GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

Archive for the ‘Land use’ Category

SDSU’s expansion project in Del Cerro’s Adobe Falls a step closer to reality

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 4, 2010

Judge issues ruling on case challenging SDSU’s Master Plan EIR

Last July I wrote an article in which I explored Alvarado Creek and its path from La Mesa to Adobe Falls in Del Cerro and on to the San Diego River. Adobe Falls was ultimately to become its own story, though, as I learned more about SDSU’s Master Plan project to build residential housing for faculty and staff in the Adobe Falls area and the ongoing legal challenges that ensued. The story was entitled Alvarado Creek and the future of Adobe Falls.

When I wrote that story there were still unresolved legal challenges to SDSU’s project, specifically the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and I encountered ongoing obstacles in following the legal developments. Indeed, after writing the story, I wasn’t able to access the casefile any more. That process is documented in my Adobe Falls updates post.

Both of those posts contain detailed background information including links for the EIR, the Master Plan, and more.

Today, I finally made some progress. Although the clerk in the public records office again informed me that the casefile was not available, after I pleaded how long I’ve been trying to get my hands on it she contacted the department and they (reluctantly) agreed to allow me limited access to it, but only in the clerk’s presence.

I had already seen the older casefile documents, but regarding new developments, I was only allowed to see one item — a Proposed Statement of Decision that Judge Thomas P. Nugent issued. I could choose to have the clerk stand over me while I read it or she could make a copy for me. I took the copy!

My informal reading of the major challenges is: 1) the EIR fails to identify, mitigate, and consider alternatives to local & regional traffic impacts; 2) the EIR fails to provide correct or adequate fair share calculations; 3) the EIR fails to adequately identify impacts to or mitigation measures to reduce impacts to area population and housing stock; 4) the EIR fails to provide analysis or description of proposed open space and/or recreational facilities; 5) the EIR fails to adequately identify or mitigate for impacts to Adobe Falls Creek and surrounding riparian wetlands, or to native plant habitat, open space, or visual character.

The judge’s Proposed Statement of Decision was filed on Jan 13, 2010 and essentially dismisses all challenges to SDSU’s 2007 EIR.

One issue that particularly interested me was water (!). The Petitioners argued that SDSU’s EIR did not adequately examine the development’s impacts on the city’s (limited) water supply. The judge ruled, however, that the EIR had specifically addressed both water supply impacts and water delivery infrastructure impacts and that they were adequately addressed and supported by substantial evidence.

In his Conclusion, the judge says “This Proposed Statement of Decision shall become final within fifteen days unless either party files objections thereto pursuant to California Rules of Court, §3.1590(f). Any objections shall be limited to alleged errors of fact or law. Attempts to reargue the case will not be considered.”

I was not permitted to see additional new documents that apparently represent objections to the decision statement. I was told the department is probably going to put together a new volume for the case (it already has 6 volumes); that probably means more paperwork is expected while the new objections are heard. Since the objections can only pertain to errors of fact or law in the decision, though, it seems pretty clear to me that at this point, there’s not much more standing in the way of the project, other than SDSU and CSU finding money to pay for it.

For the long term, I intend to continue following the project after the legal issues are resolved. I’ll keep all further updates in the Ongoing Topics page on the menu bar at the top of this blog.

Added Feb 5: PDF copy of the Proposed Statement of Decision (will open in new tab)

[updated Feb 5 to emphasize the likelihood that there are objections or challenges to the decision]

[Feb 8 – It’s curious that the local mainstream news media hasn’t written a word about the judge’s ruling. I wouldn’t think it’s because it is a proposed statement of decision, because the media had plenty to say when a proposed decision was announced regarding the QSA water transfer business! I don’t care if they mention my blog post or not, but isn’t this a topic of broad importance?]

