Is “parking” really a CEQA impact? Same as it ever was!

Is “parking” really a CEQA impact? Same as it ever was!

By Miller Starr Regalia Arthur F. Coon : – excerpt… a projects’ parking deficits themselves are per se “impacts” requiring mitigation under CEQA – would be antithetical to many environmentally-beneficial “smart growth” policies which discourage on-site parking and automobile use and encourage mass transit and alternative forms of transportation….

Would this be real mass transit or imagined mass transit that is “planned” but does not actually exist?
We shall see how real the public transit system is when BART and AC transit strike.
NOTE: In this case, the court seems to be focused on the “lack of proof”, “inaccurate studies”, and concern over “temporary loss of parking in a residential area”.

Continue reading “Is “parking” really a CEQA impact? Same as it ever was!”

Sacramento basketball arena’s now a political football

Sacramento basketball arena’s now a political football. What is it about sports arenas that makes politicians bend over backward to exempt them from regulatory hurdles?

By Dan Walters : – excerpt

What is it about sports arenas that makes politicians bend over backward to exempt them from regulatory hurdles?
Two years ago, lawmakers passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed a hastily drafted bill to give a proposed professional football stadium in downtown Los Angeles a fast track through the California Environmental Quality Act’s notoriously dense, time-consuming reviews…
Interestingly, development of two recent major sports venue projects, the San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park on the city’s waterfront and the San Francisco 49ers’ new Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, now under construction, went through without fast-tracking.
However, politicians are all over another big project – a proposed basketball arena near AT&T Park on the San Francisco waterfront for the Golden State Warriors, who now play in Oakland…
Last week, in anticipation of a showdown hearing in the Senate, Ting amended the bill to shift control of the tidelands issue from the San Francisco Port Commission to the State Lands Commission. But the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, which regulates development on the bay, voted to oppose the Ting bill(more)

CEQA and Land Use Bills — An Update

CEQA and Land Use Bills — An Update

SB 731 (Steinberg)  CEQA Modernization Act of 2013.  (Last amended May 24, 2013.  Passed to Assembly May 30, 2013)

  • Aesthetic Impacts in Transit Priority Areas Not Significant. Bill would provide that aesthetic impacts of a residential, mixed-use residential, or employment center project, as defined, within a “transit priority area,” shall not be considered significant impacts on the environment.
  • Significance Thresholds in Transit Priority Areas.  Bill would require revisions to CEQA guidelines establishing significance thresholds for noise, and transportation and parking impacts of residential, mixed-use residential, or employment center projects within transit priority areas.  Agencies could, however, adopt more stringent thresholds.
  • Lead Agencies Required to Make Draft Findings Available to Public.  The bill would require the lead agency to make findings available to the public at least 15 days prior to approval of the proposed project and to provide specified notice of the availability of the findings for public review…

SB 633 (Pavley)  New Categorical Exemption and Revision to “New Information” Standard.  (Last amended May 3, 2013.  Passed to Assembly May 30, 2013)…

AB 37 (Perea)  Requiring Lead Agencies to Prepare Record of Proceedings Concurrently with Preparation of Environmental Documents for Certain Projects.  (Last amended March 18, 2013.  Passed to Senate May 28, 2013. Referred to Com. on E.Q. June 6, 2013)…

AB 543 (Campos)  Requiring Translation of CEQA Documents.  (Last amended May 24, 2013. Passed to Senate May 31, 2013. To Com. on RLS for assignment June 3, 2013)…

SB 436 (Jackson)  Requiring Public Scoping Meeting and More Extensive Public Notice for Certain Projects.  (Last amended April 3, 2013. Passed to  Assembly May 25, 2013. Held at Desk May 29, 2013)

AB 380 (Dickinson)  CEQA: notice requirements.  Increasing Public Noticing and Posting Requirements for Agencies, County Clerks and OPR.  (Last amended May 24, 2013. Passed to Senate May 29, 2013; to Com. on RLS)

The bill would require notices to be filed solely by the lead agency….

