A.'s backward, planless approach to growth, in which any developer can get a rubber stamp on any project, provided he or she has bought the support of the local council member. Zine proposes that the Department of Water and Power, along with city planning and building agencies, review all new developments and additions to determine the impact on the water supply. That's a decent start, but he should go further. What L.A. really needs is a moratorium on future projects until it comes up with a sound plan for preparing for them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Development-Serving Water Agencies Begin Campaign to Convince Californians that We Need More Water Reservoirs

Statewide water crisis campaign launched,

Water districts unite to convince Californians their supply is in jeopardy as the Legislature is in a special session to discuss water policy.

From the L.A. Times/Associated Press

September 18, 2007

SACRAMENTO -- A coalition of water districts began a statewide television campaign Monday designed to persuade Californians that their water supply is in crisis.

The campaign by the Assn. of California Water Agencies, estimated to cost between $7 million and $9 million, will include radio and television commercials in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, the Central Valley and other major media markets.

The group supports building more dams, and its campaign comes as the Legislature is in a special session to consider a wide-ranging water policy for the state. Officials with the association said the timing of the campaign is a coincidence.

"Educating the public about the crisis in our water system is a top priority for water agencies," Timothy Quinn, executive director of the association, said in a statement.

Legislative leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger are expected to meet over the next several weeks to discuss a potential multibillion-dollar water plan that could include new dams, canals and underground storage.

Low snowfall in the Sierra this year, thinner snowpacks predicted because of global warming and a federal judge's order to drastically reduce water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have added urgency to the debate.

Schwarzenegger and Sen. President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) have offered competing bond proposals that would fund dams in very different ways. Schwarzenegger wants to set aside money exclusively for two state dams, while Perata wants to give communities the option to build dams if they can find local funding.

The association's 30-second commercial calls insufficient water storage one of the state's problems. The campaign also is to include radio and newspaper ads, spokeswoman Jennifer Persike said.

The association represents nearly all the state's water agencies, including the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California in Los Angeles and the San Diego County Water Authority.

(Note from their website: ACWA is a statewide association of public agencies whose 450 members are collectively responsible for 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit


The Other Side of the Story:

Letter to the Editor:

Re "Gov. renews dam plan after ruling limits water," Sept. 6

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to build two new dams and a canal around or through the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. There is no water left to fill his dams. All of our state's water resources are already overcommitted, which is why the delta's ecosystem is collapsing and the delta smelt, the basic food fish for the bigger fish in the delta, is about to go extinct. These are dams that the supposed beneficiaries are unwilling to pay for.

Yet we are told that the Metropolitan Water District has planned well, that it has plenty of storage and has kept total water use flat. And now the district is planning further reductions in consumption by maximizing our use of local resources through conservation, wastewater reuse and better groundwater management. We can save the delta and provide for our water needs much quicker and much more cheaply by following the district's lead than by building the governor's massive infrastructure projects.

Dorothy Green

(Green was a founder of Waterlog, a group that fought plans to export more water from Northern California rivers to serve more urban development in L.A. in the 1970's, and she was also a founder of Heal the Bay in Los Angeles.)

A website with a more skeptical view of the plan to build more reservoirs for more development is at:

Sunday, September 16, 2007

L.A. City Council Questions Developer Plans for 111 -acre East Los Angeles Hilltop

L.A. City Council to Review OK of Hill Plan

The public works board had allowed a firm to remove dirt from one of the last undeveloped slopes in the L.A.’s northeast corner.

L.A. Times Staff Writer, 9/12/2007

The Los Angeles City Council took the first step Tuesday toward blocking a real estate firm from carving into a 110-acre hillside billed as one of the last undeveloped slopes in the northeast corner of the city.

The council unanimously voted to review a recent decision by the Board of Public Works that allowed Monterey Hills Investors to remove dirt from a site in El Sereno known as Elephant Hill — work that would prepare the land for construction of a 24- home subdivision.

The council voted in June to demand a new environmental impact report for the project, which is along the city’s border with South Pasadena and has been in the works for more than a decade.

But four weeks ago, the Board of Public Works, a panel appointed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, approved a series of permits allowing the developer to build streets and storm drains on the site.

Councilman Jose Huizar, who represents the El Sereno neighborhood, said the board’s decision flouted the will of the council.

“We as a council took an action, and we have a department going in a different direction after we acted,” he said. “So who’s the ultimate policymaker here?”

Environmentalists and neighborhood activists, who appeared before the council wearing pink stickers and orange T-shirts, argued that the recently issued permits would essentially allow the developer to begin work on a project that has not yet been approved — and is the subject of a lawsuit.

Such a turn of events would not occur in the city’s wealthier neighborhoods, said Joe Edmiston, who heads the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, one of several environmental groups that oppose the project.

“If we had one of the last pieces of open space on the Westside…instead of people in orange T- shirts, you’d have all the West-side lawyers out there in the audience,” he said.
Monterey Hills Investors sued to stop the council from requiring more environmental review, saying it has the legal right to begin work on its housing tract. The firm also argued that the new permits would affect only 21% of the site.