Revised SDSU Master Plan

Posted in Adobe Falls, Environment, Land use, Water | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Update on lawsuits that threaten San Diego’s water transfers from Imperial

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 28, 2010

The Imperial Valley Press is reporting new action on the federal lawsuit filed Oct. 8, 2009 over the Quantification Settlement Agreement that authorizes water transfers from Imperial to San Diego. This is separate from the California Superior Court lawsuit that has been generating all of the recent news headlines.

To assist in tracking this and other issues, I’ve added a new page to collect posts about the two continuing legal actions, including new developments. The new page appears above on the menu bar as “Ongoing topics.”


Posted in Environment, Imperial Irrigation District, Land use, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Salton Sea, San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

San Diego’s supplemental water: still too premature to push the panic button?

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 14, 2010

Well, the judge today issued a final statement of decision voiding the agreement providing for San Diego to receive water from Imperial Valley. Here’s the special Superior Court website that has the text of the final decision and provides case information on the individual actions that made up the coordinated proceeding, tentative ruling information, minutes from court proceedings, court orders, and a current Master Service list.

Also, here’s Chance of Rain’s take on the decision. Keep your eye on Aquafornia which is sure to provide comprehensive coverage on this issue in the aftermath of the decision.

My earlier posts on the issue are here:

[Added Jan 15: A good topical overview of the story from NewsFeed Researcher (hat tip to Aquafornia)]

Posted in Environment, Imperial Irrigation District, Land use, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Salton Sea, Water | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

San Diego Bay polluters get a caution flag

Posted by George J Janczyn on January 6, 2010

Last October 14 the city of San Diego filed a lawsuit against numerous parties that it considered responsible for payment of cleanup costs for extensive contamination of San Diego Bay. At the time, San Diego CityBeat noted that the city had been in the midst of mediated settlement discussions, asking why would a lawsuit be filed if a settlement was in the works?

That was a good question. Today’s U-T news that the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board is proposing to let the polluters off the hook for 86% of the contamination originally targeted certainly marginalizes the lawsuit. Inexplicably, the Union-Tribune article about this says “Critics contend that the new approach reflects a common tactic by industry: threatening litigation and stalling costly environmental projects until new, more business-friendly regulators take office. ”

A new approach by industry? On the contrary, this proposal seems to be a capitulation to industrial polluters and it would render the nearly-bankrupt city’s lawsuit against the polluters, um, bankrupt.

(Click here for links to additional background information)


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Update on the ruling affecting water transfers from Imperial to San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 14, 2009

[This is an update, correction, and later update (!) to my earlier post “Legal challenge threatens water transfer between Imperial and San Diego.” Here’s the link for the Superior Court’s tentative ruling.]

From my reading, the ruling appears to not invalidate the QSA legislation itself, it invalidates the subsequent contracts for water transfers that depend on the QSA, especially Contract J (the Environmental Cost Sharing, Funding, and Habitat Conservation Development Agreement (“ECSA”)) because it would impose upon the state an unconditional and unlimited obligation to pay environmental mitigation expenses without requiring legislative approval, which would be contrary to the state constitution. Although this is a temporary ruling subject to an additional hearing for comments scheduled for Thursday Dec 17, my sense is that it will be made permanent, and if that happens it would seem any further water transfers will be in real jeopardy of being stopped unless/until the contract deficiencies can be corrected.

**Additional late update:

Statements from SDCWA indicate that the judge only ruled on a narrow legal issue in one of the 13 agreements that were up for validation and it is unlikely water will stop flowing if this ruling becomes permanent. However, the ruling clearly states that the other agreements are totally interdependent and thus also invalid. Quote:

“With the QSA JPA being the principal mitigation funding mechanism for the QSA and with IID expressly stating that the other contractual QSA commitments would not have been made but for the commitments of the State in the QSA JPA, the Court finds the remaining 11 contracts to be interdependent with the QSA JPA to the point of requiring that all 11 remaining contracts must also be invalidated. The Court’s finding here is consistent with IID’s pleading in the Second Amended Validation Complaint, paragraph 23, that all of the contracts in question are “interrelated and interdependent”. [emphasis mine]

[Dec 24: Imperial Irrigation District votes to appeal the ruling]

