Love it or hate it, the California Environmental Quality Act is a powerful tool. The state’s tough environmental law requires developers to own up to the environmental impacts of their projects and allows various groups who oppose projects to try to push for changes.

Enter Imperial County’s solar power “gold rush.” Our Lisa Halverstadt reports how unions, environmental groups and farmers all used the law as leverage to attack large-scale solar projects they didn’t like.

Nonprofits like Backcountry Against Dumps and the Protect Our Communities Foundation, as well as a local labor union, filed eight lawsuits against Imperial Valley solar projects.

But while the lawsuits alleged environmental concerns, Halverstadt couldn’t find any obvious environmentally-friendly changes to the projects that seemed to solely result from those lawsuits. She did find, however, that the two environmental nonprofits walked away with millions of dollars in cash settlements from developers whose projects still went forward. (They maintain there were project tweaks but that those settlements keep them from talking.) And she talked to a union leader whose group filed suit against two projects he admitted hadn’t signed much sought-after project labor agreements with the union. That union leader then failed to respond to Halverstadt’s questions about the reasons behind the suits, or changes that might’ve resulted from them.

Pesky CEQA: San Diego Explained

CEQA is notorious in the state for introducing lots of tough rules and potentially impossible legal challenges to developers. This year, the California Supreme Court created a way for folks to get around the CEQA process: If they can get a ballot initiative passed, or even get enough signatures so the local city council can vote to bypass CEQA. Maya Srikrishnan joined NBC’s Monica Dean to show how a local developer used exactly that new process to get around CEQA so he could move forward with plans shopping mall in Carlsbad in our most recent San Diego Explained.

• North County residents are still suing to stop that Carlsbad development for other reasons, the Union-Tribune reports.

The Learning Curve: Principal Churn

We’ve been writing recently about how a large number of school principals have come and gone from their jobs in San Diego Unified; all told Mario Koran counts 87 principals have been replaced or moved to different roles since Superintendent Cindy Marten stepped into the job. In his most recent edition of The Learning Curve, Koran takes on a basic question of what the rules are for replacing principals in the school district.

When it comes to transferring principals out of their jobs, “Marten doesn’t have to give principals much of a reason at all, so long as they’re transferred to a position of comparable title and pay,” Koran writes. Administrators such as principals are on year-to-year contracts, and have much fewer protections than tenured teachers who are represented by a different union, he reports.

Prop. 47 Is Law, But Not Everyone’s on Board

In 2014, California voters approved Proposition 47, aiming to reclassify some crimes as misdemeanors and stem the ever-growing prison population. Caroline Ridout Stewart has written a new op-ed that highlights the need for San Diego’s justice leaders to press forward with the spirit of Prop 47, especially in the area of providing mental health services to people convicted of non-violent crimes. “Prop. 47 creates the opportunity to shift toward a more compassionate, effective and cost-effective approach to mental illness and drug addiction,” Stewart writes. That includes leveraging existing programs that work with substance abusers and the homeless to help divert them away from the criminal courts.

News Nibbles

• San Diego Unified is hosting a forum on Friday to discuss how to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary school. (Fox 5)

• San Diego may be leaving $1 billion on the table by not signing people up for food assistance. (KPBS)

• A little bird told Politico that former L.A. Times publisher Austin Beutner may be looking for business partners to help him purchase his old newspaper after he was ousted from his job by the paper’s parent company. Former Union-Tribune publisher Doug Manchester’s name is mentioned.

• The Amgen Tour of California, a large bicycle race event, will for the first time race into San Diego’s city limits in 2016. (KPBS)

• Chargers special counsel Mark Fabiani joined the chorus of voices accusing San Diego’s elected leadership of being servants to hotel owners.

• Fabiani is also unimpressed with Gov. Jerry Brown’s decision to allow fast-tracking of the legal fight over a new stadium. (Times of San Diego)

• The San Diego Regional Airport Authority filed a lawsuit alleging that cranes being used for construction of San Diego’s new downtown courthouse could cause “a horrific plan crash.” (NBC 7)

• Noted zoo enthusiast Newt Gingrich loves our zoo and its tour guides.

Insane Clowns Foiled By Soft Drinks

Fans of the band Insane Clown Posse faced disappointment on Thursday when it was announced a North Park concert scheduled for that night was being canceled at the last moment “over concerns of venue damage due to all the Faygo throwing.” The group is known for rowdy concerts full of fans who call themselves “Juggalos,” who enjoy spraying (and occasionally throwing) a fruit-flavored beverage called Faygo during the concert. “It aint an Insane Clown Posse show without Faygo so that means we’ve been left with no choice but to call off the show,” the band wrote on its website.

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can email him at voice@s3th.com or complain about his characterization of ICP fans via Twitter: @loteck.

Seth Hall

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can reach him at voice@s3th.com or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.

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