Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Attend the CDF hearing tomorrow if you can - help stop the Los Gatos Creek logging project!

Below is an Action Alert that will be posted on the regular part of our website, but because of the press of time, I'm posting it here right away.



Dear Friends,

The San Jose Water Company wants permission to log, in perpetuity, 1,000 acres of redwood and Douglas-Fir trees near Los Gatos Creek in Santa Clara County. Please attend a hearing TOMORROW, January 31st, if you can, and/or write both the California Department of Forestry and Santa Clara County to ask them to fight this destructive project.

What’s Happening

San Jose Water Company proposes to log 1,000 acres near Lexington Reservoir, in an area used as an important water source for thousands of County residents. The plan would give the company permanent rights to repeatedly log various parts of the property on a rotating basis – even if problems are discovered later, the plan cannot be amended by government authorities. The proposal would remove nearly half of the trees that are over three feet in diameter and many smaller trees, a controversial provision that maximizes profit but could significantly increase fire risk. The logging proposal will damage environmental values and threaten water quality, and could even bring sprawl development to the hillsides.

Why This is Important

While almost all of the old-growth forest is gone from this area, much of it was logged over a century ago and is now regaining environmental significance. Removing large trees can dry out the forest and increase the undergrowth that fuels dangerous fires, so the alleged fire benefits of the project are disputed by leading fire scientists. Besides potentially impairing water quality for thousands of people, the plan could destroy water sources for hundreds of rural residents – this would invite the extension of city services up into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Hillside sprawl could then follow. Ultimately, these lands should be purchased and protected, but that may be impossible if a destructive timber plan is approved.

What You Can Do

Attend the California Department of Forestry hearing TOMORROW, if you can, and send comments opposing the plan to CDF (something you can do even if you can’t go to the hearing).

1. Attend the CDF hearing TOMORROW, if you can, and announce your polite-but-firm opposition to the plan when public comment is received. The hearing will be at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, January 31, 2007 at Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Chambers, 70 W. Hedding St., San Jose.

2. Please write, fax or email CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FORESTRY by February 7th and ask them to deny this plan. Ask instead of the logging that CDF and Santa Clara County support a “Community Fire Plan” that brings together multiple groups to determine the best ways to manage fire risks. Send your comments to:

Leslie Markham, CDF, 135 Ridgeway Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 94501

Fax: (707) 576-2608

Email: SantaRosaPublicComment@fire.ca.gov

Important! Be sure to reference Timber Plan #1-06NTMP-012 SCL

3. Santa Clara County residents should contact the Santa Clara County Supervisors and ask them to “non-concur” with a decision to approve this project. If the County takes this action, it puts the harvest under greater scrutiny. Write to:

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

County Government Center

70 W. Hedding Street, 10th Floor, East Wing

San Jose, CA 95110

Fax (408) 298-8460

Email all five Supervisors

4. Please send a copy of your message to CGF so we can track our efforts on this issue: fax 650-968-8431 or email: action@GreenFoothills.org.

To learn more:

Read the Fall 2005 Green Footnotes article warning about the upcoming plan.

Read the January 27, 2007 article in The Mercury News.

Visit the community website opposing the plan, Neighbors Against Irresponsible Logging (NAIL).

You can attempt to read the timber harvest plan, by clicking this here, and find Plan 1-06NTMP-012 SCL, although it is split into many files. You can also find comments from agencies here.

Thanks for speaking up for open space. Your voice does make a difference!

-the folks at Committee for Green Foothills

Monday, January 22, 2007

Not really our issue, but funny

A public service announcement on energy efficiency.

I could argue that efficient land use patterns are also part of a larger effort for energy efficiency, but mostly I'm posting this for the humor value.


UPDATE: On a more serious and somewhat more-related note, San Jose wrestles with its ineffective tree protection ordinances and procedures. While street trees aren't a central part of CGF's mission either, it's related to the problem of people cutting down trees in sensitive areas without permits.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Prop. 90 returns, and it may be even worse

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association has filed papers to circulate a new anti-environment Initiative to replace the failed Proposition 90 (interestingly, they don't make any mention of this on their own website). Proposition 90 would have stopped many new environmental regulations on destructive land use, and we joined many other environmental groups in successfully opposing the measure.

