Southern California Association of Governments Stalling on CEQA Reform

By James Brasuell : planetizen : excerpt
One of the largest, most influential regional governments in the state has asked for exemptions from changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that will measure Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) instead of Level of Service (LOS).

“[The Southern California Association of Government] sent a last-minute letter attempting to delay progressive updates to California’s outdated environmental standards,” according to an article by Melanie Curry, who explains in more detail.

In the letter [PDF], Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)—the regional transportation planning organization for much of southern California—requested exemptions for highway expansion projects and freight corridors from proposed state rules that could show their true environmental impact in a way that old rules do not.

In effect, SCAG is asking the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, which is developing the reformed CEQA requirements, to “limit the new VMT measure to projects that are close to transit, and also to ‘grandfather in’ highway expansion and freight corridor projects that have already been approved in planning documents.” According to an environmentalist source cited in the article, it looks like SCAG is asking for exemptions on projects that won’t perform will under the new environmental review process in the state. According to a SCAG source, the letter was meant to “request that OPR focus first on transit priority areas and allow a longer opt-in period for other areas.”… (more)

San Francisco is not alone in its request for exemption from the Governor’s new bill. Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) wants exemptions related to LOS and VMT.

With temperatures rising you can’t expect people to give up there air-conditioned cars to ride buses, bikes and walk. No one in their right mind wants to put themselves in that position. The best solution for the environment is to build solar sufficient housing and that is 4 to 5 stories maximum. Then you will need a state law that protects those solar units from shade by nearby buildings. Sort of the opposite of stack and pack units being pushed now.

Ukiah Citizens for Safety First v. City of Ukiah

justia – excerpt

Justia Opinion Summary

In 2011, Costco sought a use permit and rezoning for 15.33 acres in southeast Ukiah. In 2013, the city released an environmental impact report (EIR), pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code, 21050), describing the project as a 148,000-square-foot retail facility with a bakery, pharmacy, optical center, hearing aid center, food court, photo center, tire center, 16-pump gas station, and 608 customer parking spots. The EIR included mitigation measures to reduce the impact, including modifications to impacted intersections, but due to uncertainty of timing and funding of those measures, concluded that the traffic impacts cannot be mitigated to a level that is less than significant. The EIR also concluded that the increase in traffic volumes would result in higher noise levels along local roadways but that traffic noise associated with the project would be less than significant. The city certified the EIR, adopted a statement of overriding considerations, and adopted the rezoning legislation. Opponents unsuccessfully challenged the rezoning and the sufficiency of the EIR. The court of appeal reversed, agreeing that the EIR failed to sufficiently analyze potential energy impacts and that the adoption of an EIR addendum after approval of the EIR and of the project violated CEQA… (more)

Sharks sue San Jose, fearing Diridon megaproject would eat up arena parking

By Nathan Donato-Weinstein : bizjournals – excerpt

Sharks Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of the San Jose Sharks, is going to court with the city of San Jose over a glitzy, $600 million, mixed-use project that the team says will gobble up parking for downtown arena patrons.

Just two weeks after losing in the Stanley Cup finals, team owners filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging the city’s environmental clearance of developer Trammell Crow’s “Diridon” office and apartment campus. The litigation, under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), seeks to overturn the project’s approval and an injunction to prevent the developers from breaking ground… (more)

Sports arena sues over parking rights in San Jose while the Warriors are trying to eat it up in San Francisco. What a challenge for the courts to sort this out.

California’s cap-and-trade program faces daunting hurdles to avoid collapse

By Chris Megerian and Ralph Vartabedian : latimes – excerpt

The linchpin of California’s climate change agenda, a program known as cap and trade, has become mired in legal, financial and political troubles that threaten to derail the state’s plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The program has been a symbol of the state’s leadership in the fight against global warming and a key source of funding, most notably for the high-speed rail project connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles.

But the legality of cap and trade is being challenged in court by a business group, and questions are growing about whether state law allows it to operate past 2020. With the end of the legislative session in August, Gov. Jerry Brown, lawmakers and interest groups of all stripes are laying the groundwork for what could become a battle royal over the future of California’s climate change programs.

Unless the state acts, “the whole system could fail,” said Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). “If that happens, we could lose an entire stream of revenue to make our communities more sustainable.”… (more)

 

Coalition to Preserve LA Slams Gov. Brown’s Attack on CEQA, as a Health Disaster for Children

businesswire – excerpt

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Coalition to Preserve LA strongly opposes Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to gut CEQA and Coastal Act environmental protections for virtually any urban project where developers agree to add an insignificant number of affordable housing units. We urge our supporters, and those who believe developers are the last ones who should decide their communities’ fates, to tweet and call Gov. Brown immediately regarding Trailer Bill 707. Brown’s twitter is @JerryBrownGov, and his phone is (916) 445-2841.

“It would be great if we could call a time-out and try to plan better, but it’s not practical.”

Tweet this

Brown’s wrongheaded plan tosses aside the California Environmental Quality Act and Coastal Act, handing the wheel to developers who have shown that without environmental oversight they won’t hesitate to place thousands of children in harm’s way, create gridlock and destroy neighborhood character.

