Sylvia McLaughlin

By John Briscoe

Sylvia McLaughlin was godmother of the modern environmental movement in the United States. In that way I introduced her to audiences many times, including the time the Bay Planning Coalition presented her the Frank Boerger Award, to her everlasting delight.

But Sylvia would ever correct me by saying it was Kay Kerr and Esther Gulick who midwifed that movement beginning in 1960, a full 10 years before the first Earth Day, with only a bit of help from her. Sylvia was, in fact, the fiercest of those three tigresses but regardless, the three did usher in the movement when they founded the Save San Francisco Bay Association, which became remarkable for several reasons.More

February 1, 2016
California Coastal Commission Forces Constitutional Dilemma On Beachfront Property Owners

By Peter Prows and Max Rollens

For coastal homeowners, this year’s El Niño means heavy surf and greater-than-average rainfall, which, when combined, can wreak havoc upon beachfront properties. Although many homeowners sit protected behind adequate seawalls, others lie exposed, vulnerable to these winter storms. When the time comes to repair or replace a seawall, coastal property owners need to understand the complex policies and procedures of the Coastal Act—and, if the Coastal Commission gets its way in a pending California Supreme Court case, may also need to give up constitutional rights. (Briscoe Ivester & Bazel LLP is representing, as amici in the case, the organizations Coastal Property Owners of Santa Cruz County, Beach and Bluff Conservancy, Protect the, and Seacoast Preservation Association.More

December 15, 2015
State Lands Commission to Make Itself Judge of Who Owns What Land

By John Briscoe

The State Lands Commission, charged with administering some of the tide and submerged lands owned by the State, is constructing its own administrative proceeding to decide who owns land the Commission claims is owned by the State. Boundaries of lands near water—or formerly near water, for that matter—are often difficult to ascertain. Ownership is equally often in legitimate dispute. Until now, the Commission would sue in an independent court to determine who actually owned the land it claimed. The proposed administrative proceeding, in which the Commission will be both prosecutor and judge, will have broad powers to extract fines of $1,000 per day or more from persons who do not readily acquiesce in the State’s land claims, and agree to give over their lands. More

June 5, 2015
California Enacts Historic Groundwater Legislation In The Midst Of A Historic Drought

By Peter Prows

In the midst of a historic drought, California groundwater law is undergoing historic changes. This past year, the California Legislature, for the first time, enacted comprehensive groundwater legislation requiring that groundwater be regulated to achieve “sustainable groundwater management”. While landowners can take some comfort in the Legislature’s stated intent to respect existing groundwater rights, landowners should be aware that the legislation authorizes agencies to restrict or even stop existing groundwater uses. More

December 5, 2014
Court Rules That Constitution Does Not Empower Federal Government To Regulate A Threatened Species Living Only Within One State

By David Ivester

A federal district court in Utah has ruled in People for the Ethical Treatment of Property Owners v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service that Congress’s constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce does not enable the federal government to regulate under the Endangered Species Act a species that lives entirely in one state and that has no substantial effect on interstate commerce. More

November 24, 2014
Coastal Commission’s Enforcement Orders Against Drakes Bay Oyster Company Invalidated By Marin County Superior Court

By Peter Prows

The California Coastal Commission had a most frustrating week. After decades of lobbying the Legislature, the Commission finally gained new powers to impose administrative penalties on people who violate certain provisions of the Coastal Act. But, just six days later, the Marin County Superior Court imposed significant restrictions on the Commission’s entire enforcement program. More

June 30, 2014
Construction of Residential Housing “Can’t Be Fast Enough” For San Francisco

By William Most

If San Francisco’s mayor has his way, the city is about to enter a major residential construction boom. According to Mayor Ed Lee, the city is suffering from a housing shortage that has led to pent-up demand and price escalation. To combat that shortage, the mayor recently set a goal of 30,000 new or rehabilitated homes by 2020 — an ambitious target, considering that the city’s chief economist says that only 100,000 new units have been built in San Francisco since the 1920s. More

April 3, 2014
Scoping The Scope Of Easements

By Richard Wallace

Recent developments in the law of easements may affect property owners whose land is subject to an easement or is benefited by an easement on someone else’s land. Easements come in multiple shapes and sizes, and affect almost all real property in some form or another. If the scope of an easement is not clearly defined, it may be determined by the actual use of the easement. More

February 26, 2014
Bird’s Eye View: Federal Government Focuses on Wind Energy

By David Ivester

Two recent developments signal the federal government’s increased attention to the effects of wind energy projects on birds, including collisions with wind turbines, towers, and power lines, electrocution, and abandonment of nests and habitat. First, on November 22, 2013, Duke Energy Renewables pleaded guilty to criminal violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act by killing 14 golden eagles and 149 other protected birds in the operation of two wind energy projects in Wyoming. Duke agreed with the Department of Justice to pay $1 million in fines and other payments in this first criminal prosecution of a wind project for bird deaths. More

January 10, 2014


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