Brown’s climate bill SB32 not ready for prime time

By Jim Nielsen : sfchronicle – excerpt

The California Legislature’s most contentious bill of the year, SB32, which attempts to establish far-reaching reductions in greenhouse emissions, is in the final stages of the legislative process. It miraculously moved out of a committee meant to hold the line on state spending with very little scrutiny or transparency.

Creating cleaner air is a noble cause. We all want clean air for our children, grandchildren and ourselves.

At issue is the blank check authority that SB32 hands over to faceless, unelected state bureaucrats at the California Air Resources Board. The board has repeatedly failed to produce basic performance reviews of its climate change programs.

The board’s self-proclaimed achievement has been so fuzzy that a bipartisan group of legislators has called for a state audit of its programs. Republican and Democratic lawmakers want to better understand what, if any, emission reductions the programs are achieving. Repeatedly, the board has failed to provide basic information to the Legislature. The audit request has stalled and will not be approved before this legislative session terminates at the end of the month.

No reasonable lawmaker will deny that the very fundamentals of good policy-making require evaluations of whether a program is working, based on sound criteria. When we see where a policy or program is failing or has not met expectations, we need to come to an agreed upon solution before expanding or renewing the program… (more)

The citizens of California deserve to see all the facts laid out in plain English. When this doesn’t happen, the legislature should NOT approve taking action on this measure. Clearly this is a controversial bill that needs a lot of public comment and debate. Sneaking highly controversial language into trailing legislation and last minute bills is dishonest and should also be brought to the attention of the voting public.

If it is a good idea, why are they hiding it from public debate?

Coalition to Preserve LA Praises Conservationists: They Stopped Gov. Brown from Wiping Out Environmental Protections Under CEQA

businesswire – excerpt

“This is a lie designed to kill CEQA, which is used modestly to attack only the worst developments.”

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Coalition to Preserve LA applauds the Sierra Club, the Planning and Conservation League and scores of groups who fought and today stopped Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to gut CEQA and Coastal Act environmental protections for virtually any urban project where developers agreed to add an insignificant number of affordable housing units.

In June, we urged our supporters, and those who believe developers are the last ones who should decide their communities’ fates, to call Gov. Brown to protest Trailer Bill 707. Brown’s now fully dead idea would have trampled over the California Environmental Quality Act and Coastal Act, handing the wheel to developers who have shown that without environmental oversight they will gladly place thousands of children in harm’s way, create massive surface street gridlock and destroy unique and beloved neighborhood character.

The Coalition is sponsoring the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative on the March 2017 Los Angeles ballot to end developer control over what L.A. becomes. Contact us to attend our events, or to very easily donate and send a message, at 2PreserveLA.org…

CEQA is a crucial tool to assure safe housing, but this year a raft of California legislators who take money from developers tried to pass some 30 bills to tear CEQA apart. In USC’s watershed Children’s Health Study of 3,600 children, scientists proved that youngsters living near freeways suffer chronic lung damage. UCLA found a higher risk for premature babies. Experts say this tainted housing cannot be “mitigated” with filters, trees or tight windows — microscopic metal and rubber particles still lodge in the lungs and brain…

The Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, which is almost finished gathering more than 62,000 signatures for the March ballot, gives L.A. residents the power to “call a time-out” and shape what L.A. becomes. We believe environmental review is crucial to preserving safety, fighting gridlock and ending the current destruction of neighborhood character to build a luxury housing glut in Los Angeles.

The fight to protect CEQA is not over. Los Angeles city leaders have falsely claimed that CEQA is being abused and has increasingly pushed development disputes into court. Said Stewart “This is a lie designed to kill CEQA, which is used modestly to attack only the worst developments.” A new study from the NRDC shows that CEQA is used very seldom in court, has no effect on development costs, and is a key tool to force healthy out-of-court compromise.

Additional information available at ethics.lacity.org

Please visit us at neighborhoodintegrity@gmail.com / http://2PreserveLA.org(more)

The legislative gut-and-amend season is upon us

By Scott Wilk : signalscv – excerpt

Prop 54 will allow an informed public to hold policymakers accountable for their actions and stop the special interests from hijacking the democratic process.

…Gut-and-amend is a process whereby bills have their original contents deleted and replaced with language completely unrelated to the original subject matter.

On occasion this is necessary because an issue has arisen after the legislative deadline that needs to be addressed…

The Rules Committee simply “waives” the rules and brings the proposal to the floor. The procedure is call Without Reference to File or “WORF.”

