CEQA Reform? What’s In and What’s Out with SB 731 (And What’s Next…)
Lauded as the CEQA Modernization Act of 2013, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s SB 731 includes a number of amendments to CEQA that appear intended to appeal to a wide variety of interest groups. SB 731 replaces the idea of CEQA reform with CEQA modernization, implying that the bill makes changes to CEQA to bring the law current rather than overhauling the decades-old statute.
We’ve analyzed SB 731’s proposals and tagged them as good, bad, or status quo, and we’ll continue to follow SB 731 as it winds its way through the Legislature. While it’s too early to predict whether SB 731 will meet success in the legislative session – one thing is for certain: CEQA modernizing is the new CEQA reform… (more)
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) threatened in San Francisco
by KPFA Evening News, 05.18.2013 – excerpt
California’s most important environmental law, the California Environmental Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), is under attack, and activists are trying to make sure the act will still hold sway in San Francisco. CEQA requires corporations and landholders to provide public information about potential environmental impacts of their projects in advance. A statewide coalition recently blocked attempts to weaken CEQA at the state level, but now San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener has proposed to weaken CEQA locally. Supervisor Jane Kim has proposed competing legislation which is more CEQA friendly… (more, including audio)
CEQA Roundup: Faced with budget uncertainty (again), how much can Steinberg do?
by Justin Ewers : caeconomy.org – excerpt
The state budget continued to muscle CEQA off the political stage this week, with the governor announcing a less-rosy fiscal forecast than many had expected—and the lukewarm response from Democrats offering a glimpse at just how much CEQA reform’s foremost champion, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, currently has on his plate.
Only a few days after wading back into the state’s complex water issues, Steinberg also led Democratic lawmakers’ pushback against the governor’s top budget priority—a new funding formula for schools—along with an array of other proposals affecting everything from the courts to health and human services.
“There’s a disappointing aspect to [the governor’s budget],” Steinberg said, voicing concern among Democrats that the state isn’t doing enough to restore cuts made during the recession. “The budget debate [now] begins in earnest,” Steinberg warned. (That conversation has become even more heated after the LAO’s released its analysis of the state’s fiscal situation today.)
With CEQA reform also waiting in the wings (a task so politically complicated Steinberg has jokingly said his legislation could be called the “How to Make No Friends Act”), it does beg the question: How much can one man do?
CEQA to the back burner?…
Regions push for change
At a recent forum in San Francisco, a group of economic development experts agreed that without making changes to CEQA, regions like the Bay Area simply cannot address one of their most pressing needs: Rebuilding the state’s crumbling infrastructure…
“I would say CEQA is part of our state infrastructure deficit,” said Steve Heminger, executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Bay Area’s regional transportation planning and finance agency… (more)
Nothing San Francisco and SPUR have done in recent years has added affordable housing and nothing they have planned will add any. Everything they do drives land values and rents, and mortgages higher.
Signature Flight: Full steam ahead on Google airport despite CEQA suit
Nathan Donato-Weinstein : bizjournals.com – excerpt
Signature Flight Support will not slow its approach despite an environmental lawsuit that seeks to stall work on the company’s $82 million private aviation facility at San Jose International Airport.
“For Signature, our development project remains ‘full-speed ahead’ with a projected groundbreaking in the fall,” SFS President Maria Sastre said in a statement on Friday. “We’re as committed and excited as ever to work closely with San Jose and its leadership, along with airport management, to ensure our $82 million investment in San Jose comes to fruition.”.
On Thursday, competitor Atlantic Aviation filed suit against the city of San Jose under the state’s California Environmental Quality Act. The company says the city erred by approving the elite jet facility without performing required environmental impact reviews. City Attorney Rick Doyle told me late Thursday the lawsuit is without merit. (Read more about the suit and what Atlantic charges by clicking here.)… (more)
SF Lawmakers’ move to reform CEQA narrows, is still divided
By: Joshua Sabatini : sfexaminer – excerpt
The gap narrowed Monday between dueling proposals to change rules for environmental appeals of construction projects, but weighty issues remain unresolved.
For weeks now, a debate has raged at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee over how to reform the appeals process under the California Environmental Quality Act, also known as CEQA.
