Bill Fulton's blog
The California Environmental Quality Act does not apply in reverse, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Overturning the First District Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court ruled that, with a few exceptions, CEQA analysis must be limited to the project's impacts on the environment (and, by extension, the project's environmental impacts on its own population) but not the environment's impact on the project.
Among other things, the ruling would seem to suggest that a CEQA analysis cannot analyze and mitigate the effect of future sea level rise or other climate change effects on a proposed project.
If NIMBYs are, proverbially, planners’ worst enemies, then planners are sometimes their own second-worst enemies.
Monday morning I attended one of a dozen or so workshops and listening sessions, this one in Los Angeles, put on by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research to publicize and solicit input into the new draft General Plan Guidelines. It’s a momentous occasion for planners in California. Legislative, demographic, and cultural forces have forged a different world in the 12 years since OPR last updated the guidelines.
Cities that update their general plans, usually to the tune of hundreds of pages, need all the help they can get. That’s why it’s so important for OPR to clearly explain what it has in mind and to hear what planners and citizens need to make the magic happen.
Some citizens, though, see nothing magical about, well, anything that planners do.
In draft program guidelines issued last week, the Strategic Growth Council staff will recommend eliminating the jurisdictional cap on funding, increasing the cap for individual developers from $15 million to $40 million, and setting aside 10% of the funding for rural projects. However, the SGC staff recommendations stop short – so far – of a setaside for each region, as some metropolitan planning organizations requested.
Instead, the SGC staff has recommended that MPO staff should review full AHSC applications based on consistency with each MPO’s sustainable communities strategy and provide formal recommendations to the SGC as to which applications should be funded. However, more options may be presented to the SGC at its October meeting.
The staff recommendations include a wide variety of other changes, including increasing the points awarded for deep housing subsidies on affordable housing projects. Overall, the SGC staff is recommending a 50-50 split in the scoring criteria between GHG emissions reductions and other policy criteria, such as affordable housing and collaboration between transportation and housing projects. Last year, the GHG reduction accounted for 55% of possible points, while policy objectives accounted for 30% and 15% went to “project readiness and feasibility”.
On an unusually hot February afternoon in downtown Los Angeles, I conducted a field walk assessment to help a client identify potential sites for a bikeshare “mobility hub.” Standing on a corner near the Convention Center, I noted that we were at the border between two Census tracts. Ordinarily, this border wouldn’t matter much—the neighborhood isn’t discernibly different on one side or the other—but in this case, I was helping the client apply for a state grant program that gives special consideration to projects located in “disadvantaged communities.”
If located on the south side of the street, the project would be located in a “disadvantaged” census tract, but not on the north side. “Well, let’s clearly locate the hub on the south side,” the client advised, with some incredulous laughter. Humorous as it may sound, this decision speaks to the serious policy weight—and dollars—the State of California has put behind the concept of “benefitting disadvantaged communities.”
When I consider Wendell Cox’s ideas, I remind myself that I am taking in not just a series of ideas but rather a whole worldview. It's kind of like reading Dune, the famously comprehensive desert world imagined by sci-fi novelist Frank Herbert.
Cox spoke the other day to ULI's Los Angeles chapter along with USC demographer Dowell Myers. The two weren't exactly adversaries, but they were a study in forms of reasoning. Cox is all induction, beginning with theory and explaining how the facts match it. Meyers is deductive, presenting the facts and going from there.
Cox’s a worldview that does not, I think, correspond well to reality -- certainly not the reality of California -- but it's a nonetheless a complete, mostly consistent view. An analysis of Cox, then, relies on finding those moments when his world matches up with the real world just closely enough to make a comparison.
The California Supreme Court has accepted Cleveland National Forest Association v. SANDAG, the controversial case that raises the question of whether a governor's executive order must be taken into consideration in CEQA analysis.
Local voters in California gave oil a split decision on Tuesday. Voters in La Habra Heights shot down an anti-fracking ballot measure, while voters in Hermosa Beach rejected a ballot measure that would have permitted E&B Natural Resources to construct 34 onshore wells in the city. Meanwhile, Redondo Beach voters rejected a development plan that would have included razing the power plant that has long occupied a critical spot near the beach.
The SB 743 roadshow went to Anaheim over the weekend, where the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research – along with Ron Milam from Fehr & Peers – faced an overflow crowd and probed deeply into OPR’s proposal to dump traffic congestion as a significant impact under the California Environmental Quality Act. And the discussion showed just how much the OPR proposal is turning the CEQA’s traditional assumptions about traffic on their head.
The end of redevelopment has never turned into a cash cow for the state, as Gov. Jerry Brown hoped back in 2011. And while the 2012 cleanup law – AB 1484 – has clarified the rules, cities are still losing most lawsuits against the state that seek to retain former redevelopment funds.
The proposed CEQA Guidelines prohibiting lead agencies from categorizing traffic congestion as a significant impact will likely trump any significance finding tied to local general plans that contain a level of service standard, state officials said at a forum on the draft guidelines Friday in San Diego.
Dear CP&DR Readers,
By now, you may have heard that I have decided to move on from my current job as Planning Director of the City of San Diego to become the Director of the Kinder Institute for Urban Research at Rice University in Houston. (See http://kinder.rice.edu/content.aspx?id=2147485438&blogid=306.) I’m writing this short missive to reassure you that I remain committed to California Planning & Development Report – and, in fact, I’ll have more motivation and bandwidth to devote to CP&DR than I have had in recent years.
The Bay Area’s regional planning agencies have settled a lawsuit with the Building Industry Association over Plan Bay Area – the regional sustainable communities strategy.
In the settlement, the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission agreed to focus more on finding residential locations within the Bay Area to accommodate expected future growth, rather than assuming a certain amount of in-commuting from the Central Valley and Monterey County.
Yesterday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 471, a redevelopment cleanup bill that included some of Brown's ideas about using infrastructure financing districts as a future substitute for redevelopment.
Specifically, AB 471 clarifies that an IFD can be created that overlaps with a former redevelopment project area, so long as the IFD debt is subordinate to the old redevelopment debt.
"If you’re waiting for CEQA reform from the legislature, get a life! If you’re going to reform CEQA, you have to do it at home."
The vast majority of California jurisdictions are now addressing greenhouse gas emissions, and increasingly they are using reduced parking requirements to achieve the “smart growth” land use changes that go along with emissions reductions.