Monthly Archives: March 2012

Traffic Amnesty Program

Last year Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1358 into law which authorizes the one-time Amnesty Program allowing for people who owe traffic tickets prior to January 2009 to pay the traffic tickets for 50% off the amount they owe starting in January 2012 ending June 30, 2012. The amnesty program does NOT eliminate points. You can pay in whatever form is customary in your county, which may include credit card, cash, cashier’s checks, money orders, and personal checks. You must pay the full 50% of amounts due in one lump payment. To see if you are eligible contact the Superior Court in the county where the violation occurred

Only traffic tickets that were due to be paid prior to January 1, 2009 are eligible. Parking tickets, driving under the influence (DUI), and reckless driving cases are NOT eligible.

To qualify for the 50% discount, all of the following conditions must be met:

  • You have an outstanding traffic case that was due to be paid in full prior to January 1, 2009;
  • You either failed to appear in court, or failed to pay in full;
  • The last date you made a payment was on or before January 1, 2009;
  • You don’t owe restitution to a victim on any case within the county were the traffic case was filed;
  • You have no outstanding misdemeanour or felony warrants within the county were the traffic case was filed.

For more information on this program, visit the Superior Court website, or call 877.541.8420.

Viewpoints: Levee upgrades offer protection at far lower cost

The Sacramento Bee: By Jeffrey Michael and Robert Pykeis

Several new reports on the condition of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta levee system, the economic value protected by the levees and the consequences of levee failures create an opportunity to rethink what it means to “fix” the Delta.

Seismic upgrades to most lowland Delta levees would protect water supplies for a fraction of the cost of a tunnel or canal to transfer water to the Central Valley and Southern California. Upgraded, wide levees would also improve habitat by supporting appropriate vegetation. These improved levees, combined with expanded flood bypasses, would create a cost-effective, eco-friendly flood control system in the Delta.

In addition, fat seismic-resistant levees would help save lives in an emergency and protect other critical transportation and energy infrastructure that is overlooked in many discussions regarding the Delta.

The Delta Protection Commission recently completed an economic sustainability plan, as required by the 2009 Delta Reform Act. The plan found that Delta levees need significant new investment, but also found that the levee system is in far better condition than typically portrayed.

Several hundred million dollars have been invested by the state and local reclamation districts in improving Delta levees, and the performance of the system has significantly improved as a result. New maps and a new technical report from the state Department of Water Resources confirm the improved condition and performance of the levees.

This is in stark contrast to most news reports about the levees, which describe them as fragile, aging and deteriorating, and say their inevitable collapse will lead to a catastrophic loss in water supplies to Central Valley farms and Southern California.

According to this narrative, the best approach is to secure water supplies by building a peripheral canal or tunnel through the Delta, and that many levees should be allowed to fail or be removed as part of restoring the Delta ecosystem. The Bay Delta Conservation Plan follows this reasoning.

The Bay Delta Conservation Plan’s direct costs exceed $23 billion, not including interest and the cost to the Delta community. Despite its enormous cost, the plan does nothing to improve public safety and protect human lives, or guard against the most important economic consequences of a much feared earthquake-induced levee collapse.

The Delta Risk Management Strategy Phase 2 report was released by the Department of Water Resources in 2011 and found that disruption of water exports was only 20 percent of the economic loss from a large Delta earthquake, less than 2 percent of the loss from smaller, more common flood events, and zero percent of the loss of life from all Delta flood hazards.

Far greater economic losses would come from the loss of highways and railroads, homes and businesses, flood damage to energy infrastructure such as gas wells, pipelines and inter-regional electricity transmission lines, in-Delta crop losses and wastewater treatment plants and regional water supplies. Many of these economic disruptions would continue long after salt water was flushed out of the Delta and water exports to Southern California restored.

All of these impacts, including water export disruptions, would be substantially reduced by seismic levee upgrades in the Delta. That is why the risk management strategy Phase 2 report found levee upgrades had the highest benefit-cost ratio of Delta risk-reduction scenarios, including a peripheral canal that was assumed to cost one-third of the current estimate of $14 billion.

