GrokSurf's San Diego

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Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

City files appeal in SDSU/Adobe Falls case

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 1, 2010

The City of San Diego and the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Diego have filed a notice of appeal on the longstanding dispute with San Diego State University over the university’s proposed housing project in the Adobe Falls area of Del Cerro alongside Alvarado Creek. The appeal, filed May 25, 2010 at the Vista Superior Court, is in response to the court’s March 26, 2010 judgment in favor of SDSU. The proposed housing project could create as many as 348 housing units for use by university faculty and staff.

It might be a very long time before anything significant happens with the appeal. The appellants have 10 days from the notice of appeal to submit a Designation of Record and the defendants have 15 days if they wish to submit a counter designation. The Superior Court then needs to certify the Designation and forward it to the Appeals Court which will then assign a case number. Later, the parties will file briefs, which may or may not include arguments. At some point, the court could invite the parties to participate in oral arguments. Although Del Cerro Action Council was a principal in the lawsuit, that group is unlikely to join in this appeal due to the expense.

The appeal will be handled at the 4th District Division 1 Appellate Court.

Meanwhile, CSU has submitted a Memorandum of Costs and will likely ask the Superior Court to order reimbursement for the costs CSU incurred copying and preparing the administrative record for the case. If so ordered (and that appears likely), cost of payment (total of $27,937.82) would be shared among the various parties on the losing side of the lawsuit.


Posted in Adobe Falls, Environment, Government | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Quantification Settlement Agreement: update on the federal lawsuit

Posted by George J Janczyn on May 25, 2010

Imperial County’s complaint against the U.S. government challenging the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) was heard on May 14 at an Early Neutral Evaluation Conference at the U.S. Courthouse in El Centro.

At the conference, as was probably expected, the parties were unable to reach a settlement. Judge Peter C. Lewis then ruled that the case was appropriate for review and ordered the defendants to file an administrative record by September 10 and scheduled a case management conference to be held October 8, 2010, again at the U.S. Courthouse in El Centro.

For background and details on both the federal and state QSA lawsuits, click here.


Posted in Environment, Government, Water | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Federal hearing on Quantification Settlement Agreement complaint to be held May 13

Posted by George J Janczyn on May 5, 2010

Although the local news media has given some attention to the Superior Court lawsuits challenging the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), there hasn’t been any news about the separate Federal lawsuit that was filed last October 8, 2009. That could change after May 13, which is when a formal Early Neutral Evaluation conference is scheduled to bring the opposing parties together. [sure enough, this item appeared on May 9]

The QSA forms the basis for significant water transfers from Imperial Valley to San Diego.

The Superior Court case produced a decision on Feb. 11, 2010 invalidating the QSA, threatening to cut off San Diego’s supply of water coming from Imperial Valley, but a stay was granted pending outcome of an appeal, so that case is simmering for now.

With regard to the Federal case, to be held at the U.S Courthouse in El Centro, it will be a closed confidential meeting where, according to the order, “both counsel and the parties who have full and unlimited authority to negotiate and enter into a binding settlement shall appear in person at the conference and shall be prepared to discuss the claims, defenses and damages.” The case is CALIFORNIA EX REL. IMPERIAL COUNTY AIR POLLUTION CONTROL DISTRICT, et al., vs. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR, et al.

An attempt to find grounds for a settlement will be a primary goal of this hearing. If no settlement can be agreed to, discussion will turn to establishing procedures for a discovery plan and overall case management. Due to the confidential nature of the hearing, I suspect the most we’ll know immediately afterwards is whether a settlement could be reached or not.

If you’re interested in more details, I’m following QSA matters on the Hot Topics page (it’s on the menu bar on at the top).


Posted in Environment, Government, Water | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Colorado River Aqueduct and All American Canal inspection trip

Posted by George J Janczyn on May 4, 2010

I just finished a two-day Colorado River Aqueduct Facilities Inspection Tour hosted by the San Diego County Water Authority and sponsored by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (many thanks to SDCWA’s Scott Robinson for inviting me!). I went on this tour to get a closer look at the infrastructure that contributes a large amount of water that San Diego needs to import to stay alive.

