President's weekly report — March 28, 2014

March 28, 2014 | By ROB RIVETT

Endangered Species Act — Saving Lolita 

PLF filed this comment letter on the attempt by some radical greens to exploit Lolita, or at least to evict this Killer Whale from Miami’s Seaquarium , where she has been thriving for thirty years.  Her release into the wild could wellmean that her survival would be in doubt.  As our blog explains, because Lolita is property of its owners, a forced release has significant takings implications.  Moreover, regulating privately owned animals is bad for species recovery because it frustrates private, free-market oriented efforts.
Endangered Species Act — The Arroyo Toad
In response to a PLF petition and lawsuit, the Fish & Wildlife Service proposed to downlist the Arroyo Toad from endangered to threatened.  This action was over five years in the making.  First PLF had to sue to force F&WS to do a five-year review of the species, then it had to sue to demand that the species be downlisted — supported by the conclusions of F&WS’s own review.
Property Rights — California Coastal Commission

We had an adverse decisionthis week from the Court of Appeal in SDS Family Trust v. California Coastal Commission.  The Court ruled that the family could not challenge the mile-long easement imposed on its property because the family should have appealed years ago, when another conditioned permit was issued.  We think the Court misunderstood the facts here, and are assessing our options.

Property Rights — Mandatory “Affordable Housing”

Several amicus briefs were filed in our challenge to mandatory “affordable housing” mandates in California Building Association – Bay Area v. San Jose.  The requirement that builders of market-rate homes build or subsidize “affordable housing,” here with fees over $100,000 per unit, reflects the economic illiteracy of the proponents.  This amicus brief from the National Association of Homebuilders  is especially helpful in demonstrating that these  mandates raise the market price of homes — only exacerbating any shortage of affordable housing.

Property Rights — Illegal Taxes

We filed our complaint and petition for writ of mandate in California Building Industry — Bay Area v. City of San Ramon.  In this case the City is imposing a new special property tax district, which will levy a tax on landowners of undeveloped lots without providing any additional services.  The Mello-Roos Act specifically forbids such a “pay something – get nothing” special property tax.   And because the proceeds will be used for general government services, the tax also violates California’s Proposition 218, which requires voter approval for “general” taxes.  While we have sympathy for the fact that San Ramon is feeling a bit tight these days because its having trouble coming up with the money to pay for its generous pension promises to its employees, forcing landowners to cough up illegal taxes is not the way to pay off this debt.

Environment — Clean Air Act

We filed our opening brief this week in the D.C. Circuit in California Construction Trucking Association v. EPA, our challenge to EPA’s Light Duty Vehicle Regulations.  Those are the regulations designed to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gasses believed to contribute to global warming.  All regulations must be enacted in accordance with specific procedures set out by statute.  Here, these regulations bypassed as specific step — preadoption review by the Science Advisory Board.  Our clients will be severely impacted by these regulations so it is only fair that they be adopted pursuant to lawful procedures.