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The Ellis Act acts as a check on California's fairly tenant-friendly landlord/tenant laws. Even notwithstanding tougher locals laws (like those in Los Angeles and San Francisco), the Ellis Act allows a landlord to evict a tenant if he's getting out of the landlord business altogether.

Here's the kicker: In San Francisco, where the median market rent is now almost $3,500 for a one-bedroom apartment, landlords often find that it makes more economic sense to get out of the landlord business and sell their properties to someone else -- rather than continue to collect rent from long-term, practically unevictable tenants paying much lower than market rate.

By a 7-4 vote on Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a law permitting the operation of Airbnb rentals in the city.

The law establishes some regulation of Airbnb rentals, but not as much as Airbnb's opponents wanted.

The last time we saw Voldemort, I mean Vinod Khosla, the Silicon Valley billionaire was playing the role of mystical villain to local beachgoers. The venture capitalist purchased property in San Mateo County that contained a private access road -- the only access to Martin's Beach, which is otherwise surrounded by cliffs -- and closed off the road.

The history nerd in us quivered: The case involved property rights derived from the freaking Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Yeah, that one, the one that predated America and ended the Mexican-American War. These exact land rights were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1860, a few years before the California Constitution was revised to protect water access. Last October, a judge ruled that because the grant and treaty predated California's Constitution, Khosla's land was exempt from state law.

Yesterday, in a parallel case, a second judge reopened access to the beach, but it may be only temporary -- her holding was that Kosla was missing a permit. Still, two more challenges, in the legislature and in a state agency, are pending.

We've all suspected for a while now that Airbnb is decreasing the housing stock in San Francisco, where housing units are a precious asset. Though Airbnb either disputes the claim or says it's not a big deal, investigations by the San Francisco Chronicle suggest that Airbnb hosts in San Francisco aren't just renting a room in their apartment or renting the apartment when they're not there; a significant number of hosts may be leasing a totally separate apartment from where they live as a side business.

When a city council wants to engage in land use planning, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires a study (which can take months) before the city council can do anything. Ah, but not so when citizens themselves propose a land use initiative: there, an abbreviated environmental impact study will suffice. It must be completed in 30 days, if at all.

This issue arose after Walmart wanted to open a new 27,000 square foot "Supercenter" in Sonora (Tuolumne County). But before it could, the city had to conduct a full CEQA study. In response, Sonora resident James Grinnell began a voter initiative (authored by Walmart, according to the Sonora Union-Democrat) that ultimately garnered the requisite number of votes. After the city council adopted the ordinance without submitting it to an election, a local small business group sued to stop it on the grounds that the city had to conduct a full environmental review first.

Last week, the California Supreme Court, unanimously overruling an appellate court decision, ruled that the city does not have to conduct a full CEQA analysis when the initiative comes from voters, as opposed to the legislature.

While certainly not as exciting as the prospect of six Californias, or as debatable as the value of the death penalty, there are still many legal issues in California that are making headlines.

In this week's update, we take a look at a new celebrity lawsuit, how California is dealing with the water shortage, and keeping firearms out of the wrong hands.

As the effects of global warming are felt every day as we weather this drought, California legislators continue to debate how to deal with the impending effects of climate change.

And as cap-and-trade is debated, California's Department of Health is setting new standards by "adopting the nation's first-ever drinking water standard for hexavalent chromium," reports the Los Angeles Times.

California is somewhat famous for its protracted battles over property variances and compliance with zoning restrictions.

In Eskeland v. City of Del Mar, neighbors of a man who wanted to remodel his home fought tooth and nail to keep him from doing so, claiming he was in violation of the city's many municipal codes. In the end, the Court of Appeal denied the neighbor's challenges to his plans.

Here are five lessons all neighbors can learn from the Eskelands:

With so many legal issues brewing in the state of California, it's hard to settle on just one. Between the ongoing drought and water shortage in California, new civil rights lawsuits and federal challenges to state laws, there's a lot to talk about. So let's get to it and see what all the headlines are about.

Voting Rights of Ex-Felons

On Tuesday, the ACLU filed a lawsuit in Superior Court in Alameda County seeking declaratory injunctive relief on behalf of ex-felons that fall under new categories of low-level felons under realignment, according to KQED.

Things are heating up in California -- well, almost. Even after the flames are long gone, the Environmental Protection Agency is still fanning the fires that are the controversy surrounding Chevron's refinery blaze. And, on the eve of a new law taking effect, religious groups have joined together to challenge the law on -- of all things -- privacy grounds.

Chevron and the EPA

If you're in California then you probably remember the refinery fire that resulted in 15,000 people seeking medical treatment, according to Reuters. The latest in the fire's aftermath is a letter from Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA's Western Regional Administrator, in which he declares that the company failed to limit the risk of environmental catastrophe by "repeatedly fail[ing] to follow its own practices, plans, and recommendations."