As the drought threatens California, journalists are once again pointing to a 1997 law that weakened California open government laws by shielding huge water users — corporations as well as rich folks. On Thursday, April 16, the Center for Investigative Reporting published a story saying, "Californians have no way of knowing who's guzzling the most water."
The blame belongs with a 1997 measure weakening the California Public Records Act. The law went into effect six years after the Los Angeles Times published a story saying that the estate of the late Helen Copley, then the Union-Tribune's publisher, pumped 10,203 gallons a day on her 9.5-acre La Jolla estate, called Foxhill. In lobbying for the bill, proponents noted that utility bills included ratepayers' home addresses. In 1989, an actress had been murdered by a stalker who got her address from Department of Motor Vehicles records. Open records advocates couldn't stop the bill. Now the bill is protecting golf courses from revealing how much water they use.
Yesterday, April 17, AllGov, a publication aimed at a government audience, cited the Center for Investigative Reporting article, and referred to the 1991 article on Copley water use. Foxhill is now for sale for $25 million, according to UTSanDiego. The price is down from $28 million.