San Diego imports about 90% of its water and a good deal of that comes from the Colorado River. It’s one thing to casually acknowledge our dependence on the river, but there’s nothing like getting a close look at some of the engineering that goes into maintaining this immense system.

Stops along the way included San Vicente Reservoir, Twin Oaks Valley Water Treatment Plant, Diamond Valley Lake, Copper Basin, the Whitsett Intake Pumping Plant, Parker Dam, the All-American Canal and Palo Verde Irrigation District farmlands.

On to the pictures (clickable for enlargements).

We began the tour at San Vicente Dam, where a project to raise the dam by 117 feet using a roller-compacted concrete technique is underway. When the dam raise is completed, the dam’s capacity will increase from 90,000 to 242,000 acre-feet.

I took this shot a few months ago, when they were water blasting the dam's face to prepare the surface

Surface is all clean now, ready for new concrete. The scraped rock on the right side shows how much higher the dam will be.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environment, Government, Technology, Water | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Clarification on SDSU’s planned expansion into the Adobe Falls Open Space area

Posted by George J Janczyn on April 24, 2010

I’m maintaining updated information on San Diego State University’s Master Plan project to construct residential housing for faculty and staff in Del Cerro’s Adobe Falls Open Space area, and the legal challenges pertaining to the plan’s Environmental Impact Report that dragged on for years.

The ongoing story is here:


Posted in Environment, Government, Land use | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

North Embarcadero Visionary Plan

Posted by George J Janczyn on April 21, 2010

News reports:

Public relations material:

Everything you need to know about the waterfront plan (that nobody else would tell you):


Posted in Environment, Government, Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

San Diego encourages development with corporate water discounts

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 30, 2010

Like newspapers facing economic facts, San Diego is facing water facts.

For years now, the news industry has searched for a way to profit (or survive) in the digital environment created by the Internet and still be able to produce high-quality journalism. The financial model that sustained print-only newspapers no longer works today.

Clay Shirky, a well-known analyst on the problem, worries that newspapers are irreplaceable for accountability journalism and hopes they’ll continue performing that function on the Internet but he doesn’t think they’ll ever be able to return to the old model they enjoyed. He doubts that fee-based news (“paywalls”) will work except possibly in certain specialized areas where information is jealously guarded, such as finance. Rather than continue searching for a way to replicate their economic model in a digital age, he says, newspapers need to adapt to the ways of the web by finding a new balance through “vast and varied experimentation” (see his insightful presentation “Internet Issues Facing Newspapers” at Harvard’s Kennedy School). Others have cited organizations such as ProPublica and Voice of San Diego as examples of worthwhile efforts to produce high-quality journalism in the new environment.

Similarly, our relationship with water is changing. Our old assumptions are being challenged. It is becoming more and more obvious that our supply of water has a definite limit in general and also that for whatever reason (e.g., climate change, Delta environmental issues), our supply of imported water could well be reduced in the future.

Certainly we’ve responded in many ways. We’ve negotiated agreements to buy additional water from farmers and others, we’ve increased voluntary conservation, we’re looking at possible new groundwater resources, we’re considering (sort of) using prices to influence water use, we’re recycling, we’re exploring Indirect Potable Reuse, we’re installing a desalination plant, we’re enlarging the San Vicente Dam. Despite these measures, as long as there is unrestrained growth in our demand for this finite resource we obviously can’t expect a good outcome. And growth is one thing we haven’t dealt with sufficiently in response to the situation.

San Diego’s pro-development position on growth has only softened somewhat. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) projects that the region will have 1.2 million additional residents, for a total population of 4.4 million by the year 2050.

In January 2010, SANDAG’s website had a Housing section listed on their sidebar, where they stated that “SANDAG is working to eliminate barriers to development…[which] may include complex development entitlement and permitting processes, construction defect litigation, and development standards that do not reflect the goal of providing more housing.”

Web page in Jan 2010. Note the Housing sidebar includes Funding and Incentives.

Their tone has changed somewhat now. That housing sidebar of their website is now incorporated in their Land Use and Regional Growth page, and the above quotation no longer appears. Instead, they say they’ll work to “manage our population growth, preserve our environment, and sustain our economic prosperity.”

