Will 2012 be the Year of CEQA Reform in California?

If two major business and labor groups have their way, the 1970 CA Environmental Quality Act will be 'modernized', to quote the CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. The CA Alliance for Jobs has joined SVLG, as has a top aide of the governor.

Sacramento political blogger David Siders provides a brief explanation of the politics behind a last minute push to reform the 42-year-old 'bible' of the California environmental community. The legislative season ends August 31.

"The proposal aired by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and other business interests at a news conference (Monday) morning (August 20) resembled draft legislation that would limit the ability to challenge certain projects in court. One proposal would exempt from CEQA projects that comply with a city general plan or other planning document for which an environmental review already has been done."

"We're here to press this effort forward," said Jim Earp, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs, a major construction lobbying group that includes labor representatives. The business group, which includes retailers and builders, is being advised by Gov. Jerry Brown's top political adviser, Steve Glazer."

"Environmentalists today were already lobbying against the proposal at the Capitol. Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California, said general plans are not sufficiently detailed to address environmental concerns about projects."

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters writes on August 21 that "Carl Guardino of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group called it "a thoughtful yet meaningful CEQA reform" that would 'modernize CEQA to stamp out non-environmental uses'."

On July 31, Siders wrote of Gov. Jerry Brown's history with CEQA as an Oakland mayor known for his efforts to create 'elegant density' as well as his current advocacy for high speed rail in California Gov. Jerry Brown upsets environmentalist friends with his CEQA critique.

"Brown's interest in an exemption for high-speed rail highlights one of his chief complaints about CEQA – that an environmental regulation can be used to block projects he believes are beneficial for the environment.

(A)s mayor of Oakland, Brown experienced firsthand how restrictive the law could be. In 2001, he lobbied successfully for legislation to relax standards for infill housing projects in the city core.

The Planning and Conservation League's David Mogavero said Brown in Oakland "saw how CEQA could be an impediment to good infill development. That's what's coloring his thinking these days a lot."

Indeed, those attempts to bring what Brown coined "elegant density" to downtown Oakland may not only have shaped his attitude toward CEQA but influenced his return to the Governor's office, as described by the Bay Citizen's Zusha Elinson on Sept. 2, 2010 in the New York Times, "As Mayor, Brown Remade Oakland's Downtown and Himself:

"A look inside Mr. Brown's 10K Project - his plan to attract 10,000 people to live downtown by 2001, which was the cornerstone of his tenure as mayor - reveals the transformation of his political career. Ultimately, it helped lead to his latest candidacy for governor."

Thanks to Scott Lay

Full Story: Push to overhaul California Environmental Quality Act picks up



Irvin Dawid's picture

Apparently not (No CEQA reform this year)

Capitol Alert reported on August 23: "A late-hour bid by business interests and some lawmakers to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act fell apart (Thursday) afternoon, with Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg saying the upper house will not take up the measure before the legislative session ends next week."

"The Senate will not take up comprehensive CEQA reform in the last days of the legislative session," Steinberg told reporters at the Capitol. "This law, for all of its strengths and its faults, is far too important to rewrite in the last days of the session."

Enviros one, Business zero.

"I'm relieved," said Sierra Club California director Kathryn Phillips, who called the bill "one of the worst attacks on environmental protections that we've seen in the 40-year life of this law."

2013 is a new legislative season. Hopefully the 'reformers' will submit a bill during the first week in February rather than waiting till the last week in August.
Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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