Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the day “March 26, 2013”

The Letter from Modesto Protesting SB-7 Inclusion of Maintenance In Prevailing Wage Programs

March 13,2013

English: Flag of Sacramento, California
The Honorable Darrell Steinberg
Senate President Pro Tem
State Capitol, Room 205
Sacramento, CA 95814

The Honorable Anthony Cannella
California State Senate
State Capitol, Room 3048
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re:   Opposition to SB 7 (Steinberg) Charter Cities: Unlawful Conditions on State Funding

Dear Senators Steinberg and Cannella,

The City of Modesto (Modesto) regrets to inform you of our opposition to SB 7 (Steinberg), which
would prohibit a charter city from receiving or using state funding or financial assistance for a
construction project if the city has a charter provision or ordinance that authorizes a contractor to
not comply with state prevailing wage requirements on local construction projects funded by (nonstate)
city funds.

We are very concerned that as drafted, the legislation will jeopardize the City’s ability to contract out
basic maintenance services of its parks, municipal buildings and municipal facilities. These
contracts include a multi-year maintenance agreement with a local non-profit organization that
employs developmentally disabled workers.

Modesto, like many other cities, has been forced to utilize competitively bid contracts for
maintenance of a number of city owned facilities for fiscal survival. Modesto currently has at least
14 competitively bid contracts worth over $4.7 million annually for maintenance of city owned
facilities. These include but are not limited to contracts for maintenance of parks, janitorial services
and golf course operations. The requirement to pay prevailing wages on these contracts will impact
Modesto’s general fund and thus affect the level of service Modesto is able to provide to its citizens.
This new requirement will also impact a number of maintenance contracts in our utility funds,
increasing costs for our rate payers.

This measure violates the fundamental principle of local control and the constitutional limits of state
authority over charter cities, as recently held by the Court in the Vista decision.1 This measure
conflicts with Vista by attempting, via the Legislature, to leverage a different outcome than the
Court’s ruling by withholding vital state construction funds, derived from all of the state’s taxpayers,
from charter cities that fail to adopt prevailing wage requirements for projects built with local funds.
Such a condition is unlawful because the state is seeking to leverage outcomes it lacks the legal
authority to compel.

Modesto is a charter city that has opted to not impose state prevailing wage requirements under our
charter for projects that are considered to be strictly of municipal concern. Modesto does require
the payment of prevailing wages on all projects that are not considered to be a municipal concern in
strict accordance with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations’ interpretation. Modesto
has grave concerns that this legislative tactic will be used in the future to erode other local flexibility
that is important to our community. Thus, we oppose this measure due to its undercutting of local
charter authority. The state should respect the Court decision in Vista and stay out of the matter.
This measure would establish a disturbing framework for future state micromanaging of charter city
laws and policies by the tactic of withholding state funds as political leverage to attempt to force
changes to city charters and ordinances.

At a minimum the proposed legislation should be amended to eliminate its application to
maintenance contracts. While Modesto believes this bill is inherently flawed from a legal
perspective, excluding maintenance contracts would at least help avoid forcing affected cities to
choose between closing parks and keeping police officers on the street.
For these reasons, the City of Modesto opposes this legislation.

cc: Senator Ted Lieu, Chair, Senate Committee on Labor and lndustrial Relations
(Attn. Alma Perez @ Fax No. (9161-327-5703)
Gareth Elliott, Legislative Affairs Secretary, Office of Governor Jerry Brown


Groundwater Problems In The Foothills of Stanislaus County

come on in, the water's bad

come on in, the water’s bad (Photo credit: scpgt)

By Vance Kennedy

There has been a large increase in planting of trees in the foothills of this county, especially almonds.  There is no flood irrigation to replenish groundwater, which is being pumped by increasingly deep wells.  Rainfall in the area ranges between 12 and about 16 inches per year on average, of which perhaps half recharges groundwater.

Almond trees need about 30 inches of water per year to do well.  Hence, there is on the order of two feet of water deficiency from rainfall alone.  The rest of the needed water must come from pumped groundwater.  That seems fine if you have a ready and easily available groundwater supply.  But therein lies the problem.

