Love it or hate it, the 1970s-era California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a critical piece of legislation that sets the stage for development projects. Environmental supporters see CEQA requirements as important check points to ensure responsible development. Businesses, however, routinely point to the inefficiencies of preparing the required documentation and securing necessary approvals. With California’s strained economy, CEQA reform is ripe for discussion.
Numerous bills focusing on reform topics have been introduced this legislative season, yet only five have moved out of the house or senate. An excellent detailed description of these bills can be found on the California Land Use & Development Law Report website A brief summary follows.
SB 731 – Senator Darrell Steinberg introduced this comprehensive bill, also referred to as the “CEQA Modernization Act of 2013”, as an attempt to balance environmental regulations and business interests. Among other items, this bill proposes adjusting thresholds for some issue areas such as traffic and noise, streamlining the review process for clean energy projects and removing discussion of aesthetic impacts for residential and transit-oriented development projects.
AB 37 – Introduced by Assemblymember Henry Perea, AB 37 proposes amending the Public Resources Code to require lead agencies to prepare a record of proceedings at the same time as their environmental documentation.
AB 543 – Assemblymember Nora Campos proposed a requirement that environmental document notices and summaries are translated if non-English speakers comprise 25 percent of the area where a project is proposed.
SB 436 – Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson’s proposal requires lead agencies to hold at least one public scoping meeting and increase the public notification period for CalTrans-related projects.
AB 380 – Assemblymember Roger Dickinson also proposes increasing public noticing and posting requirements for agencies to ensure cross posting of required notices.
As is common, the devil is in the details. Even when aligned on the intent of the bill, Assemblymembers and Senators experience hold ups in determining specifics. What’s next is anybody’s guess. Analysts have varied opinions on the merits and detriments of each bill, so an outcome is not clear. To be sure, CEQA reform will be an interesting issue to continue to follow this legislative season.
What do you think about these proposed reforms? Connect with me over on Facebook and let me know your thoughts