California Releases its First Draft of its Alternatives Analysis Guide (AA Guide)

by Maureen Gorsen : jdsupra – excerpt

All manufacturers and sellers of consumer products into California should take note.    California has just released its first draft of stage one of its Alternatives Analysis Guide (AA Guide).  You can read all 103 pages here.

If your product is selected as a “priority product” under the California Safer Consumer Product Regulations, then your company will be required to prepare and submit for public review an alternatives analysis (AA).  Learn more herehere or here.

An AA is a brand new paperwork beast.  It is in parts a large CEQA/NEPA-type document, in parts a hazard assessment, in parts a life cycle assessment, and more.  It has the potential to make a CEQA document look like a haiku poem in comparison.

Manufacturers are encouraged to look at this initial draft AA Guide to determine whether what California is asking for is doable and feasible, and to provide comments to the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to modify the draft AA Guide to the extent they find it infeasible or impractical and help the State develop a document that will enhance manufacturer’s ability to comply, rather than make it impossible… (more)

Governor rejects redevelopment replacement, approves related measure

By Allen Young : bizjournal – excerpt

Gov. Jerry Brown nixed a proposal on Monday that would have breathed new life into the abolished redevelopment agencies by creating authorities capable of financing community-supported infrastructure projects.

But the governor also signed legislation that reforms an economic development tool known as infrastructure financing districts, which are similar to the former redevelopment agencies in that they use property-tax growth to fund infrastructure.

The difference, however, is that infrastructure financing requires a public vote, which local governments say have historically undermined its viability. The new law lowers the needed voter approval to 55 percent from the current two-thirds threshold.

In a veto message for Assembly Bill 2280, which would have established “community revitalization and investment authorities,” Brown said the proposal for was well intended but “unnecessarily vests this new program in redevelopment law.” The governor pledged to find a better solution with author Assemblyman Luis Alejo, a Salinas Democrat.
Infrastructure financing districts rely on tax-increment financing, a system that directs increases in property-tax revenue to finance building projects. The districts only can receive about half of the funds that were accessible to redevelopment agencies because they cannot siphon away revenues that would otherwise go to schools…

Sen. Jim Beall, a San Jose Democrat who authored Senate Bill 628, said infrastructure financing is an improvement over the redevelopment program because the voter requirement and other transparency provisions protects against abuse of tax dollars.
“I think a public vetting washes out all the flaky projects,” he said.

On Monday, the governor also signed Senate Bill 614, a related measure that allows for tax-increment financing to be used to repair infrastructure in some low-income areas when the effort is done in conjunction with an annexation plan… (more)

Republicans to break rank with party leaders in call for climate change action

theguardian – excerpt

At least 10 House Republicans sign on to resolution in mini-rebellion seemingly designed to put pressure on presidential candidates and party leaders.

Nearly a dozen Republican members of Congress will break ranks with leaders of their party on Thursday, and call for action against climate change.

The mini-rebellion a week before the pope visits Congress appears timed to ratchet up the pressure on Republican presidential candidates and congressional leaders to soften a party line of casting doubt – or simply denying – the existence of climate change.

So far, at least 10 House Republicans have signed on to the resolution acknowledging that human activity contributes to climate change, and calling for actions to respond to the threat of climate change.

The res­ol­u­tion was drafted by Chris Gibson, a former US army colonel and congressman from New York who is not seeking re-election.

The resolution, calling for “conservative environment stewardship” was endorsed by representatives Ileana Ros-Le­htin­en and Car­los Cur­belo of Flor­ida, Robert Dold of Illinois, Dave Reich­ert of Wash­ing­ton, Pat Mee­han, Ry­an Cos­tello, and Mike Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, and Richard Hanna and Elise Stefanik of New York, according to the National Journal.

A number of those representatives are also not seeking re-election or are from moderate districts.

Will Harrington Challenge Hotel on CEQA Grounds?

Posted by David Greenwald : davisvanguard – excerpt

Three weeks ago the Davis City Council tentatively approved the Hotel-Conference Center along Richards Boulevard, and they did so making a Mitigated Negative Declaration arguing that the impacts of the project and the “recommended mitigation measures reduce any potential environmental impacts to less-than-significant levels.”

However, in a letter delivered Tuesday afternoon from Attorney Don Mooney on behalf of Michael Harrington, he argues that “approval of the project would violate the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), Public Resources Code, section 21000 et seq. as substantial evidence in the record of proceedings supports a fair argument that the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center Project may have significant environmental impacts to traffic and other matters such as historical resources.”

