City wins legal right to vote on plan for growth

Legal News Line Sep. 9, 2008, 11:13am

Jerry Brown (D)

STOCKTON, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - A last-minute court appeal to block a deal over future growth hammered out between the city of Stockton and the Attorney General Jerry Brown and the Sierra Club failed Monday.

Christine Gasparac, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office, confirmed the court denied a request filed by the Building Industry Association of the Delta to block a council vote on a General Plan that will require the city to reduce the environmental impact of development.

Brown joined environmental groups that opposed the city of Stockton's December adoption of its General Plan, claiming it would encourage urban sprawl. He threatened to sue the city if changes in the plan could not be reached.

The city council first reviewed the new plan at its Aug. 26 meeting. At that time it voted to table approval of the plan until Tuesday's meeting. Minor revisions were made in the interim.

"This is been a long process and we have everyone on board for this," Gasparac told Legal Newsline. "The mayor and the city manager support it and the city council will vote on it tomorrow. We are strongly supporting this agreement."

Builders and developers claim the new General Plan will thwart business in the city and block future development. The builders association argued in court that it should have been involved in negotiations that created the plan.

Building Industry Association of the Delta Executive Director John Beckman said he was not surprised by Brown's involvement.

"Following his success in San Bernardino it is not surprising that he would seek a larger success," Berkman told LNL following the court's ruling on Monday.

"What is surprising," he continued, "is how quickly and completely the city staff has chosen to bow down at the feet of Jerry Brown."

Berkman said he was "shocked" that the city changed a plan that took five years and included input from hundreds of residents after a few meeting with Brown.

"This settlement gives away everything the attorney general asked for," Berkman said.

According to published reports, one of the most vocal critics of the new General Plan was Steve Herum, an attorney representing a large construction company and other pro-business advocates.

Herum blamed the city of bowing to pressure from the attorney general, and that the new plan would have a "chilling effect" on business.

But supporters of the plan say it allows for controlled growth, while lessening the environmental impact.

The Sierra Club said the original plan called for subdivisions out to the city's limits and would double the city population by 2035.

Brown, according to published reports, met frequently with Mayor Ed Chavez, City Manager Gordon Palmer and City Attorney Ren Nosky to rework the plan.

If the council approves the revised plan, it would require the city council to take into account environmental consequences of future development, including the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the implementation of so-called green building standards and balancing suburban growth with urban infill.

Earlier this year, Brown was attacked in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that said the attorney general was waging a war on California's suburbs. Brown fired back with an opinion article of his own in response, saying his call for a new energy policy is not a war on suburbs.

"No thoughtful person can really question the fact that we must grow smarter, with more efficient and less polluting transportation," he wrote. "Nor, in a time of escalating food prices, can we afford to wantonly plow over irreplaceable farmland. That is why I make no apologies for promoting efficient building standards, renewable energy, and communities that work for people and businesses, not just oil companies."

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