The Coalition is sponsoring the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative on the March 2017 Los Angeles ballot to end developer control over what L.A. becomes. Contact us or donate at 2PreserveLA.org…

Under the guise of saving the environment, Brown has argued that cramming family housing into already congested areas reduces global warming. Now Brown claims that halting environmental review in congested areas is the best way to create affordable housing. While the City Council recently approved ineffective changes to address Black Lung Lofts in L.A., Brown must do better: end his war on CEQA and the Coastal Act and find another way to increase badly needed affordable housing units in California… (more)

Please visit us at neighborhoodintegrity@gmail.com / http://2PreserveLA.org

Contacts

The Coalition to Preserve LA
Jill Stewart, (916) 595-9033
or
Media Contact:
John Schwada, Mobile: (310) 709-0056
john.schwada@gmail.com

Planning Commission opposes Polk Street chain store ban

J.K. Dineen : sfgate – excerpt

The San Francisco Planning Commission narrowly rejected a proposed ban on chain stores on Polk Street on Thursday, with the majority arguing that the legislation was too broad and could have unintended consequences.

Instead, the majority of planning commissioners said that, rather than an outright ban, the current zoning should be amended to let in some desirable formula retail establishments while raising the bar for those opposed by the majority of residents.

“This is a solution looking for a problem,” said Commissioner Michael Antonini, who voted against the ban with three other commissioners in the 4-3 vote. “We’ve only had three applications (for formula retail businesses) since 2011. We approved two of them and rejected one. There has not been a glut of formula retail applications despite a glut of vacancies in the neighborhood.”

Fear of more empty stores

Supervisor Aaron Peskin introduced the formula retail legislation in February as a way to block a proposed Whole Foods 365 grocery store, which has filed an application to occupy the former Lombardi Sports store at Polk and Jackson streets. Peskin says he wants to preserve the mom-and-pop character of Polk Street’s business corridor and that he would rather see housing built there, which the property owner had originally intended to do. Last month, however, Peskin agreed to exempt the Whole Foods store, allowing the store instead to have a separate conditional-use hearing.

After the commission’s recommendation, the formula retail ban will go before the Board of Supervisors next… (more)

Panel backs huge project in the SF’s Mission District

By J.K. Dineen : sfgate – excerpt

The Planning Commission approved the largest housing development in the history of the Mission District Thursday night, despite over four hours of passionate commentary from residents and artists who said the project would continue to squeeze working families and artists out of the neighborhood.

Over the past year, the so-called Beast On Bryant at 2000-2070 Bryant St. has become a flash point for what most San Franciscans agree has become a crisis, the impact that an extreme influx of wealth and speculative investment is having on a neighborhood famous for its arts and working-class Latino community.

The plan, by developer Nick Podell, calls for two brick-clad buildings separated by a public alleyway. On the north side of the block would be 196 market-rate rental units, plus three affordable units to replace rent-controlled units that are being removed. On the other side would be a 139-unit, 100 percent affordable development, for which Podell has offered to donate the land, valued at $22 million…

The loss of the arts space became the crux of the 11th-hour negotiations Thursday night, after an 11-hour hearing, with Planning Commissioners convincing the developer to agree to include 19,000 square feet of space that would be set aside for artists and so called PDR, which stands for production, distribution, and repair. Some of the arts and PDR space will take up square footage that had previously been set aside for so-called “flex units,” which are similar to the live-work lofts constructed in the neighborhood during the dot-com boom.

A coalition of artists, residents, and building trades representatives opposed the development. Those groups wanted the amount of affordable housing to be increased to 50 percent and for 100 percent of the work to be done by union sub-contractors. That group — they called themselves “A Better Beast On Bryant” — tried to negotiate a deal where $10 million of private and union money would be put into the deal in order to increase affordable housing and arts. But in the end the groups offering to invest were looking for a market rate return similar to the financing Podell already had lined up.

Podell said that any more concessions would make the development “un-financable.”

“I showed my books to the city, as demanded,” said Podell. “I’m at the edge of what I can do.”

Several Mission District residents urged the commission not to approve any major projects before a new plan under development, Mission Action Plan 2020, is completed…

rick Arguello, Calle 24 Co-Founder/President, said that even the PDR and arts spaces would be too expensive for most Mission groups. “What’s necessary is 100 percent affordable housing,” he said.

The project divided a community that usually stands together: the San Francisco Building Trades Council, with the carpenters supporting it and plumbers and sheet-metal workers opposed.

Commissioners Katherin Moore and Cindy Wu voted against the project.

“After listening to powerful community comment I think this project is still too far apart on too many fronts,” said Moore. “For me, it is shocking to see the trade unions are not supporting it. This is the first time in my 12 years on this commission hearing this.”

Commissioner Rich Hillis said he sympathized with the criticisms, but that stopping the development would not slow the rate of change…

The Bryant Street project could be a bellwether for three other market-rate Mission District housing projects in the pipeline: the so-called Monster in the Mission at the 16th Street BART Station, which has been stalled by litigation between the property owner and the developer; the 157-unit project Lennar is proposing at 1515 South Van Ness; and Axis Development’s proposed 117-unit project at 2675 Folsom St… (more)

 

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