Who is Responsible for Restoration?

To All,

This was a perennial problem at the City Council level – we’d approve mitigations which involved the developer handing over the restoration or replacement project to the city’s jurisdiction, but no funding for maintenance in perpetuity was ever put in place. Nor were there really clear conditions of approval which set minimum, measurable standards and criteria for success, and any mechanism to go back to the developers for adjustments or funding after the initial 3 or 5 year break in period. It was frequently (particularly for wetlands) left in the hands of the RWQCB for enforcement, and, of course, they don’t have the staffing to go very far with it.

And if there was recourse, it was usually at the cost to the homeowners or tenants or new building owners, not to the developer. Thus the regulators don’t like to do that, either.

I frequently proposed that if there were to be entitlements for development granted that involved any compromise to ‘public trust resources’, that the developer was liable – in perpetuity – for funding any retrofits or corrections or maintenance. This meant proposing that they bond (for X years, the expected lifespan of the project) for the full costs of restoration to the agreed upon standards of ‘success’ over X number of years, and/or that they set up a funding mechanism in perpetuity for maintenance (including professional oversight and periodic reports). This could be a Lighting and Landscape Assessment District (LLAD) or some other special benefits assessment district directly related to the project. Developer pays for costs of setting these up, of course, under California law (usually requiring a majority vote of the property owners within the district boundaries; the vote is by acreage). Of course, a special benefits assessment district winds up being paid for in the long run by the new landowners, not the original developer, unless the developers are required to front-load the capital funding of the district.

These legal mechanisms already exist, but are rarely used.

I made some progress with it in my last year on council, but that was abandoned rapidly when I left the council.

The developer enjoys the privilege of developing in the community, and in exchange must cover the costs of seeing to the successful protection, restoration, replacement and monitoring of the public trust resources impacted by the project. It’s a fair trade, in my opinion, deluded as I may be, but one well worth trying to get officials and staff to adopt as part of their project approval process.

Otherwise, it becomes an unfunded mandate on the existing and future taxpayers, or, more likely, it becomes yet another failed environmental project. As a result, the environmental objectives of mitigations or protections mandated under CEQA or NEPA reviews are rarely met as proposed (particularly for wetlands ‘creations’). The public trust and community loses, the project proponent gets off the hook, and the taxpayers wind up shortchanged, again.

I agree strongly with “Mom’s Rule #1: Clean up your own mess.”


Two thoughts:
The county has been remiss in assessing (requiring bonds) for post anything clean up. It tends to be inadequate in timing and amount. The “Montessori Method” of clean up is not out of the question and a bill like this was introduced years ago by Assembly member Hauser. It didn’t pass – but if we could raise this in the public eye vs. our paying for clean up, it might be more successful. And the county needs to be more clear about monitoring and bonding so that mitigations and clean up can actually occur.

Not for profits who enjoy the “funding trough” might like the land use reform fine if they had access to other resources and possibly access to some of the protected lands and/or resources to continue their projects. They might ultimately benefit by being part of the solution if they were awarded the contracts to deal with a post project site.

Just thoughts.

Have a great day, Rue

Hi Larry et al:
Restoration only happens when subsidized by tax payers. I do not agree with this. One reason is that we can not afford to go around cleaning up the mess resulting from the thoughtless ( and/or thoughtful but misguided) actions of land abusers. Never the less fixes do not occur without big money from the government.

Do you have any suggestions on how to fix this problem? I feel stuck on this issue as my sentiments match yours on this. But, I have notice that every restoration effort in the state has been subsidized, in part, by public funds.

One side bar on his issue is that beneficiaries of this subsidized process do not respond well to supporting land use reform as they see a political downside to supporting land use reform with loss at the funding trough. Examples of this are the Laguna Foundation, Santa Rosa Creek Plan, and forestry THP related restoration projects.

You will see more language on this in the Regional Board Sediment Work Plan – that we should support. I will give a write up on this effort – soon.

Alan Levine

To All,

BMPs should include NO more draw down of surface waters by way of wells or appropriations….Restoration is ineffectual when new diversions are allowed in already over appropriated sheds….grading of private roads on the tax payers’ dime is a boondoggle, and those funds need to be directed toward enforcement, preservation, and conservation

Hi All,
I was just sent this attached draft report and wanted to forward it along to you all for your perusal and opinions hmmm…..????

Attached is a copy of the draft report that you requested. This
current draft, only contains the first of two parts. The current
materials assess the conditions of steelhead habitat in 12 project
streams and they prioritize recommended restoration activities to
protect and enhance those habitats. It is our intention to work with
the Salmon Coalition and others to develop recommended Best Mgmt
Practices for agricultural activities in the project watersheds. I’d
welcome any comments that you might have.
Bill Hearn