CEQA Roundup: What’s next after Rubio?

March 01, 2013 by Justin Ewers : caeconomy.org – excerpt

he CEQA legislation has taken a backseat to the news story of Rubio’s Senate departure.
California political reporters have spent much of the last week taking a deep dive into the implications of Michael Rubio’s departure from the Senate—while largely ignoring the actual CEQA legislation Sen. Darrell Steinberg introduced last Friday…

But What about CEQA?(more)

What the papers have not yet done in any detail is examine what’s in SB 731, Sen. Steinberg’s reform bill—or the two dozen other CEQA-related bills that have now been introduced.
The Economic Summit offered this brief analysis of Steinberg’s legislation, which includes intent language that focuses mostly on speeding up the CEQA process for infill development projects.
This week, Barbara Schussman, managing partner at the law firm Perkins Coie, provided a more comprehensive look at where Steinberg seems headed.  “The bill is more remarkable for what it lacks,” she says, “than for what it contains.” Unlike then- Sen. Rubio’s CEQA reform effort of last year, Steinberg has left behind the so-called standards approach, which environmentalists refused to support. And he says he won’t touch rules governing who can bring a CEQA lawsuit, which labor was opposed to.
Absent those two provisions, Steinberg’s bill seems likely to shift the CEQA conversation away from what appeared to be a looming political showdown. Its focus on environmentally-conscious infill development projects also makes the bill’s passage more likely (though environmentalists still remain wary)…

Barbara Schussman’s, take on where Steinberg has proposed changes:

    • Significance Thresholds. The bill calls for the Legislature to set thresholds of significance for noise, aesthetics, parking and traffic levels of service.  The idea is that if a project can meet such a threshold, no additional environmental review would be required for those impacts.
    • Limited Review for Specified Projects. The bill proposes to convert CEQA Guidelines addressing infill development to statutory provisions.  It also expresses an intent to explore amendments to expand the definition of “infill” to include projects in the Central Valley, and to further streamline CEQA review for renewable energy, advanced manufacturing, transit, bike, pedestrian, and renewable energy transmission projects.
    • Projects Implementing Specific Plans and Sustainable Communities Strategies. The bill proposes to tighten up existing streamlining provisions to provide greater certainty and avoid duplicative CEQA review for projects implementing a specific plan.  The bill also suggests that similar treatment might be available for projects implementing Sustainable Communities Strategies adopted under SB 375 or other types of plans adopted within the past five years.
    • Late Hits and Data Dumps. The bill states an intention to address the practice of filing last minute comment letters, often containing voluminous data and new information.
    • Judicial Remedies.  The bill would provide clearer instructions to courts in crafting a remedy that preserves portions of a CEQA document that are not found to violate CEQA.  The bill also calls for exploring options to keep approvals in place so that projects can proceed while an agency cures a CEQA defect.

(more)

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