Housing sidebar is now under Land Use along with Sustainable Communities and other like headings

And in a rare departure from its pro-development endeavors, SANDAG recently denied a permit for a proposed 2,632-unit housing development in the North County. Water availability was just one consideration for that decision, but we’ll need more actions like that in the future.

The City of San Diego has worked to increase its water independence and reduce consumption, although it still gives businesses special programs and discounts.

The Guaranteed Water For Industry Program enables some water customers to become “exempt” from potential mandatory water conservation measures adopted by the City. After certification, such firms are placed on a list of preferred customers who will not be forced to reduce their consumption of potable or reclaimed water during a drought (“water warning”) situation. It applies to all industrial firms located in an “Optimized Zone” which currently includes the communities of University, Mira Mesa, Scripps Miramar Ranch, and Miramar Ranch North.

* Provides a guaranteed supply of potable and reclaimed water for irrigation, cooling, research, product development, and production activities during drought conditions.

* Provides ongoing cost savings to businesses through discounted rates for reclaimed water usage (.80/HCF, currently a 50 percent discount).

There’s also a Business & Industry Incentive Program. In order to “improve the business climate of the city,” this program gives businesses a 40 percent reduction in water capacity fees and a 60 percent reduction in sewer capacity fees (Council Policy 900-12).

Both of these programs are ripe for reconsideration in view of the growth problems we’re facing.

April 16 update: Since publishing this story, I was told by a representative from the San Diego Water Department that their web pages contain incorrect information:

First, the Guaranteed Water for Industry Program no longer has any bearing on the price of reclaimed water. As things now stand, the discounted rate of $0.80/HCF applies to ALL buyers of reclaimed water. Here’s the updated flyer for the program.

Second, the fee reductions indicated in the Business & Industry Incentive Program were invalidated by a Supreme Court ruling and the City has not authorized any fee reductions under this program since 2007.

Third, the exemption from drought water conservation rules now extends to ALL users of reclaimed water–it is no longer a benefit of the program.

As author Robert Glennon observes “Our existing supplies are stretched to the limit, yet demographers expect the U.S. population to grow by 120 million by midcentury…To understand the depth of the water crisis, consider that more than thirty-five of the lower forty-eight states are fighting with their neighbors over water” (from Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It, Island Press, 2009).

In addressing its water future, San Diego has been doing almost everything that’s been thought of. However, its entire water pricing system could use a complete overhaul with an eye towards incentives to conserve; and, San Diego has to redouble its resolve in confronting powerful forces for growth and expansion, because given the size of our population, even significant restraints could take decades before there is a visible reduction in the growth rate. It’s good to see that SANDAG is possibly reducing its aggressive promotion of development, but that’s not enough.

Just as newspapers need to face the realities of the digital world, San Diego needs to adapt to the realities of water. In his presentation, Shirky draws a parallel with the control of ideas, saying the news media ultimately cannot succeed in “attempting to treat an infinite good as if it were a finite good.” With water, it’s the same thing in reverse with a twist: even though water is an infinite (recirculating) good, we should be (but haven’t been) treating it as a finite good. Shirky said news needs to find a good balance. With water, well, they say it always seeks its own level.

Posted in Commerce, Government, Newspapers, Water | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Increase in stormwater fees, a utilities (including water) tax, and a trash/recycling fee listed as options for San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 23, 2010

San Diego’s Office of the Independent Budget Analyst (IBA) has published its report to the Citizens’ Revenue Review and Economic Competitiveness Commission listing possible sources of new revenue to bolster the city’s faltering finances. The Citizens Revenue Review and Economic Competitiveness Commission was formed to research and review revenue strategies to support the City’s core services and make recommendations for consideration by the Mayor and City Council. The IBA report will be a discussion item at the Commission’s March 25 meeting.

Among the options listed for further consideration are increasing the existing stormwater fee, a fee for trash/recycling pickup, and a general tax on city utilities (includes water). Keep in mind that these taxes and fees are not imminent; they would require considerable effort and time to get approved and implemented.