In the foothills the rocks are tight and much of the water must come from fractures.  Overall, an estimate of 10 percent porosity is possibly a generous estimate.  So, when one pumps out a foot of water, the water table drops 10 feet.  Since perhaps 2 feet of water must be pumped a year, that means that the water table may drop 20 feet per year or more.  Initially, the trees may do fine and the orchard can be sold to an unsophisticated buyer at a very large profit.  However, in 10 years, the water table will be down about 200 feet, or much more if the porosity is less than 10 percent.  I have heard that some very large pumps are getting water at 300 to 400 feet.  That is very expensive and cannot be justified if prices go down.  One might say that the buyer will lose and that is his problem.  There is a Latin phrase to describe the situation – Caveat Emptor – let the buyer beware.  It is not that simple.

When a well begins removing water from an aquifer, that is a water-bearing rock, there is a “cone of depression” that forms around the well, so that there is a sloping water table toward the well.  As the well goes deeper that cone of depression extends further and further from the well and ultimately will start drawing water from neighboring properties, causing their water table to drop.  California law provides no protection for that adjacent property owner.  He can be ruined, and he has no legal recourse.

There is another problem, for society as a whole.  When the tree grower has removed the groundwater to 400 feet or so and lets his trees die, that property is useless for many decades.  The water table will only be recharged by rainfall and that can raise the water table perhaps 5 feet per year.  That almond grower has literally mined a valuable resources and harmed future generations.  He has actually caused an environmental disaster, and as matters stand, there is no way of stopping him.

Mr. Kennedy is a citrus grower and a retired Hydrologist with the U.S.G.S.


What Government Doesn’t Tell You

By Donna Minighini

City/County government still has yet to really solve Modesto and Stan County’s extremely high unemployment rate.

Luke on Modesto, Tatooine

Luke on Modesto, Tatooine (Photo credit: Rubink1)

Enticing mid-large size employers to relocate here -bringing JOBS to local residents, is the most important goal and achievement that government could do (besides protecting our individual safety from a rising crime rate  from the forced “re-alignment program”).  However, instead of building a strong economic foundation for both the city, county, and residents of Modesto to flourish from – government has not disclosed to residents the fact that some of their city and county “building” and “revenue” strategies  have been channeled into applying for millions of dollars in state grant monies for MORE transportation improvements, and a goal of developing 25, 608 low income high-density housing units to be forced upon 25,608 neighborhood streets:  the impact of such a large amount of additional government subsidized housing (to the existing section 8 housing that the city and county has long participated in providing for needy residents) will turn our area into a Bay Area “subsidization designation” magnet.  Major decisions made for our city and county should benefit all residents.


STANCOG’s “Valley Vision” public “workshop” seminars talk exclusively about the County’s future efforts of providing more “transportation improvements” – however they quickly breeze over the fact (and don’t talk at all) that in order to obtain millions of dollars in grant monies, the requirement of forecasting future county “housing growth” numbers “need” resulted in their determination of 25,608 low income high-density multi-complexes to be “forced” upon city and county neighborhoods.  When asked at a recent VALLEY VISION public workshop meeting, and then again at the first public GENERAL PLAN AMENDMENT/LAND USE public workshop meeting –  they say their presentations are about transportation improvements – (not housing) and they quickly avoid any discussion or explanation about what is outlined in the “2009-2014 Revised Housing Element Update Report” – describing low housing development. (http://www.co.stanislaus.ca.us/planning/pl/gp/housing-element.pdf).   Why is our government depressing a public presentation of these housing goals (which are already in progress)?  Providing housing growth projections are part of the requirement for transportation funds. http://www.hcd.ca.gov/hpd/hrc/plan/he/he_time.htm.


A city and county should help its needy with some subsidized housing and Modesto and Stanislaus County have always provided this assistance.  Many private property owners have, and still offer their properties for rent under section 8 subsidization agreements.  But for Modesto and County government to provide future growth housing “stats” (to Sacramento) of needing 25,608 more low-income high density multi-family housing units is adding to an already over-supply housing problem which our area has been struggling to get over, and ,of which has destroyed thousands of dollars in homeowner’s property values causing them individual economic harm.  Over-development of housing is not fixing the real problem:  the need for jobs and economic growth for all residents.  Forcing 25,608 low income high-density multi-family units within our neighborhood streets (see “2009-2014 Revised Housing Element Update Report”) with a list of potential exact vacant lot “APN” parcels for each city and town to which the County can mandate this housing be built on (the County classifies some of these as “INFILL” locations, giving developers special preference – and forming “the law to the project”!)  The report even provides shocking statements that existing statutes and law can be “government restraints” to the building of this housing!  When has a government agency or report ever made such condemning statements as to bad mouth or overturn the protections of the public as identified in existing local or state statutes?