The most egregious gut-and-amend happened during my freshman year. Then-Senate Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg. D-Sacramento, had a bill, SB 743, to expedite the building of the new arena for the Sacramento Kings basketball team.

The bill did two things: allowed eminent domain of a downtown property; and expedited the California Environmental Quality Act or CEQA, to ensure the arena would be ready for the 2016-17 NBA season.

Like many legislators I was opposed to the bill. First, I don’t like eminent domain for private interests, and I think everyone should enjoy CEQA reform, not just rich, politically well-connected people.

The final day of session the rules were waived and SB 743 was amended to offer some minor CEQA reforms that applied statewide.

SB 743 was brought to the Assembly floor at approximately 8:30 p.m. Since the bill had statewide CEQA reforms, I joined 55 of my colleagues in voting “aye.” The bill was then sent to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature.

At 11:30 pm, a mere 30 minutes before the close of session for the year, we were presented a bill, AB 852, by Roger Dickenson, D-Sacramento. The bill had been gutted, and the new language inserted into the bill sought to remove the CEQA reform we passed three hours earlier!

So those CEQA reform amendments were simply a Trojan horse to coax the state Assembly into passing the Sacramento Kings arena legislation.

It takes 41 “aye” votes to pass a bill off the Assembly floor. The final vote was 26 “ayes,” 35 “nay,” and 17 abstentions. So we killed the bill and allowed the statewide CEQA reforms to become law.

Clearly, gut-and-amends are an insidious tactic that erode public trust in government and produce results for special interests that often don’t align with the public good.

But on Nov. 8 Californians will have the opportunity to end gut-and-amends by voting for Proposition 54, the Public Display of Legislative Bills Prior to a Vote initiative…

Prop 54 would require that a bill cannot pass until it has been in print and published for 72 hours prior to a vote. This ensures that the public and lawmakers have the ability to fully comprehend and digest the legislation being voted on.

In this digital information age we live in, it is especially appropriate that the initiative also requires audiovisual recordings for all legislative business – excluding closed-sessions – to be posted on the internet for public review.

Finally, Prop 54 would require these recordings be accessible and downloadable for 20 years, further increasing transparency in the Legislature.

As we wrap up the legislative session and approach a busy election year, I encourage you to use your voice by voting to enhance our democratic process and create a more honest, open and accountable government by supporting Prop 54.

We must end the cozy relationship between Sacramento elites and their special interest benefactors. An open, honest and transparent legislative process will forge better public policy and bolster people’s confidence in government institutions.

Prop 54 will allow an informed public to hold policymakers accountable for their actions and stop the special interests from hijacking the democratic process.

Assemblyman Scott Wilk represents the 38th Assembly District encompassing Simi Valley, the northwestern section of the San Fernando Valley and most of the Santa Clarita Valley…(more)

 

“CEQA-In-Reverse” Case on Remand: First District Holds BAAQMD’s 2010 Air Pollutant Thresholds Not Facially Invalid, But Can’t Be Used For Primarily Intended Purpose

By Miller Starr Regalia : lexology – excerpt

In a published decision filed August 12, 2016, following remand from the California Supreme Court after its landmark “CEQA-in-reverse” decision, the First District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded with directions to issue an order partially granting CBIA’s writ of mandate and to consider CBIA’s requests for declaratory relief and attorneys’ fees. California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District (1st Dist., Div. 5, 2016)… Cal.App.4th …, 2016 WL…

The opinion reaches the same general conclusion as the Court of Appeal’s previous opinion in the matter (my blog post on which can be found here) – i.e., that BAAQMD’s 2010 Toxic Air Contaminants (TAC) Thresholds of Significance (i.e., for air pollutants including TACs and PM 2.5) are not facially invalid, because not invalid in all their potential applications. However, following the holding of the Supreme Court’s opinion (my blog post on which can be found here), the Court of Appeal importantly clarifies that the TAC Thresholds “may not be used for the primary purpose envisioned by District, namely, to routinely assess the effect of existing environmental conditions on future users or occupants of a project.”…(more)

San Jose sues Santa Clara over City Place Project

by Alissa Reyes : santaclaraweekly – excerpt

The City of San Jose filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Clara on Friday July 29 claiming that the 240-acre City Place project will have a negative impact on San Jose.

“The City of San Jose hasn’t gotten very specific with their complaint thus far,” said Vice Mayor of Santa Clara, Teresa O’Neill. “The lawsuit is at the very beginning phase… We are waiting for further information from San Jose before we can take any further action.”

