Will CEQA ever give infill development a break?
SB 731 – now pending in the Assembly – is intended to do just that. But in the latest twist in an increasingly long-running tale, the bill has now been amended in a way that could push CEQA significantly in the direction of assessing the socioeconomic impact of infill development.
As the California legislative session winds down, both CEQA reform and the revival of redevelopment appear headed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.
Both bills are being carried by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. They both passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee last Friday. The redevelopment bill – SB 1, virtually unchanged since last spring -- passed 12-5, presumably on a party-line vote. The CEQA bill – SB 731, the subject of endless wrangling in August – passed 17-0.
Recently, economist and entrepreneurship expert Carl Schramm announced a discovery in the pages of Forbes.com: “the practice of city planning has escaped reality.” Planners don’t see the big picture. They don’t understand economic growth. They’ve unleashed upon us scourges like live-work lofts, fire stations, and bloated pensions.
The First District Court of Appeal has batted down an attempt by the California Building Industry Association to turn CEQA on its head, saying that the passage of significance thresholds is not a project under the environmental law. In so doing, the court concluded that an environmental analysis is not required to examine the environmental impact of the standards used to conduct environmental analysis and assess environmental impact.
In other words, the appellate court ruled that CEQA does not apply to CEQA – at least not in this case.
Two weeks after it was left for dead, SB 731 – the bill to reform the California Environmental Quality Act – unanimously passed the Assembly Local Government Committee Wednesday. The bill was amended last week to ease parking requirements on infill development but it was unclear whether that would be enough to satisfy the Assembly.
At a glance, last week’s California Supreme Court ruling in the Expo Line CEQA case laid down a pretty clear rule: Lead agencies can use a “future baseline” for environmental analysis, but they have to be very careful in documenting the reasons why. L.A. Metro erred in using a “future baseline,” but fortunately for the agency the court concluded that it didn’t make any difference to the analysis.
Reports of CEQA reform appear to be greatly exaggerated. After sailing through the Senate late last spring, SB 731 – Senate leader Darrell Steinberg’s supposedly consensus-based reform of the California Environmental Quality Act – is still in the Assembly. Business-oriented CEQA reformers have reversed their earlier position and come out against it, while labor and environmental groups may also have problems with the bill.
San Francisco's Transbay Transit Center is slowing taking shape in a hole south of Market Street.
At first glance, the premise of journalist Daniel Book's History of Future Cities threatens to overwhelm its substance. "What do these four cities...have in common?" asks Brook, as if co-hosting a parlor game with Edward Glaeser, Saskia Sassen, and Jaime Lerner.
The City of San Jose has won an important round in a potentially landmark chase challenging the legality of inclusionary housing ordinances in California.
The U.S. Supreme Court has tightened the screws on exactions, ruling in a case from Florida that government agencies must follow the Nollan/Dolan doctrine – even when a permit is denied and when the exaction involves money as well as property.
Voters in the North San Diego County city of Encinitas have narrowly approved a ballot initiative limiting building heights to two stories in most parts of the city and requiring future changes in height and density to a vote.
You might wonder how many times I can write a blog highlighting how different California is from the rest of the country when it comes to density. After all, I started on this screed back in 2001, when I co-authored Who Sprawls Most? And just a month ago I wrote a blog noting that, according to the Census Bureau, California metros are densifying while their counterparts elsewhere are not.
On Tuesday, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner announced that he had selected Bill Fulton, this publication's founding editor and publisher, as the city's new planning director.
Rather than comment on this surprising turn of events, we thought we'd simply provide a rundown of blog and media coverage. The surprise announcement took place early Tuesday morning before an assembled crowd that included some 500 employees of the city's Development Services Department.
After a variety of setbacks, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is doggedly moving forward with bills to reform the California Environmental Quality Act and revive redevelopment. Both bills – SB 731 for CEQA and SB 1 for redevelopment – have cleared the Senate and are now pending in the Senate.