Rather than directing tens of billions of dollars to protecting against one part of the economic loss from a low-probability Delta disaster, it makes far more economic sense to invest an estimated $2 billion to $4 billion on improved levees that provide multiple economic and environmental benefits, and would save lives in a disaster.

Although the Bay Delta Conservation Plan is evaluating other alternatives, it is not currently examining seismic-levee upgrades as a component of an overall solution that would achieve the co-equal goals of ecosystem restoration and reliable water supply that are called for in the 2009 legislation.

Some critics label further levee investments as a “preservation of the status quo” approach. But the type of levees recommended in the economic sustainability plan would transform the Delta into a place with robust flood protection and dramatic environmental improvements along scenic tree-lined channels that provide improved habitat while boosting recreation and tourism in the Delta for all Californians.

Redevelopment – Where to Now

Last year’s budget produced a slew of new bills. Among them were two which affected Redevelopment Agencies (RDA). ABx1 26, the first of the two-bill budget package, eliminated the over 400 RDAs across the state. The second, ABx1 27, created an alternative voluntary ongoing RDA program by allowing agencies to make specified annual payments and be exempt from elimination. RDAs needed to pay the state $1.7 billion for FY 2011-12 and $400 million in subsequent budget years.

The California Redevelopment Association along with the League of California Cities and the cities of San Jose and Union City filed a petition claiming that AB 1x 26 and AB 1x 27 violate the California State Constitution, including Proposition 22.

On December 29, 2011, the California Supreme Court delivered its decision in the California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos case, finding ABx1 26 (the “Dissolution Act”) largely constitutional and ABx1 27 (the “Alternative Redevelopment Program Act”) unconstitutional. The Court’s decision means that each RDA within the State of California has been dissolved and no longer exists as of February 1, 2012.

Under the Dissolution Act all authority, rights, powers, duties and obligations of the former RDAs are to be transferred to a “successor agency”. These new agencies are charged with the responsibility of paying off the RDA’s existing debts, disposing of the properties and assets in an appropriate manner to help pay off debts and return revenues to the local government entities that receive property taxes (Schools, Fire, Special Districts and more) and winding down the affairs of the RDA. At its January 10, 2012 meeting the Oakley City Council appointed itself as the “Successor Agency”. The council is not unique in this proceeding. The law allows the sponsoring community of the RDA (in this case the City of Oakley) to become the successor agency.

Not done creating boards and or agencies, the successor agency’s activities are subject to review and approval by an oversight board. This board is to be comprised of seven people, with a makeup dictated by the Dissolution Act. An individual may simultaneously be appointed to up to five oversight boards and may hold an office in a city, county, special district, school district, or community college district. Members of the oversight boards will serve at the pleasure of the entity that appointed them and will not receive compensation or reimbursement of expenses. It is expected that members of the oversight board will serve until July, 2016. Membership of the oversight board includes:

  • Two members appointed by the County Board of Supervisors;
  • One member appointed by the largest special district (East Contra Costa Fire Protection District), in the RDA – board member Pat Anderson has been appointed;
  • One member appointed by the County Superintendent of Education – Eric Volta, Superintendent of the Liberty Union High School District has been appointed;
  • One member appointed by the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges;
  • One RDA employee appointed by the Mayor – staff member Paul Abelson has been appointed;
  • One member appointed by the Mayor – Mayor Kevin Romick has been appointed.

Under the Court’s decision, the oversight board membership must be completed by May 1, 2012. The Dissolution Act requires the oversight board to direct the successor agency to determine whether contracts, agreements or other arrangements between the former RDA and private parties should be terminated or renegotiated to reduce the successor agency’s liabilities and to increase net revenues to the taxing entities.

The actions of the oversight board will in turn be overseen by the Director of the Department of Finance and may be subject to disapproval or modification.

Decisions made by the oversight board will not be effective for three business days pending a request for review by the Department of Finance. If the department requests a review of an oversight board’s action, the department shall have ten days from the date of its request to approve the oversight board action or return it to the oversight board for reconsideration. The oversight board must maintain a website and provide specific notification to various state officials.

‘Sober Living Home’ – Why are they allowed in my neighborhood?