City Place, commonly referred to as the Related Project, is a Santa Clara development project located across from the Levi’s Stadium. The project will include retail, entertainment, and office space as well as hotels and residential units. The project is slated to break ground in 2017 and be complete by 2020.

San Jose claims its complaint is justified under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and that City Place will be environmentally damaging to the region.

According to California’s government website, CEQA requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts…(more)

Lafayette: Homes at Deer Hill lawsuit moves forward

By Jennifer Modenessi : bayareanewsgroup – excerpt

A Contra Costa Superior Court judge has upheld a ruling that allows a lawsuit against developers and the city of Lafayette to move forward.

 Judge Judith S. Craddick affirmed Aug. 9 a tentative ruling rejecting the city and developer O’Brien Land Company’s request that the lawsuit filed by the San Francisco Bay Area Renters’ Federation not move forward.
 The city and developer filed the demurrer challenging the legal basis — but not the merits — of SFBARF’s suit. The group claims Lafayette broke state housing law when the city council approved a 44-home development that replaced 315 moderate-income apartments known as the Terraces of Lafayette originally pitched for a hillside above Highway 24.
 “I’m thrilled that we won at this stage,” said Sonja Trauss, the group’s founder. “The next step is to prepare for a trial.”
 City Manager Steve Falk said the ruling was “not entirely surprising” given the judge’s earlier tentative judgment, which rejected in part the city and developer’s arguments SFBARF had exceeded the statute of limitations to file its legal challenge.
 “No one has won or lost the lawsuit yet,” Falk said. “It’s just kind of a step along the way”… (more)

New Economic Study Shows CEQA Protects Environment without Stunting Economic Growth

BAE Urban Economics report includes quantitative analysis of CEQA’s impacts on litigation, development costs and affordable housing

Berkeley, Calif. – Economic analysis firm BAE Urban Economics released a new report today that shows the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) supports economically and environmental sustainable development in California. The report was commissioned by the Rose Foundation in response to a number of flawed analyses released in recent years that inaccurately blame CEQA for economic challenges in the state.

“This report uses quantitative analysis to clarify that anti-CEQA rhetoric really has no basis in fact,” said Janet Smith-Heimer, President of BAE Urban Economics. “After extensive analysis, we found that CEQA does not have an actual dampening effect on California’s economy.”

The report includes a number of significant findings, including:

  • There is no quantitative evidence that CEQA has a retarding effect on the state’s economic prosperity.
  • Legislative changes to CEQA aimed at streamlining the CEQA process to encourage infill development are working. In San Francisco, only 14 environmental impact reports were prepared in the last three years. In that time, 100 projects proceeded with CEQA exemptions or expedited review.
  • Despite rapid population growth and development, the number of CEQA lawsuits statewide has remained constant over the past 14 years. Between 2013 and 2015, legal challenges were filed in 0.7 percent of projects subject to CEQA review.
  • Less than one percent of projects subject to CEQA review face litigation.
  • Direct costs for complete environmental reviews under CEQA typically range from 0.025% to 0.5% of total development costs.
  • California is the 11th most densely populated state in the nation. Its urban areas compare favorably to cities around the country with regard to the rate of infill vs. greenfield development.
  • The state’s largest cities show ongoing improvement in walkability. California is home to 12 of the nation’s 50 most walkable cities.
  • CEQA does not hamper the development of affordable housing in urban areas. Although the need to provide more affordable housing in California is undisputed, when compared to other states, California produces the second highest number of affordable housing units per 100,000 residents in the nation.

CEQA was signed into law in 1970 by then-Governor Ronald Reagan. CEQA requires public agencies to identify environmental impacts associated with development and to reduce or eliminate such impacts whenever feasible. The law provides provisions to ensure transparency and invites community involvement in development decisions.

“CEQA is often the only legal protection afforded to communities of color and low-income communities disproportionately burdened by environmental harms,” noted Gladys Limón, Staff Attorney with Communities for a Better Environment. “It identifies environmental health and safety impacts that would otherwise be passed off to residents and taxpayers generally. CEQA ensures smart development that respects the right of a decent home and suitable living environment for every Californian.”