“The Initial Study must provide the factual basis and the analysis for the determination that a project will not have a significant impact on the environment,” Mr. Mooney writes. They then present an “expert opinion” provided by Dan Smith of Smith Engineering & Management, who argues that “a ‘fair argument’ exists that the Project may have significant impacts regarding traffic and circulation.”

Mr. Mooney continues, “Mr. Smith identifies significant flaws in the Transportation Impact Study for the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center. Mr. Smith’s comments result in conflicting claims regarding the Project’s impacts to traffic and historic resources. It is the function of an environmental impact report, not a negative declaration, to resolve these conflicting claims.”

City Attorney Harriet Steiner said they have gone over the issue of using a “Neg Dec” versus an “EIR.” She said, “Staff went through an initial study to determine what impacts this project would cause based on the baseline. As we went through that and as we did the analysis we did not feel that there was a fair argument that the project itself would cause an impact that required preparation of the EIR. That is why staff recommended and the city went forward with a ‘Neg Dec.’”… (more)

We are noticing a lot of negative impacts of traffic showing up in arguments against projects. We also are hearing about a shift in attitude by so-called “moderate democrats” who are starting to fight back against the continued use of transportation funds on non-transit and anti-car projects. Appeals cases that reach the high courts are also denying projects based on these arguments.

Citizens group fights city’s new short-term vacation rentals proposal

sdnews – excerpt

The City of San Diego has been put on notice by citizens group Save San Diego Neighborhoods that if the mayor and City Council intend to change the city’s municipal code to allow short-term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods, it must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, Save San Diego Neighborhoods’ attorneys delivered a letter with the notice and request for a formal reply from Robert Vacchi, director of the San Diego Development Services Department.

The letter advises city officials that changing the city’s municipal code to allow short-term vacation rentals (STVR) to operate in San Diego’s residential zones represents a “fundamental change” to the municipal code. Save San Diego neighborhoods also asserts that to allow STVR into residential zones violates the city’s general plan and adversely effects all ten elements of the plan, in particular, noise, housing and services and safety.

“The eventual adoption of an ordinance expressly allowing STVRs in single family residential zones will have multiple, foreseeable, direct and indirect physical impacts upon the environment and constitutes a non-exempt ‘project’ under CEQA,” the letter states…  (more)

400-Square-Foot Two-Bedrooms Proposed, Planning Has Concerns

socketsite – excerpt

Panoramic Interests plans to raze the single-story industrial building at 333 12th Street and build up to seven stories and 274 apartments on the parcel and adjacent parking lot between Folsom and Harrison.

s currently zoned, the Western SoMa site could support around 200 units of housing in buildings up to five stories in height, but Panoramic intends to invoke California’s Density Bonus law, which could allow for the additional height and density for the “affordable-by-design/workforce” project if approved.

Regardless, the proposed units would average 398 square feet apiece, or roughly 350 square feet excluding the bathrooms.  And that includes the two-bedrooms as well..(more)

398 square foot two-bedroom units are being presented to qualify as additional units under the state bonus housing plan. Now Mayor Lee wants to extend this plan to include even more density and height for more affordable untied on site. This could be your worst nightmare. The Planning Commissioners aren’t sure about this. A good reason for our petition: We need a better Plan

Brown deal allows steals local rights

hanfordsentinel – excerpt

“CANOE THEORY AT WORK IN GUV’S CEQA EXEMPTION DEALS”

Gov. Jerry Brown has never professed to be the model of political or ideological consistency. In fact, he’s a decades-long advocate of the “canoe theory” of politics, which goes like this: You paddle a little to the left and you paddle a little to the right, and you keep going straight down the middle of the steam.”

You also keep all sides guessing a lot of the time and you make sure opponents of some of your policies are allies on others.

So the governor who once proclaimed that “small is beautiful” and announced an “era of limits” for California apparently has no stomach for limits on huge developments.

That’s the meaning of the agreements he made with legislators to exempt some of the most significant building projects on California drawing boards from many environmental regulations. These deals were part of the horse-trading that led to easy passage of the new state budget.

Brown’s press release on the budget, of course, made no mention of such deals, which also exempt the project-enabling bills from thorough legislative hearings because like the developments they promote, they are fast-tracked…

This is the same governor who has not opposed changes in the California Environmental Quality Act, known as CEQA, that allow developers to qualify initiatives okaying their projects for local ballots and then let city councils adopt those initiatives without a public vote or debate.

If this is what Brown really meant when he campaigned in 2010 on a promise to devolve more government authority to locals and away from the state, it will surely go down as one of the least green and least positive legacies of his long political career…  (more)

These discrepancies have not gone unnoticed by the press, but this a particularly well-authored interpretation. Good reading for those of us who lack the clarity or the nerve to call the Governor out on his tactics.

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