“If the city wants to convert this to open space, you ought to buy the property,” Ben Reznik, a lobbyist for Monterey Hills Investors, told the council. “You don’t get open space by delaying a project. You don’t get open space by putting the developer in a twisting situation.”

The council must act on the matter by Oct. 2, according to Huizar’s aides.
Public Works Board President Cynthia Ruiz said after the vote that she had no problem with the council’s decision. Ruiz said her panel was not even legally required to review the permits, which were granted by a city engineer.

“We respect the council, and we respect their ability to have oversight of the board,” she said.

In Bankruptcy, Pacific Lumber Starts Selling Off Assets

Company Town May Lose Company

By John Ritter, USA TODAY Sept. 10, 2007

SCOTIA, Calif. — Tucked among redwood hills on the scenic Eel River, next to a big timber mill, one of America's last true company towns appears to be expiring.

Financial troubles forced Pacific Lumber Co. to refocus on producing redwood and shed extraneous parts, such as the town it built and has benevolently maintained since the 1880s.

Pacific Lumber, or PALCO, wants to sell Scotia's 272 houses, give employees renting them a chance to buy them and get out of the company-town business.

Many residents, some born and raised here, don't know if they can afford their three- and four-bedroom bungalows or what will happen if they buy one and PALCO goes under. Others like the status quo of below-market rents — $650 to $800 a month — complete with company-provided trash-collection, electricity, water and repairs.

PALCO has until Sept. 18 to file a reorganization plan in federal bankruptcy court. The town's sale awaits a decision on whether Scotia, population 1,079, should merge with neighbor Rio Dell or become its own municipality, says company spokeswoman Andrea Arnot.

Either way, change is coming, and many residents say a tight-knit community that leaves its doors unlocked at night and knows everybody's business will lose its character. They worry that part of Scotia, about an hour south of Redwood National Park, will be sold to a retirement-home investor or similar development. "We have tourists drive through here all the time and ask if any of these houses are for sale," says Deb Jeffries, whose husband, Bill, a millwright, was born here.

Fading way of life

Volunteer fire chief John Broadstock says many residents are afraid of change. "They've lived in it the way it was and you can't do that anymore because of economics," he says.

Maxxam, a Houston-based corporation, bought PALCO in 1986, then fought environmentalists in the 1990s over plans to trim debt by harvesting thousands of acres of old-growth redwoods. In 1999, PALCO signed a landmark deal that protected most of that timber.

The company remains mired in debt, despite state-of-the art retooling of its mill and downsizing from 1,200 workers here to fewer than 500. The market for its Douglas fir lumber collapsed in the recent housing slide, says PALCO Vice President Pierce Baymiller.

What's happening here in the world's premier redwood region has happened over the decades to Appalachian coal towns, California citrus towns, Hawaiian pineapple towns, Carolina chicken towns and New England mill towns.

Company towns faded as the culture changed, not least of which was workers who could afford cars to commute and not have to live next door to the boss. A lot of towns dried up in the upheaval of the Great Depression and post-World War II years. Sometimes a town's reason to exist — timber, gold, silver — played out. Towns such as Richland and Grand Coulee, Wash.; Brookings, Ore., and Potlatch, Idaho, lost their company identities but adapted and survived.

Scotia's likely fate — sold off by PALCO — has been the fate of other towns, says Linda Carlson, a Seattle consultant and author of Company Towns of the Pacific Northwest. But with some mill towns especially, companies sometimes simply picked them up and moved them on rails to new forests to harvest.

Many towns weren't built to last more than a decade or two. They had cesspools instead of sewers, no foundations under the houses, crude street infrastructures. "When environmental controls became a big issue, it was easier to shut a lot of them down," Carlson says.

She thinks a handful still operate on the traditional formula with a church or two, a school, company stores, maybe a post office and Boy Scout troop.

"Very few were incorporated," she says. "It might literally have been a stretch along a river."

Scotia was — and is — much more. It has an elementary school, an inn, a small shopping center, a museum, a theater and ball fields, all in cozy proximity to the hulking mill. This year's garden contest was the town's 87th annual.

'One big family'

"It's one big family in this town," says Leah Willis, whose husband, Jason, grew up here. "If my kids are doing something wrong up the street, I get another parent calling. When somebody's hurting, the town's there for you."

The Willises hope to buy their three-bedroom house for around $175,000. Beyond intending to sell at "fair market value," PALCO hasn't said anything about home prices. "We'll have programs to help people get in them," Arnot says. "We'll work very hard at that."

Jim Gleaton, 62, terminated last month in the latest round of layoffs after 44 years, was interested in buying his house and retiring here where he raised three children. In the old days, when PALCO workers retired they had to move. Gleaton isn't sure now if he could swing a mortgage.

"A lot of young families are desperate to know if they're going to have a job," he says. "Why would you buy a home and have no job?"

Christina McGee, 27, and her husband, Bryan, 28, a machine operator at the mill, have two small children and pay $695 a month rent. He makes about $40,000 a year, she earns $10,000 working at PALCO Pharmacy.