AB 667 (Hernández)  Requiring Adoption of Economic Impact Report for Projects Permitting Construction of a Superstore Retailer.   (Last amended May 20, 2013. Passed to Senate May 28, 2013. Referred to Com. on Gov. & F. June 6, 2013)…

AB 1267 (Hall)   Exempting Certain Tribal Gaming Projects from CEQA.  (Chaptered by Secretary of State May 30, 2013)… (more)

CEQA and Parking: ‘Power to the People’ or New Reason for Reform?

Since 2002, a judgment by a state appellate court in the Bay Area has edited out some questions from environmental review – questions about parking spaces. Sarah E. Owsowitz and Stephanie R. Straka, writing at, explained why:

In San Franciscans Upholding the Downtown Plan v. City and County of San Francisco, a state appellate court considered a challenge to an environmental impact report’s discussion of the parking impacts of a massive redevelopment project in downtown San Francisco. … There was no question that the project would greatly increase the demand for parking in the area, but the project did not include any new parking. The project’s opponents challenged the city’s decision not to identify the project’s parking deficit as an environmental impact. The (court) sided with the city, finding that its environmental analysis was adequate as the “social inconvenience of having to hunt for scarce parking spaces is not an environmental impact; the secondary effect of scarce parking on traffic and air quality is.” Thus, the court held that the lack of parking does not, on its own, need to be treated as a significant impact to the environment.

That interpretation of CEQA has been recently unsettled, putting “smart growth” and “transit oriented” development projects in southern California, which typically have reduced parking requirements, in possible trouble… (more)

Fourth District Court of Appeal Requires EIR for Upgrade of High School’s Athletic Facilities Because the Project May Cause Significant Impacts on Parking and Traffic
On April 25, 2013, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ordered publication of its decision in Taxpayers for Accountable School Bond Spending v. San Diego Unified School District (2013) __ Cal.App.4th __ (Case No. D060999)…
The court further agreed with Taxpayers that the district could not rely on San Franciscans Upholding the Downtown Plan v. City and County of San Francisco (2002) 102 Cal.App.4th 656 (SFUDP), for the argument that a parking shortage cannot constitute a significant physical impact on the environment because it is merely a “social inconvenience.” The court found the SFUDP court’s discussion of parking was likely dicta, and disagreed with any holding that parking shortages can never constitute a physical impact on the environment. The court reasoned that vehicles are “physical objects that occupy space when driven and when parked” so they “naturally must have some impact on the physical environment.” In contrast to its discussion of aesthetic and lighting impacts, the court found that personal observations by local residents about parking could constitute substantial evidence that the project may have a significant impact on parking. Similarly, the court found that comment letters from residents about the traffic impacts were sufficient to support a fair argument the project may have a significant effect on traffic. Because the project may cause significant parking and traffic effects, the court held that the district must prepare an Environmental Impact Report….

Bright Lights Not a Significant Impact; Lack of Parking May Be

Bright Lights Not a Significant Impact; Lack of Parking May Be

Article By Claudia Gutierrez : – excerpt

In Taxpayers for Accountable School Bond Spending v. San Diego Unified School District (2013) __ Cal.App.4th __ (Case No. D060999) the Court of Appeal for the 4th District held that the San Diego Unified School District (the “District”) must prepare an environmental impact report (“EIR”) on installation of new stadium field lighting and other improvements at Hoover High School to permit nighttime events because there was a fair argument that impacts on neighborhood parking could be significant. The court specifically declined to follow earlier case law to the contrary. The court also held that the District was prohibited from using proceeds of a school bond other than for the purposes specifically listed…
The court found that the District’s traffic and parking analysis on which the Mitigated Negative Declaration was based was flawed… Because the District failed to provide a reasonable estimate of expected attendance at future events, the parking and traffic analysis was speculative…
The court reasoned that the same principles that govern the construction of a statute applies when interpreting a voter initiative… (more)

