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.
The CEQA bill is more likely to be enacted into law. Steinberg deliberately created a consensus bill with little opposition and it passed the Senate 39-0. The redevelopment bill – a rerun of last year's SB 1156, which passed the Legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown – passed the Senate 27-11 on a party-line vote and Brown may well veto it again.
Perhaps the biggest CEQA change called for in SB 731 is the creation of state significance thresholds for parking, transportation, and noise. The bill would allow local governments to create stricter standards – but one can imagine quick a battle at the Natural Resources Agency and the Office of Planning & Research over whether the state thresholds should be strong or weak. In addition, the bill would ditch aesthetics as a CEQA issue.
Steinberg's bill originally called for an appropriation of $30 million per year to fund planning grants through the Strategic Growth Council, but the language was watered down simply to say that this is the Legislature's intent. With such broad support, it seems likely that Brown will sign the bill.
An excellent rundown of the bill was prepared by the Manatt law firm.
The redevelopment bill, SB 1, continues to mirror last year's bill, permitting the creation of a "sustainable communities investment authority" with limited access to tax-increment financing if both the city and the county agree to it. The redevelopment areas to be created would be limited to transit-rich locations, "small walkable areas," and clean energy manufacturing sites.
Although the bill appears likely to pass the Legislature for the second year in a row, there is no reason to believe Brown has changed his mind on vetoing it.