Recently a ‘Sober Living home’ opened in Oakley. The majority of sober living homes are privately owned and operated by an individual or small partnership. They offer an alcohol and drug free environment for post recovery addicts before returning to their former lives. The typical sober living home is a single-family residence situated in quiet neighborhoods close to shopping and public transportation. Each resident is required to be financially self-supporting, paying their own rent, and purchasing their own food. Each resident performs an assigned daily chore around the house. Rent in a sober living home ranges significantly. In this particular house each of the six residents pays $850.

At a recent City Council meeting questions were asked by nearby residents regarding the City’s ability to regulate a sober living home of six or fewer residents. The short answer is that, because of state law, the City must treat a sober living home just like any other single family residence, and may not impose any special land use regulations, fees or taxes upon its operation.

The following are excerpts from a letter sent by the City’s attorney to the council clarifying this issue.

There are several examples of state laws that preempt, or control, the ability of cities to regulate use of single family homes for special uses or occupants. Generally, these involve the care of six or fewer individuals. Such examples include:

  • Child daycare facilities with six or fewer children;
  • Assisted living for elderly persons with dementia;
  • “Sober living homes”;
  • Homes for the mentally disabled.

In each case, the State’s legislation is aimed at promoting a social goal deemed to be a matter of statewide concern. The state has therefore enacted laws that require cities to allow such uses of residential property without any special land use regulations or oversight by the local jurisdiction.

In Division 10.5 of the State Health and Safety Code, commencing at the Code’s Section 11834.20: The Legislature hereby declares that it is the policy of this state that each county and city shall permit and encourage the development of sufficient numbers and types of alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facilities as are commensurate with local need. A city may not deny a sober living home on the basis that the city believes it already has more than a sufficient number of such facilities, Ops Cal Atty Gen 07-601 (Dec. 18,2007).

Section 11834.23 continues: Whether or not unrelated persons are living together, an alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility which serves six or fewer persons shall be considered a residential use of property for the purposes of this article. In addition, the residents and operators of such a facility shall be considered a family for the purposes of any law or zoning ordinance which relates to the residential use of property pursuant to this article.
For the purpose of all local ordinances, an alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility which serves six or fewer persons shall not be included within the definition of a boarding house, rooming house, institution or home for the care of minors, the aged, or the mentally infirm, foster care home, guest home, rest home, sanitarium, mental hygiene home, or other similar term which implies that the alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment home is a business run for profit or differs in any other way from a single-family residence.

It should also be pointed out that persons recovering from alcohol and drug addictions are considered to be disabled persons under the American with Disabilities Act. Zoning actions by cities are covered by the ADA, Bay Area Addiction Research & Treatment v. City of Antioch (1999) 179 F,3d 725, and thus Oakley could face liability not only under the state law discussed above, but also under the ADA if it were found to have violated rights guaranteed under that law.

Conclusions

  • Oakley is prohibited by State law from requiring the operators of the home to obtain a conditional use permit or home occupation permit or any other land use permit.
  • Oakley may not impose any different or special fee or tax upon the sober living home.
  • Oakley must treat the sober living home in all respects as it treats any other single-family home.
  • The sober living home is not exempt from the penal laws or code enforcement, just as any other home is not exempt. Thus disturbances of the peace by way of loud music or noises can be dealt with by the Police Department, and code enforcement issues, such as accumulations of trash, weeds, abandoned cars, etc. can be abated.

Downtown Oakley Project

Last week city staff met with downtown business owners to discuss the project and coming impacts. Main Street will be limited to a single lane in each direction with landscaped medians from Vintage Parkway to Norcross. Sidewalk bulb-outs will extend the corner sidewalk at intersections. Diagonal parking will be provided on both sides of the street.

Construction of Carpaccio’s should start next Monday, March 12 with completion by the end of the year barring any unforeseen issues. La Costa will start in April and should be finished a month or so sooner than Carpaccio’s. The existing La Costa building will remain at its current location and they will be open during construction. Road construction on Main Street should start in May and finish in July or August.

Other key components include:

  • A small retail building next to Carpaccio’s
  • Public Plaza
  • Two areas of on-site parking
  • Façade improvements to CentroMart
  • Façade improvements to the Oakley Plaza

Street and sidewalk overlay #1

Street and sidewalk overlay #2