See the full IBA report for details. See also its Citizen’s Guide to the City Budget Process.

Among the report’s options:

* An increased stormwater fee could raise the existing revenue from $6.5 million annually to $37.7 million, with the monthly fee increasing from $0.95 per month to $5.49 per month (plus a per-HCF usage charge). It would require a majority of property owners, or a 2/3 general electorate approval.

* Trash pickup could raise $34 million with a monthly fee of $15.16 and majority voter approval would be needed to amend the People’s Ordinance.

* A city utilities tax (which includes water service) could raise $100.2 million, with a per-capita annual charge of $74. If the revenue generated were to be allocated for a general purpose, it would require a majority vote; if the revenue is allocated for a specific purpose, a 2/3rds voter approval would be required.

In the news (to be updated as additional reports are found):


Posted in Government, Water | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Lake Murray area residents work to restore park playground

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 17, 2010

These days in San Diego, one can’t avoid hearing of the city’s inability to pay for municipal services and infrastructure maintenance. “Brownouts” of fire crews, elimination of civilian employees in the police department, reductions in branch library operations, and reductions of lifeguards have been recently announced in the wake of the FY 2010 budget approved by the city council. So too, it goes for recreational facilities.

Just three old playground items remain offerering children little variety

At Lake Murray Park, located in the Navajo Community within the Mission Trails Regional Park system, a playground serving a large community of children originally built in the early 1990s has shrunk from nine pieces of play equipment to just three, because over the years the city removed aging equipment rather than repair or replace it. Residents also saw the playground deteriorate from hazards such as litter and sand contamination, while the sparse aging equipment attracted fewer users. Frustrated that the city would/could not fund any improvements, two local residents, Marilyn Olson and Tracy Dahlkamp, decided to organize a grassroots fundraising project to restore and improve the playground.

Tracy and Marilyn organized a nonprofit organization called Lake Murray Playground Project, setting a goal of raising $250,000 by 2011 to buy new equipment and perform upgrades to the playground area. The Lake Murray Kiwanis Foundation agreed to serve as the group’s fiscal sponsor. David Reed, a local landscape architect, donated his expertise for the playground redesign. With the help of others who became members of a steering committee to manage the organization, they officially launched the project last December with a fundraising event where they unveiled a proposed new playground design.

They’ve attracted funding and material support from local businesses (Windmill Farms, Keil’s Food Stores, Trails Neighborhood Eatery) and other organizations. The Union-Tribune caught wind of the project and published a story about it. So far, the city appears to be responding favorably to their idea, with Councilperson Marti Emerald publicly supporting their effort.

The Playground Project has its own website and Facebook fan page (as of this writing it boasts 310 fans).

The work by Tracy, Marilyn, and the many volunteers sets a great example by their positive, constructive response to the declining municipal services compounded by the latest city budget woes. Speaking to the initiative of these two women, Jay Wilson (Executive Director, Mission Trails Regional Park Foundation) told me “they may not know it yet, but they are this area’s next community leaders.”

Some future users of the playground


Another notable effort is under way at Ocean Beach. Recently, the city decided to cease maintenance of the fire pits at Ocean Beach and announced the intention of removing them altogether. Actually not just the fire pits in Ocean Beach but also in Mission Bay and La Jolla Shores (see OB’s Frank Gormlie (co-founder of the OB Rag) helped lead an effort to find individual sponsors to “adopt” fire pits and be responsible for their maintenance. Unfortunately, city policy may prevent them from doing so, as they’ve been told that such an effort would require a $1 million insurance policy, among other things, in order to comply with safety and legal requirements of public fire pit maintenance.


Posted in Government, Land use | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Mayor’s office explains (sort of) why it wouldn’t answer my question

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 16, 2010

Tweets from Rachel Laing (Press Secretary to San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders) after I complained about his office’s failure to respond to my question “why doesn’t the city have a staff directory?”:

Followed by:


So, instead of answering my question why there isn’t a directory, they’re arguing with the post I wrote later after being unsuccessful in getting them to respond. Click here for the story.


Posted in Government, Politics | Leave a Comment »