In my neck of the woods, in new construction a Ufer electrode is required (20 feet of rebar or #4 copper on the footing). And you must bond to the interior metal water piping.
For remodels, etc w/no new concrete footing, it's two 8 foot ground rods, at least 6 feet apart and at least two feet away from the foundation.
I think that the ex-Calif contractor is mistaken, unless it's some weird part of a local code. The California Electrical Code is about 98 persent straight NEC (the current Calif Elec Code is 2001 and based on the 1999 NEC). The 2001 CEC requirements for grounding are the same as the 1999 NEC--use a Ufer, or if not avail, use a metallic water pipe in contact w/the earth for at least 20 feet, with ground rods, or if water pipe not avail, just the ground rods (and bond the interior metallic water pipe).