Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Prof. Shaun Martin & 5th St W.

Shaun Martin -- great job, good education, probably 
a nice family. At least he's balding.  
Shaun Martin's a nice guy. I don't know him personally, but I do have evidence to support that fact. Shaun teaches law at the University of San Diego, which should make anyone dislike him as a threshold matter due to pure jealousy.  However, Shaun drags himself nearly daily away from his splendidly magnificent career choice to maintain a blog where he reviews the latest (when I say latest, I mean "last few hours") decisions from the California Courts of Appeal, and the 9th Circuit.  He usually picks out one case, links to the opinion, and explains (very briefly) an interesting or useful point the case illustrates.  Sometimes it's a technical civil procedure point, sometimes it's a nuance of criminal law, and sometimes it's an example of lawyers behaving (very) badly.  It is consistently interesting and very useful as a legal research tool.

Back around Halloween, Shaun picked up on a case from the California Court of Appeal entitled Tuolomne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Superior Ct. (Cal. Ct. App. - Oct. 30, 2012). The case concerns projects that are approved by the voters in a voter-sponsored initiative, which are exempt from having to prepare an environmental impact report.  So far, so good.  As some California political types are doubtless aware, that procedure's been used by business (Wal-Mart is an example) to an increasing degree in California, where paid signature gatherers get fifteen percent of the voters sign a petition supporting their construction project.  City Councils, instead of putting the measure on the ballot, then adopt the initiative as a statute in lieu of an election.  Question -- do you still get out of the environmental impact report then? The Tuolomne Jobs court says "No."  Shaun thinks the California State Supreme Court will take this one up (and he's probably right, because this is a big deal), and will probably adopt the Tuolomne Jobs opinion, which will diminish (but I doubt stop) the business-oriented use of the local initiative process.

No appeal has yet been filed, but I suspect it will be coming in the next thirty days. Nice catch, Mr. Martin.

The availability of an initiative, from a Sonoma perspective, came to my mind because of what's taking place at 5th St W at Studley.  The Sonoma Index-Tribune did an outstanding writeup on the City Council's meeting, which included a statement from the (outgoing) Public Works director stating that the City of Sonoma "believes existing conditions are safe” and expressed the belief that no structural changes “can make them safer," but at the same time stating that there is reasonable cause to evaluate the intersection further through a new traffic study. The Council did not commission a new traffic study (yet) despite the statement from the Public Works Director that such a new study is reasonable. It may very well be that the City Council is waiting until its newly elected members are seated in December before tackling this issue -- but this is not something that should go very far beyond then, and it's nice to know that something like the initiative process is available in a worst-case scenario if the City persistently fails to act.

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