BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

          |                                                                 |
          |                   Senator Fran Pavley, Chair                    |
          |                    2009-2010 Regular Session                    |
          |                                                                 |

          BILL NO: SB 1124                   HEARING DATE: April 13, 2010   

          AUTHOR: Negrete McLeod             URGENCY: No  
          VERSION: April 6, 2010             CONSULTANT: Marie Liu  
          DUAL REFERRAL: No                  FISCAL: Yes  
          SUBJECT: Land conservation: California Wildlife, Coastal, and  
          Park Land Conservation Act.  
          In 1988, the voters passed Proposition 70, titled the California  
          Wildlife, Coastal, and Park Land Conservation Act. Proposition  
          70 provided $776 million for various land conservation purposes.  
          Paragraph (3) of subdivision (b) of Section 5907 of Proposition  
          70 approved $185.4M of bond monies to the Department of Parks  
          and Recreation (DPR) for specified grants to local agencies,  
          including a $20M grant to the County of San Bernardino for the  
          acquisition of land primarily through the use of conservation  
          easements within the Chino Agricultural Preserve. Section 5919  
          required that any applicant for grants under Prop 70 agree to  
          maintain and operate the property acquired, developed,  
          rehabilitated, or restored with the bond dollars in perpetuity.

          AB 2063 (Negrete McLeod, 2004) authorized the County of San  
          Bernardino to sell property acquired with Proposition 70 dollars  
          if the following conditions are met: 
           All proceeds from the sale are used to acquire replacement  
            land within the Chino Agricultural Preserve.
           The county prepares a detailed land plan indicating the  
            properties to be sold and acquired and is approved by the  
            Board of Supervisors.
           There is no net loss in acreage or habitat value as a result  
            of the exchange.
           The county holds a public hearing before the Board of  
            Supervisors to review the land plan.
           The county receives independent appraisal of the lands to be  
            sold and acquired and makes these appraisals available to the  


           Agricultural conservation easements must be recorded on all  
            newly acquired land at the time of purchase and recorded on  
            previously acquired property within 60 days of the approval of  
            the land plan. Easements do not need to be placed on lands  
            identified for sale in the land plan.
          To date, San Bernardino has not taken any action to exercise  
          this land exchange authority.

          Section 815.5 of the Civil Code requires that conservation  
          easements be recorded with the county recorder of the county  
          where the land is situated. 

          PROPOSED LAW
          This bill would require that all grantees of funds from Section  
          5907(b)(3) of Proposition 70 to record an easement by July 1,  
          2011 on all property acquired, developed, rehabilitated, or  
          restored, if the grantee committed to place that easement. The  
          conservation easement must be approved by DPR and must provide  
          that the property will be maintained and operated in perpetuity.

          The only grant likely affected by this bill is the $20M grant to  
          San Bernardino for land acquisitions within the Chino  
          Agricultural Preserve.

          The author states that Proposition 70 required that all property  
          purchased with the bond monies be protected and maintained in  
          perpetuity. "Unfortunately, not all of the land purchased with  
          Prop 70 has been protected as intended. San Bernardino County is  
          a case in point. The County purchased 37.26 acres for the Chino  
          Agricultural Preserve in 1991 but still has not taken the  
          necessary actions to place the easement on the land." The author  
          refers to a County resolution and correspondence from DPR to the  
          county indicating the county's obligation to place easements on  
          the purchased properties, however easements have not yet been  
          placed. The author contends that SB 1124 will remedy this  

          The County of San Bernardino opposes this bill because they  
          believe this bill will hamper their plans to conduct a land  
          exchange, as authorized by AB 2063, in order to create a  
          consolidated section of preserved land within the Chino and  
          Ontario agricultural preserves where they plan to construct a  
          Cultural Heritage Center. The county contends that, "The current  
          Proposition 70 properties are loosely situated and have created  
          isolated parcels, some of which lack public access. The sporadic  


          location of these properties have no public value." 

           To place an easement or not to place an easement, that is the  
          question:  In recognition of the requirement to protect land  
          purchased with Prop 70 monies in perpetuity, the San Bernardino  
          Board of Supervisors passed Resolution 91-334 on October 7, 1991  
          resolving that the easements will be placed on property acquired  
          with the grant. Even though it has been 16 years since the  
          contracted project period ended, easements have yet to be  

          According to committee staff discussions with the county, the  
          county is unwilling to place these easements, despite previously  
          agreeing to do so, because these easements will reduce the  
          properties' value. And the loss in proceeds will hamper the  
          county's ability to conduct a consolidated land swap as  
          authorized by AB 2063 in order to construct an agricultural  
          themed recreation park with museums, discover center, library,  
          retail and restaurants. The county has cited several reasons to  
          the committee on why they have not yet taken meaningful actions  
          to use their authorized land swap authority, including their  
          perception that the AB 2063 requirements are unreasonable. 

          The county's desire to create the Center for Agricultural  
          Heritage may not be relevant however, because DPR has found the  
          county's plan to be an inappropriate use of Prop 70 funds. In a  
          letter dated April 5, 2010 from DPR to the county, DPR states,  
          "The plan submitted does not adhere to the intent of the  
          specified grant program that funded the [Chino Agricultural  
          Preserve] land acquisition. Prop 70, AB 2063, and the grant  
          contract provisions indicate that this land must be acquired  
          under a conservation easement for agricultural purposes." 

          Because of the DPR's concerns on the proposed land exchange and  
          conversion and the fact that the county has not either placed  
          easements on the purchased properties or submitted timeline for  
          doing so, DPR has initiated an audit review of the county's  

           Bigger Issues?  The author's original intent of this bill is to  
          spur the county to either place easements on the properties  
          purchased with their grant monies or to take concrete steps to  
          begin actions on a consolidation plan. In doing so, the author  
          has raised multiple issues including whether the county's  
          consolidation plan is legitimate. However, this bill has also  
          revealed larger issues with the county's actions, including: 


           The county's opposition letter states that the current  
            properties have no public value, begging the question of why  
            the county purchased these lands in the first place? 
           DPR's contract with the county requires that land acquired  
            under Proposition 70 be available to "reasonable public  
            access" except where access interferes with habitat  
            protection. According to the county's opposition letter, some  
            of these properties have no public access, further questioning  
            the county's compliance with the grant contract provisions.
           Proposition 70 directed the county to acquire property mainly  
            through the use of conservation easements, yet the county only  
            used the funds for fee title purchases.

           Is this bill needed?  This bill would put yet another requirement  
          on the county to place easements on the properties that it  
          purchased with Prop 70 monies with a July 1, 2011 deadline. The  
          committee may find that this requirement is redundant and no  
          more likely to compel the county into action than the existing  
          agreements, especially given that DPR is initiating an audit.  
          The committee also might want to consider whether forcing  
          easements to be placed on land characterized by the county as  
          having "no public value" is ultimately the most desirable  
          outcome, or whether it would be more desirable for DPR to  
          require that the grant funds be returned to the state. 

          However, given the long history of this issue, the committee may  
          consider allowing this bill to move forward as a way of adding  
          additional pressure on the county to settle this issue and to  
          serve as a vehicle for any legislative changes recommended by  
          the audit, should it be finished quickly. The committee may wish  
          to receive the author's commitment to keep the committee  
          informed of progress on this matter and to bring this bill back  
          to this committee for further review should the bill be  
          ultimately needed.
          California Council of Land Trusts
          Planning and Conservation League 

          County of San Bernardino