Billionaire seeks referendum on Calif. AG's growth settlement

Legal News Line Sep. 22, 2008, 1:49pm

Jerry Brown (D)

STOCKTON, Calif. (Legal Newsline)-Alex Spanos probably isn't the first billionaire critic of California Attorney General Jerry Brown, but right now, he is the most willing to do more than talk about his concerns.

Spanos, the owner of the San Diego Chargers and a giant construction company based in this Central Valley city, has funded a petition drive seeking to thwart a recent agreement reached between the city and the attorney general's office.

The A.G. Spanos Co. is backing a campaign to force a referendum on the City Council's settlement with Brown regarding its General Plan.

Despite protests from the building and business community, the City Council voted 4-3 to approve the settlement, which is designed to advance green building codes, reduce greenhouse gas emissions on all future building projects, and direct growth back into the city downtown in an effort to limit urban sprawl.

The City Council reached the agreement after its initial General Plan, adopted in December, was the subject of a lawsuit brought by the Sierra Club. Brown had threatened to join the suit if the council didn't amend it to better address the environmental impact of future development.

While Brown hailed the victory as a model for California cities and counties to follow in drafting their own General Plans, Spanos launched a drive to have the issue placed before city voters.

Spanos formed a group called the Alliance for Responsible Planning, which began a petition drive.

The Stockton Record reported that the organization is using paid signature gathers to boost the effort, as well as offering misleading statements about the settlements supposed impact on taxes. The agreement does not call for a tax increase.

Stockton Mayor Ed Chavez, a supporter of the agreement reached with Brown, said the petition drive's "fact sheet" misrepresents the agreement.

"I'm not sure where they're even coming up with that," he told The Record.

Stockton, located less than 90 miles from both Sacramento and San Francisco, is experiencing rapid growth as more people leave the larger cities in search of lower home prices and reduced density. The city could double its population in fewer than 30 years according to census data.

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