Dude, Where’s My Parking Spot? The Courts Drag Parking Back Into the CEQA Arena

Dude, Where’s My Parking Spot? The Courts Drag Parking Back Into the CEQA Arena

By Sarah E. Owsowitz and Stephanie R. Straka : – excerpt

…In Taxpayers for Accountable School Bond Spending v San Diego Unified School District, a state appellate court considered the environmental review conducted by a school district for the installation of stadium lighting at a high school athletic field, lights which would allow for the playing of night football games. Neighbors complained that the high school’s parking was inadequate and that attendees to night games might park in their neighborhood, thus keeping residents from finding parking when they came home from work. On this basis, the neighbors argued, the school district should have prepared a lengthy environmental impact report, rather than the shorter, faster environmental review document known as a “negative declaration.” The Fourth District Court of Appeal, in its ruling issued this past March, sided with the neighbors, finding that the potential lack of available parking spaces during night games, by itself, could be a significant impact on the environment. It rejected the reasoning in San Franciscans Upholding the Downtown Plan and held that CEQA requires environmental review not just of the potential secondary effects associated with searching for parking, such as increased exhaust emissions from idling cars, but also of the “direct effects” of being unable to find a space in a parking lot, namely, parking somewhere else. The court stated: “cars and other vehicles are physical objects that occupy space when driven and when parked” and thus “naturally must have some impact on the physical environment,” even if the impact is only “temporary (e.g. only so long as the vehicle remains parked).” The court did not suggest what this temporary direct impact to the environment might be, but concluded that the neighbors’ concerns about finding a parking space when they came home from work constituted evidence that “the Project may have a significant impact on parking and thus the environment.”…

Where does this new ruling leave cities, counties and other public agencies? The conservative approach will be to go back to the days when every CEQA document considered whether there were sufficient parking spaces to serve a proposed project. (Although what does sufficient parking even mean in dense areas where the existing zoning may not call for new developments to provide parking at all?) Arguably public agencies will be forced to call a lack of sufficient parking a significant impact to the environment. This impact, it would seem, can only be addressed (“mitigated” to use CEQA lingo) by providing more parking or making the project in question smaller. Does this mean that adding parking is now some sort of benefit to the environment? What about so-called “infill projects,” those projects most likely to be located on small parcels of land in dense urban areas where parking is already hard to find? Will they have to reduce the square footage of retail or office spaces or the number of housing units they propose in order to add parking spaces? And, if they cannot provide sufficient parking, will public agencies be forced to prepare otherwise unnecessary environmental impact reports (the only type of environmental review document that can be prepared for projects with unmitigated impacts)?… (more)

The State Senate’s proposal for CEQA reform

The State Senate’s proposal for CEQA reform

by : – excerpt
The State Senate recently passed its version of CEQA reform.  Having looked over the bill, it’s much better than I feared.  What seems to be the most important change is a move towards adopting standard setting in CEQA – i.e., making generalized determinations about what levels of certain kinds of impacts are “significant” such that full CEQA review is needed.  As Ethan noted earlier, this has been a regular push on the part of industry and business, and he suspected that it might have been a Trojan horse for pushing fracking in California.  (One version of this standard setting would have said that compliance with existing regulatory standards meant no significant impact – which would mean that for activities where there are not regulatory standards, such as much of fracking in California, there might have been no detailed CEQA review.)… (more)

CEQA Streamlining Under California Bay Area’s “Plan Bay Area”

CEQA Streamlining Under California Bay Area’s “Plan Bay Area”

By Chelsea Maclean : – excerpt

On March 2, 2013, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) released the Draft Plan Bay Area (Plan), the California Bay Area’s first integrated land use, housing and transportation plan prepared pursuant to SB 375 — the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008 — which aims to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cars and light trucks by improving the efficiency of regional land development patterns.