"We'd love to buy. We can't wait for details to be finalized," Christina McGee says. If her husband were laid off or the mill closed, "we'd probably have to move out of the area."

Bill and Deb Jeffries are in their third Scotia house in 28 years. She'd like to buy their house, but he's not sure.

"My concern if they sell the houses to just anybody, is the town still going to look like this?" Bill Jeffries says. "That's why I'd love to leave it like this, renting, because then it can stay like this."


Saturday, September 15, 2007

L.A. Councilman urges opposition to 5,500-home development at Wildlife Pinchpoint between Santa Susana Mountains and Angeles National Forest


Las Lomas again center of debate

LA Daily News


San Fernando Valley neighborhood councils are getting dueling letters over the proposed Las Lomas mini-city - even before the 5,500-home development in the Newhall Pass has been considered by city leaders.

Hoping to block the project, Councilman Greig Smith sent a letter to Valley neighborhood councils this week calling the project a "tsunami of sprawl" and asking them to officially oppose it at their next meeting.

"It is too big, too dense, and in the wrong location," he wrote. "The impacts of the proposed Las Lomas development are simply impossible to ignore."

In response, Las Lomas Land Co. President Dan S. Palmer Jr. is sending a letter to neighborhood council presidents asking them to hold off any decision until they have heard his side of the story and the project is fully studied.

"We are aware that your Neighborhood Council has received a lengthy `white paper' and a letter from Los Angeles City Councilman Greig Smith which describes a mythical project that has little resemblance to the real Las Lomas plan, and yet urges your Neighborhood Council's immediate opposition to his imaginary project - before you have even had an opportunity to independently study the real Las Lomas," Palmer wrote.

"The City Charter empowers you to advise the City Council - not the other way around."

Palmer goes on to say that he intends to formally present the Las Lomas plans to neighborhood councils within two months.

Proposed more than five years ago and then stalled amid political opposition, Las Lomas is again a hot issue in City Hall. The site is just outside the city boundaries in county jurisdiction, where zoning limits the project to 200 homes. But Palmer wants to annex into L.A. to have access to the city's water supply and to allow a denser project.

Originally envisioned as a Mediterranean-style hilltop community of 5,800 homes and businesses, in the past two years Palmer's team has recast the plan as an energy-efficient, environmentally stable, mixed-income community with up to 5,500 town homes and condominiums, a hotel, a school and a commercial center.

This year, Palmer offered to pay the city for the staff time needed to process his development application. The City Council is now considering that request.

Smith and others have argued that the city does not have to process Palmer's development application.

But Councilman Richard Alarc n, whose district would likely include Las Lomas if it joined the city, said Smith's effort to kill the project in L.A. could end up hurting the city.

"The developer could go to the county or Santa Clarita and work out a project that could be detrimental to Los Angeles," he said.

While Alarc n said he doesn't support the project in its current form, he has urged the City Council to accept Palmer's offer to have a fee-for-staff-time agreement so L.A. will have more control over the project and recoup the costs.

The council's Budget and Finance Committee will consider the fee agreement.


By Steve Hymon, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
September 14, 2007

In the city of Los Angeles, it's often the neighborhood councils that complain that they are the last to know about big real estate development projects in their backyards.

That notion was turned around this week when Councilman Greig Smith sent letters to neighborhood councils across the San Fernando Valley urging them to oppose the massive Las Lomas project that is proposed near the junction of the 5 Freeway and California 14.

"This development would have a profoundly negative impact on the entire San Fernando Valley," Smith wrote in the letter. "Simply put, this development is a tsunami of sprawl. It is too big, too dense and in the wrong location. The impacts of the proposed Las Lomas development are simply impossible to mitigate."

The project calls for 5,500 housing units on mountainous terrain north of the city limits. The developers are hopeful city officials will annex the land, which would allow the project to tie into the city's water supply.

Las Lomas is being pushed by developer Dan Palmer, who has hired six lobbying firms to help him get the necessary approvals. The project has been discussed for the past several years but has recently been revived.

Councilman Richard Alarcon earlier this year introduced legislation that would allow the city to process the development's application if Las Lomas pays for it. The fate of the motion is still to be decided. "I don't think anyone can support the project in its current iteration," Alarcon said. "Councilman Smith is certainly entitled to express his opinion of the project, but my fear is that if Los Angeles does not seize control of this project, the city of Santa Clarita will, and that could lead to negative consequences for" Los Angeles.

Santa Clarita officials, however, have said that the plan is far too dense and have shown little interest in supporting it. Alarcon did not rule out supporting the project in some form, but he said it would have to greatly expand wilderness protection.

Smith has maintained that the city should not process the application because the project is widely opposed and lies outside Los Angeles.

Matt Klink, a lobbyist with Cerrell Associates and a spokesman for Las Lomas, declined to comment, saying he had not seen Smith's letter.


E-Mail the editor:

rexfrankel at

Blog Archive

Quick-Search of Subjects on the Site