[Dec 29: IID director rescinds vote; board to revote on appeal question in January]


[Jan 5: Imperial Irrigation District seeks Quantification Settlement Agreement resolution]

Posted in Environment, Imperial Irrigation District, Land use, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Salton Sea, Water | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Legal challenge threatens water transfer between Imperial and San Diego

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 11, 2009

An important supplemental source of water for San Diego appears to be one step closer to being cut off. A Superior Court judge has issued a tentative ruling that the Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA) that opened the door to water transfers from the Imperial Irrigation District to San Diego is invalid. [please see my Dec 14 update]

There is also a federal lawsuit regarding the transfer, although no decisions have yet been made in that case (see my November 11 report for background information on the lawsuits and QSA ).

According to a report by the Silicon Valley Mercury News, Dennis Cushman, a manager with the San Diego County Water Authority, said “The water is flowing and will continue to flow indefinitely until the legal issues are sorted out,” he said. “There’s no panic button to press right now.”

The judge will hear arguments next Thursday before deciding whether to make the tentative ruling permanent. If he decides to do so, will that be the panic button?

Posted in Environment, Imperial Irrigation District, Land use, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Salton Sea, Water | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

San Vicente Dam photo tour

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 18, 2009

The San Diego County Water Authority has posted a photographic tour of the San Vicente Dam Raising Project. Click here to see it.

The November Lakeside Community Planning Group Update also has a few pictures.

I’m on the waiting list for a tour, and will post photos and more detail here afterwards.

My earlier posts on the project:


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East County wind farms

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 15, 2009

San Diego’s U-T reported today (Wind farm plan irks activists) that “a remote corner of East County is shaping up as a battleground between companies pushing wind farms as clean and cheap power generators and activists who view them as a blight on the landscape.”

East County was shaping up as a battleground over wind power quite a while ago, as reported in a well-documented three-part account from East County Magazine last February (Part I, Part II, Part III). That report thoroughly explains what’s already done, what’s in development, and what’s being proposed from a variety of perspectives.

One of those the newer projects being planned, the Invenergy Campo Project was announced June 11 with Invenergy’s press release coinciding with a U-T story on the project.

The latest U-T article mentions Iberdrola Renewables as having the plan “drawing the most attention” but doesn’t clarify if that means there are other proposals for that specific site and Iberdrola is getting the most attention, or if Iberdrola’s project is just drawing more attention in comparison to the other completed or in development projects (Iberdrola’s website has no mention of its own plans either).

I’m also curious about the possibility of alternative-style wind turbines such as those produced by Helix Wind and described in this SD Daily Transcript article (a design that greatly reduces the risk to birds). Are alternative designs such as these being considered in any of the new proposals?


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Water transfer from Imperial to San Diego faces new legal challenges

Posted by George J Janczyn on November 10, 2009


Lower Otay reservoir and dam

A Superior Court lawsuit filed yesterday (Monday) in Sacramento adds to the pressure from a legal challenge filed last month in federal court over the San Diego/Imperial water transfer agreement, which already has been controversial and subject to previous lawsuits.

In 2003, the San Diego County Water Authority (CWA) signed a water transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District (IID) in order to bolster supplies in the face of increasing demand and disappearing surplus Colorado River water it had relied on. According to SDCWA’s Fact Sheet the transfer started in 2003 at 10,000 acre-feet of water and was intended to eventually move up to 200,000 acre-feet (AF) of water per year to San Diego County, plus another 77,700 AF per year drawn from conserved water that would result from the lining of the All-American and Coachella canals which were losing water to seepage.

The federal lawsuit filed Oct. 9 by the Imperial County Air Pollution Control District and the county of Imperial seeks to stop water transfers until guarantees to meet air quality laws, among other demands, are satisfied. The second lawsuit filed yesterday challenges the water agencies’ legal authority to enter into the deal and also concerns environmental issues. The Metropolitan Water District (MWD) and Coachella Valley Water Department (CVWD) were also parties to the transfer agreement and would be affected by these lawsuits.