Original rumors were that the new version would just focus on taking private property for private economic interests, a less controversial issue, but the proponents seem to have decided instead that the problem with Prop. 90 is that it didn't go far enough in in stopping environmental regulation.

The petition is here. Some commentary on the proposal here:

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed a new initiative to amend California's Constitution. This is a repeat of the just-defeated Proposition 90, only worse. Like Proposition 90, the proposed initiative would hamstring government regulations of all kinds — from rent controls to land-use zoning. But unlike Proposition 90, it would apply to existing laws and regulations — not just future ones.

And here:

In the last election, opponents of Prop 90 successfully argued that it would throw out any new land-use or zoning regulations that prevented real estate developers from making as much money as they wanted. So the Jarvis Association put in some language in their initiative that sounds like it won’t apply to such protections. But by doing so it creates some extra hurdles for government to prove that their actions are constitutional – and would allow right-wing judges to throw out any land use regulations that they don’t like.

The Jarvis Initiative says that its new definition for “damages” would not apply to land-use, planning, zoning or use restrictions – if they “substantially advance a legitimate government interest.” But current law presumes that land use regulations are rationally related to a state interest, and property owners who challenge them have the burden to prove that it is not. While it sounds like the Jarvis Initiative is less extreme than Prop 90, it would actually force government to prove how each and every one of its land-use regulations advance a substantial interest. Even a unanimous Supreme Court in Lingle v. Chevron (2005) agreed that such a standard is excessive.

The website I just quoted has this statement that I'm not sure about:

But the worst part of this initiative is that it is retroactive. Whereas Prop 90 was careful to limit its scope only to new laws or regulations, the Jarvis initiative says that “any action by a public agency” that was passed before the election and “results in continued damage to private property” will be “null and void.” Sensible protections that have been in place before the Jarvis initiative goes into effect could be considered a “continuing damage” to private property. Every protection that Californians currently take for granted are in jeopardy because of this provision.

That language isn't in the petition posted on the State Attorney General website I linked to above (UPDATE: see bottom of the post, turns out I was wrong). There is another anti-environment initiative in circulation, Petition 1233, that "[r]equires public entity taking private property to compensate owner at owner’s stated value, without limitation or review." There may be confusion between the two versions. Even without the language though, this new version appears retroactive - it just requires compensation instead of nullification.

I've read through the initiative, and the key issue is that "damage" must be compensated if a land use restriction denies any "reasonable investment-backed expection" (amendment to Sec. 19(b)(2)(ii) of Article I). If someone's grandfather bought a ranch in the Mount Diablo Range in 1900 with the then-reasonable expectation of subdividing it into one-acre lots, Santa Clara County's decision in the 1970's to stop that kind of hillside development will subject the County to liability in 2008 - if this initiative passes.

I also agree that the procedural changes are significant. Section 19(c) gets rid of deference to governmental agency findings and allows evidence outside the administrative record. Allowing outside evidence is a two-edged sword, because the agency can use it to cure a finding not supported by the record. That particular provision will benefit rich corporations and individuals attempting to drown agencies in litigation, while working against poor landowners with few legal resources.

It remains to be seen whether this initiative will even make it to the ballot, but we'll obviously have to watch it.


UPDATE: The "null and void" language is in the initiative after all, in the Effective Date section I had skimmed too quickly.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Welcome to 2007!

Lot's going on in this new year in Santa Clara County. Coyote Valley will be hot, as will the Santa Clara County LAFCo's decision whether to require mitigation for the loss of farmland. Developer proposals will come to the table and we'll have to decide what to do about them. There are even projects we're aware of but have not decided whether we should get more involved - Mountain View Farm, Evergreen development, and more. Some ongoing issues - water quality issues, and the County-wide Habitat Conservation Plan - will continue to require attention.

We'll keep you informed, and we'll be asking for help - see you around, maybe both in the virtual and real worlds!