CEQA Roundup: Have negotiations really stalled?

by Justin Ewers : caeconomy – excerpt

The clock is officially ticking on the year-long effort to update the California Environmental Quality Act, with the Assembly returning to session this week amid rising concerns that negotiations between business, environmental, and labor groups have stalled…

The policy obstacles

Since he first introduced his legislation, Steinberg has insisted his aim is to streamline the CEQA process for infill development—part of his own years-long effort to curb urban sprawl and help the state meet its climate goals. At the heart of his approach has been a proposal to set new “thresholds” for environmental impacts like traffic and noise that have become major obstacles to infill projects.

Environmentalists have expressed concern about how these standards would be set, but have not yet publicly commented on Steinberg’s proposal. In their open letter last week, though, would-be reformers may have swept the ground out from under this approach, saying that it may be impractical to set these thresholds statewide.

With the foundation of Steinberg’s legislation apparently wobbling, business groups drew attention to what is not yet in the bill—calling for CEQA litigants to be required to reveal who they are (something the law doesn’t currently require) and demanding CEQA plaintiffs pay for the preparation of the public environmental documents that lead agencies must compile during lawsuits

Steinberg himself seems to have been surprised by the opposition on the part of some labor leaders, in particular, who have pushed back against his most basic goal: Updating the CEQA process for infill projects. While the Senate leader has tried from the start to write a bill that would drive more of this type of development across the state, sources say some labor leaders view the coming infill wave as the source of a steady stream of jobs—and they are wary of losing CEQA as a tool they can use to reach project labor agreements with developers…

At a time the governor is already trying to resolve a BART strike and escalating prison crisis, that may present a significant challenge… (more)


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