Salton Sea

The environmental concerns relate to reduced agricultural runoff into the Salton Sea which results in a lower water level exposing polluted shoreline soil that dries out and scatters as dust in the wind, harming air quality in the valley. Salton Sea water quality, effect on wildlife, and other environmental concerns are also at issue.

I don’t know how the lawsuits might address opposition from farmers and other residents who fear the effects less water would have on their economic well-being and quality-of-life.

Filing the lawsuit at the federal level adds the involvement of the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Reclamation as well.

One thing seems sure: with our increasing demand on limited water resources, transfers between agricultural and urban agencies are increasingly attractive, especially when some 80% of California’s water is used by agriculture, and much of that is invested in high water use crops like alfalfa, rice, and cotton–not necessarily the best economic use for the water–and Colorado River surplus water that we previously had temporary access to is no longer surplus. Indeed, another transfer for San Diego is underway: CWA is aquiring 20,000 AF from Placer County near Sacramento under an existing one-year agreement. Perhaps such transfers will give us needed time to exercise more restraint in urban expansion and population growth without having to resort to more drastic rationing measures. I hope so.

[Two links added Nov 12]

Former IID director, Imperial County supervisor clash over QSA suit

A Reader Writes: Wrong lawsuit, wrong valley

Additional information sources: announcement of lawsuit

Colorado River Water Transfer Agreement

CWA documentation on the QSA (aka Colorado River Quantification Settlement Agreement)

IID documentation on the QSA

CVWD documentation on the QSA

Why the county is in court / Antonio Rossman, reader viewpoint, in IVPressOnline

Imperial County, Air Pollution Control District’s federal lawsuit challenges Imperial Irrigation District water transfer / David Steffen in IVPressOnline

More lawsuits, more money / Opinion, IVPressOnline

Bruvold: the professor’s off a bit / VoiceOfSanDiego

UC 2003 report on controversy surrounding the agreement

Salton Sea Ecosystem Restoration Program Environmental Impact Report

Salton Sea Coalition report

California Resources Agency report on Salton Sea ecosystem restoration

Posted in Environment, Imperial Irrigation District, Land use, Politics, Quantification Settlement Agreement (QSA), Salton Sea, Water | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Print news is old news

Posted by George J Janczyn on October 30, 2009

The Mission Times Courier is a monthly (11 times per year) community newspaper that is delivered to 22,500 homes in eastern San Diego neighborhoods including San Carlos. It’s a nice paper to peruse for local happenings, but it does run into trouble when it chooses to run stories that are time-sensitive.


The small lot is on the extreme right

The October 23 issue now appearing in driveways has a front-page article headlined “Councilmember Blasts Mayor over Winter Homeless Shelter Location” and the first line quotes a press release by Councilmember Marti Emerald that says “the location chosen by the Mayor’s office is absolutely inappropriate for a winter homeless shelter.”

The location is a small lot next door to the San Carlos Branch Public Library at the corner of Jackson and Golfcrest Drives. The small lot previously held a gas station and was designated for a future (distant!) expansion of the library, but is presently used for private parking by nearby apartment/condo residents.

No further details are provided in the paper. Marti Emerald’s website has only the press release.

The problem with the paper’s story is that the San Diego City Council decided on October 13 to place the emergency winter shelter in East Village, east of the Gaslamp Quarter.

Considering the Courier’s wide distribution, headline, and story many local residents could believe that San Carlos was chosen (unless they’ve been following the issue all along) especially since the San Carlos angle on the homeless shelter story wasn’t brought out in local news stories anyway (please correct me if I’m wrong about that). Online, the Courier’s website has no mention of this development either, other than an obscure note saying “Our thanks to everyone who wrote to Mayor Sanders about not using the parking lot at Jackson and Golfcrest for a homeless shelter. It was not a good selection.”

Community print newspapers with infrequent circulation should definitely steer away from breaking news items.

Posted in Land use, Newspapers, Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »