CP&DR News Summary: CEQA Reform, Bit by Bit
Even if they disagree with each other sometimes, state and local officials are trying to make it easier to get development projects through the CEQA process. Jerry Brown recently used his 2011 CEQA reforms to get a solar project approved in Riverside County. Meanwhile, Fresno County streamlined its CEQA process even as Brown has attempted to intervene in disputes between Fresno city, the county, and Madera County over greenfield development.
Last week Governor Brown certified the McCoy Solar Project in Riverside County under the terms of his 2011 CEQA reforms (AB 900), making it the second project to be certified since he signed the bill in September 2011. AB 900 allows projects to be eligible for expedited review. Brown says the billion-dollar renewable solar facility is projected to generate clean solar power, create over 340 jobs, and invest at least $100 million in the state.
The former RDA effort to revamp downtown Long Beach provides a unique example of something positive coming from the state’s dissolution of the RDA last year. A four-phase project to redo downtown streetscapes was slimmed down to focus solely on Pine Avenue, the main downtown corridor. .
Amid concerns that Fresno and Madera counties have made development of greenfield projects too easy, the Fresno County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve a regulatory change that will help speed up the county’s development process. The change allows developers to hire their own consultants, instead of the county contracting to a third party, for CEQA required reviews of project proposals. Opposing groups call this change a conflict of interest; however supervisors hold that there is no conflict of interest since the county will continue to oversee the environmental review process of proposed projects.
The City of Rosemead is using a portion of its Measure R local return funds to pay for its membership fees in the 710 Coalition. Although many oppose the use of local tax dollars to support the highly controversial I-710 extension project, Metro claims that this use falls within the Metro funding guidelines.
Traditionally, US DOT has relied on adopted roadway guidelines that favor the automobile and render roadways unsafe for bicyclists and pedestrians. Now for the first time, US DOT is setting out to create its own set of design standards that prioritize safer streets for biking and walking. Secretary of Transportation, Raymond LaHood, says that DOT will draw from best practices and collaborate with AASHTO and NACTO to develop standards that create a safer experience for all roadway users.
Los Angeles Council District 13 candidate, Matt Szabo, revealed his comprehensive transportation vision for the area in a plan titled, “This Could Be Us: A Public Transit Vision That Works”. The plan includes a new rail line running along Sunset Boulevard, connecting Hollywood to other destination areas, like Dodger Stadium and Downtown LA, a new streetcar along Riverside Drive connecting to the downtown streetcar, and an extension to Metro’s existing red and purple rail lines. Szabo’s plan aims to improve the area’s connectivity, improve access to public space, and advance efforts for increasing green space, like the Hollywood Central Park freeway capping project.
U-T San Diego
San Diego is in the process of preparing the county’s rail lines for the state’s future high-speed rail network. The blueprints, as part of the draft CA State Rail Plan, aim to combine the existing rail system with the future rail system needed to accommodate the state’s new bullet-train network. Although the high-speed rail isn’t expected to operate through San Diego for decades, officials are committed to improving regional access to future network connections in Los Angeles and San Diego by investing in its current light rail system.