The Plan integrates MTC’s long-range Regional Transportation Plan, which is intended to identify strategies and investments to maintain, manage and improve the region’s ground transportation network with ABAG’s Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) efforts to allocate specific housing targets to individual cities and counties. For the first time, the Plan also includes a sustainable communities strategy (SCS), a new element required pursuant to SB 375 to demonstrate how the region will meet its GHG targets, as established by the California Air Resources Board (CARB)…

Streamlining Mechanisms May Soon Be Tested

Future project-specific environmental review should be considered in the context of the many streamlining provisions mentioned above. Among the myriad options, the SCEA for TPPs present the greatest opportunity, given that few projects will qualify for exemptions and the analysis that may be eliminated from streamlined EIRs is limited. Upon final adoption of the Plan, and in the absence of any litigation on the Plan, many of these streamlining mechanisms — only theoretically discussed and imagined up until now — may soon be tested…. (more)

Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Not Needed Before Starting Eminent Domain Proceeding

Environmental Impact Report (EIR) Not Needed Before Starting Eminent Domain Proceeding

By Claudia Gutierrez : – excerpt

In Golden Gate Land Holdings, LLC v. East Bay Regional Park District, the California Court of Appeals considered whether an Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) must be prepared where the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) and eminent domain law intersect. Golden Gate Land Holdings, LLC, the owner of the property in question, argued that the East Bay Regional Park District, tasked by the California Legislature to complete the Eastshore State Park (“Eastshore Park”), had to complete environmental review prior to taking any action, including adoption of the resolution of necessity for the condemnation of a portion of Golden Gate’s property. The court sided with the District holding that commencement of the eminent domain proceedings prior to completion of the EIR did not violate CEQA… (more)

CEQA Roundup – The Good, Bad & Potentially Bad: What business thinks of reform bills

CEQA Roundup – The Good, Bad & Potentially Bad: What business thinks of reform bills

by Justin Ewers : – excerpt

The CEQA reform debate was put largely aside this week as lawmakers work to finalize the state budget before next week’s deadline. The short breather provided an opportunity for a post-mortem on the legislative process so far—with one analysis by a group of land use attorneys offering an early glimpse of where business interests, in particular, are likely to seek changes in the months ahead. (More on that below.)

What CEQA proposals are still moving

Of the more than two dozen CEQA bills introduced this winter, only five made it out of their house of origin last week, meaning they could still become law this year.

Perhaps the biggest surprises were the stumbles of the most comprehensive CEQA changes backed by environmentalists, Asm. Ammiano’s AB 953 and Sen. Evans’s SB 617. Both bills contained the same proposal to address lingering legal uncertainty surrounding the recent Ballona decision, a legal change that is popular with some Dems—but particularly unpopular with the state Chamber of Commerce, which tagged both bills as “job killers.” It will be worth watching to see if the bill’s legal language makes its way into one of the five CEQA bills still moving.

The Land Use & Development Law Report offers a helpful roundup of the CEQA changes that are still on the table. Their summary:

Active CEQA bills:

  • SB 731, the “CEQA Modernization Act of 2013.″ (See CAeconomy‘s summary of what the bill does—and doesn’t do.)
  • AB 37, which would require lead agencies to prepare their records of proceedings at the same time they prepare environmental documents for certain projects
  • AB 543, which would require translation of certain CEQA notices and CEQA document summaries if 25% of nearby residents are non-English-speaking
  • AB 436 and AB 380, which would impose additional CEQA notice and filing requirements

CEQA bills that did not make the cut:

  • SB 787, the same far-reaching and controversial CEQA reform proposal that first surfaced in August 2012
  • Proposals for specialized divisions within superior courts to handle CEQA case
  • Efforts to overturn recent appellate court decisions [including Ballona] holding that CEQA concerns the effects of projects on the environment—not effects of the environment on projects
  • Three bills, or portions of those bills, that would have extended the 2011 Environmental Leadership Act’s CEQA streamlining provisions to additional categories of projects

Where business may push back (more)



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