High density residential projects destroy our beautiful “rural” low-density single family residential neighborhoods – the prime reason people want to live here (decent spacious family living).  This new housing policy is a developer’s dream of making a lot of money and the “valley vision” of a few government persons who possess bad “decision making authority” which will add to the problem of our area’s housing over-supply.  Whether an over-supply or not, this policy is sure to cause economic financial harm to homeowners’ neighborhood with further decline of property values.  A home for many is the only source of financial stability for their future.  No “valley vision” or government policy should cause economic harm to any of its residents.  And the power to make land use decisions should not trump people’s individual property rights and well-being of a neighborhood.  A Board of Supervisor’s comment regarding a land use policy was “get used to it!”  As the public, we don’t have to live with decisions from government that invade our privacy, well –being, and individual land rights.   Any person can challenge the decision of local government by filing a Writ of Mandamus action with the required timeframe to do so.

The current re-written “LAND USE” amended document which can be seen at

(http://www.stancounty.com/planning/pl/gp/gp-chapter1.pdf ) is part of the “General Plan” Amendment project, and indicates shocking “absolute sole power” given to the Board of Supervisors and the HCD (Housing Community Development) for such housing and commercial development.  The housing land use policy circumvents and tramples on a resident’s private land use protections such as “community plan” agreements/contracts, “CCRs”, and the quality-of-life expectations a homeowner thought he/she could count on for their family in the character of a neighborhood.  A city or town’s “progress” or “modernization” is never justified if it destroys another person’s well being and property rights.

The County doesn’t even have to continue to fight to annex Salida because they force their specific “business and residential land” goals of developing over 3300 acres by simply exercising their County goals in “upgrading” an unincorporated area as they see fit, approval developers applications (with flexibility) – and they’ll even get grant monies to do so!


The current land use actions and documents are nothing more than extreme “government control” over you as a private citizen, and another very bad decision to transform Modesto and other towns into a high-density area, (all in the name of “progress”).  Such changes will not be seen immediately with today’s rezoning maps – until construction projects formalize in the future. Everything looks good on beautiful color coded maps and diagrams but think beyond this about possible congestion or neighborhood character transformation that will occur in the future?   Just travel to any Bay Area city and see what overpopulation feels like, and how hard it is to navigate around high-density commercial shopping and business areas. Is this the kind of city you want to live in? Beautiful presentations to the public today do not substitute the future demise of a “rural Agricultural town”.  Persons who think “modernization” and “updates” involve high density mixed-use development will in fact, will bulldoze over the “character” of your rural town, which is why most people live here:  low density spacious living to raise a family from the hectic ills of the big cities.  Yes, I’ll agree we need some updates in the downtown area with re-development.  Most downtowns are high- density residential and business use (mixed-use zoning) offering a variety of shops, restaurants, cultural events, personal services, and apartment housing – but leave our easy going, spacious single family neighborhoods alone from forcing multi-plex, high-density low income housing which will change the very character of these neighborhood streets.   Many residents don’t want an “urban” high density character in their “rural” neighborhoods!


Much of the transportation improvements within Modesto and in County areas are being made in North Modesto instead of helping to raise the quality of life in many Southern Modesto areas.  Why doesn’t the City and County direct the $92 million dollars of transportation grant monies just received for “further” improvements of north Modesto’s Pelandale and Kiernan roads (which are improved sufficiently to date) to south Modesto’s neighborhoods and streets, in an effort to bring these areas up to middle class status and beauty?   See StanCog’s “Overall Work Program, Amendment 2” report, to see the Counties’ transportation strategies.  http://www.stancog.org/pdf/owp/owp-fy-2012-2013.pdf


D. Minighini


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