Under the state law, projects that would have a significant impact on the environment must undergo extensive environmental analysis to determine how to mitigate those impacts. Smaller projects can do other mitigation work or receive an exemption. The CEQA decisions are appealable to the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Scott Wiener proposed an appeals reform months ago and Supervisor Jane Kim has a more recent counter proposal. The two supervisors sit on the committee and have been hashing out their legislation with board President David Chiu arbitrating. Monday was the third hearing on the legislation.
While Chiu offered more amendments to Wiener’s legislation in an effort to reach a consensus that could then go to the full board for a vote, the larger debates remain unresolved. They include when the clock should start ticking for someone to file a CEQA appeal — either at the project’s first approval or any time through the final approval. For some advocates, waiting until final approval is pivotal.
“The thing that keeps that developer at the negotiating table is the CEQA appeal,” said Eric Brooks, a community advocate engaged in the negotiations. “That’s just reality. We need that.”
Also, debate continues on how The City would determine whether changes to a project are significant enough to allow for an opportunity to appeal… (more)
Support Supervisor Kim in CEQA showdown
Michelle Myers and Mike Casey : sfchronicle.com – excerpt
Forty-three years ago in the midst of a new national environmental consciousness, forward-thinking California lawmakers passed the California Environmental Quality Act. That law – along with the Clean Air and the Clean Water acts – has helped preserve the promise of California as a clean and green state even as it has grown to be a state of some 38 million people. In the nation’s most populous state, CEQA has helped reduce and avoid environmental impacts.
But CEQA is now in danger of being weakened in San Francisco, and Supervisor Jane Kim is working to defend it. The attack on CEQA in San Francisco is part of a broader assault on environmental protection happening statewide and nationwide. Business is driving the attacks, making overblown and unsupported claims that CEQA and other environmental laws are to blame for the economic downturn…
Concerned San Franciscans reacted by organizing. A vast coalition of people representing more than 40 neighborhood, environmental, labor and social justice groups came together to protect CEQA. Since last fall, members of that coalition have been drafting alternative legislation that modernizes the act in some places and strengthens public notification in others. Kim is sponsoring that legislation…
Kim’s legislation is trailing Wiener’s measure in the legislative process at City Hall. People concerned about preserving and strengthening CEQA should contact their supervisors and board President David Chiu, and ask them to ensure that Kim’s legislation establishes the basis for improving CEQA…. (more)
CEQA Roundup: For a moment, everyone lines up behind Steinberg
by Justin Ewers : caeconomy.org – excerpt
For one day this week, at least, all of the major players in the CEQA debate seemed to be on the same page: Which is to say, directly behind Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
After several months of public squabbling over how to change the state’s premier environmental law, Steinberg made his pitch for his CEQA reform bill to the Senate’s environmental quality committee—and the line of people testifying in support went almost out of the committee room’s door.
“People on all sides are serious about this,” Steinberg told the committee. “I’ve come to the conclusion that CEQA doesn’t need to be fundamentally rewritten, but it needs to be updated. There are parts of the law that ought to be changed.”
Real disagreements still exist over how best to proceed (more below on where the debate seems headed), but on Wednesday, Steinberg was flanked by leaders of the business coalition supporting reform and environmental groups that have opposed overhauling the law. Queued up behind him were advocates from the newly-formed public works coalition—the public agencies responsible for implementing CEQA—as well as a range of affordable housing groups, alternative energy producers, and city planners.
What everyone agrees on
All seemed to agree on one thing: Steinberg’s SB 731 is a good-faith effort to reform the state’s more than 40-year-old environmental law… (more)
One Bay Area Plan: Environmental Impact Report
Environmental Impact Report
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State law requires the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Plan Bay Area. Under the law known as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), MTC and ABAG must inform decision makers and the general public of the range of potential environmental impacts that could result from the implementation Plan Bay Area. The EIR will examine a range of reasonable alternatives, identify the environmentally superior alternative and recommend a set of measures to mitigate the impacts of the selected alternative. The EIR for Plan Bay Area is being developed on a parallel track as the actual plan, and both documents are scheduled to be adopted simultaneously in summer 2013.
MTC and ABAG will study five EIR alternatives. These alternatives are defined by explicit land use and transportation policies and will be evaluated using an integrated regional modeling system comprised of the UrbanSim spatial economic/land use model and the MTC travel model.
The five proposed EIR alternatives are as follows:
Continue reading “One Bay Area Plan: Environmental Impact Report”