The report’s analysis includes:

  • A literature review of recent studies on CEQA’s impacts.
  • A detailed review of legislation, legal findings and regulatory changes intended to streamline the CEQA process, and the degree to which those efforts have been successful.
  • Five case studies that illustrate how the CEQA process works (a transit center in Anaheim, an affordable senior housing project in Richmond, a Specific Plan for the Millbrae BART station, a solar installation in the Mojave Desert, and the contested SCIG railyard development at the Port of Los Angeles).
  • An analysis of the direct costs for the environmental review portion of a project, placed into context of other planning and constructions costs.
  • A review of California’s ranking compared to other states with regard to infill development, population density, walkability (a key metric of sustainable development) and economic prosperity.

“Public enforcement of CEQA plays a crucial function in protecting public health and the environment in California’s most vulnerable communities,” said Sean Hecht, Co-Executive Director, Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, UCLA School of Law. “At the same time, this report shows that litigation under CEQA affects only a small fraction of projects in the state.”…

Read the full 102 page report (more)

Stuck in the zone

The Governor want to take land use out of local control and convince residents to pay extra taxes for less services. How dumb are we?

zRants

By John McDowell :smdailyjournal – excerpt

Imagine, if you will, a democracy where your voice doesn’t count, where regional unelected bureaucrats make decisions for you, and where your city is shaped by Sacramento and not your city council. You are traveling through another dimension, a dimension not of responsible citizens but of faceless bureaucratic control. A journey into a land restricted on all sides. Your next stop, the Plan Bay Area zone.

That’s right; when it comes to the shape of your city, development, roads, density, land use and other decisions about the quality of your life, your voice no longer counts. Instead, an unelected regional bureaucracy is in charge. It’s an eye-glazing, alphabet soup of government agencies designed with one thing in mind — take control over cities and towns.

Their mandates aren’t secret; in fact, they are laid out in glossy publications available from the Plan Bay…

View original post 311 more words

Gov. Brown’s housing plan riling up politics in SF and beyond

By : sfexaminer – excerpt – (By-Right Details)

Time is running out for Gov. Jerry Brown to approve his housing plan to streamline development throughout California, but San Francisco’s own politics on display Monday indicates just how difficult that may be.

In a special Board of Supervisors meeting Monday, Supervisor Aaron Peskin used an unusual maneuver to try and put the board on record in opposing the governor’s so-called “by right” trailer bill.

The proposal is meant to address the housing crisis throughout the state by reducing approval hurdles for development with at least 10 percent affordable housing, but it has drawn the ire of a coalition of labor, environmental and tenant rights groups. The coalition is expected to lobby Sacramento representatives today and issued a statement Monday arguing the governor’s proposal should be scrapped altogether.

Peskin’s motion came in response to Mayor Ed Lee vetoing on July 21 a resolution taking a similar policy stance. It takes eight votes to override the veto, but only six board members supported that resolution.

At Monday’s meeting, the board voted 5-2 to support Peskin’s motion, a vote short of approval and so it was defeated. The motion carries no weight of law but could have been used by The City’s state representatives in arguments for amendments. Supervisors Peskin, Norman Yee, Eric Mar, Jane Kim and London Breed supported it. Supervisors Scott Wiener and Katy Tang opposed it. Wiener called the motion “sour grapes” and said The City should work collaboratively with the governor and “not just simply oppose” his housing plan… (more)

Citizens all over the state want to opt out of the governor’s density plan. There are so many cities that want to opt out, the governor may without the plan. Until the elections, politicians are going to be careful.

Where’s the Passion for CEQA Reform?

by : foxesandhounds – ecerpt

The roots of California’s environmental regulations can be traced back to 1884. That’s the year a federal judge ordered miners to stop using water cannons to batter the Sierra hillsides to separate gold from the soil and rock, but also left behind a broken and ugly landscape.

The process, called hydraulic mining, had devastating effects. The water-sediment slurry it produced was flushed into rivers and streams, causing a surge that bruised and grated everything in its way. Property rights were violated downstream when the gravel, sand and other debris buried farms, and towns were flooded when collected sediment rendered waterways too shallow. Rivers and streams became unnavigable, and the environmental impacts were appalling, as fish-rich waters were contaminated and large chunks of mountainsides were scoured away.

California environmental laws and regulations have since gone from legitimate restrictions protecting property rights and heading off ecological ruin to overbearing edicts that have consumed businesses in the state and dragged down the economy. The worst of them, maybe even the worst in the entire country, is the California Environmental Quality Act, known to both those who wield it like a club and those who are its victims as CEQA… (more)

The passion for CEQA reform lies in the heart of the developers who want no opposition ot anything they want to do with no responsibility for the consequences.