State Legislation Would Clear CEQA Obstructions for Road and Transit Projects

One legislator believes CEQA "is a key barrier to California meeting its ambitious climate change goals.”

2 minute read

February 5, 2018, 1:00 PM PST

By Katharine Jose

Pedestrian Bridge

The pedestrian bridge connecting BART to the Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum. | Sundry Photography / Shutterstock

The idea behind a law proposed by a California assemblyman is to take majors obstacles out of the way of transportation projects that would reduce traffic congestion, and therefore reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The issue is that the major obstacle in the way of these projects, according to the bill’s author, is the foundation of environmental protection in the state—the California Environmental Quality Act.

[Assemblyman Tim] Grayson says the law can grind to a halt transportation projects that are needed to reduce the amount of cars on the road. His legislation, Assembly Bill 1905, would make it easier for road or transit projects included in a state-approved regional growth plan to begin construction before any CEQA litigation is resolved.

A number of prominent environmental groups oppose the legislation, crediting "CEQA, which took effect in 1970, with preserving California's natural beauty, and argue it is complementary — not contrary — to the more recent climate change laws."

Environmental review in California is notoriously laborious, and this is not the first legislative effort to help projects move through CEQA more easily.

There have also been questions about how well CEQA serves its original purpose; one study found that "unions, business trade associations, rival local government agencies, and even the building industry all use CEQA to gain leverage over some local political process."

Opposition groups say the bill goes "too far."

“For instance, a judge might find that a transportation project's environmental review didn't account for all the effects the development could have on air quality, but under AB 1905 that judge couldn't stop the project because of it, said David Pettit, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Without the threat of halting construction, agencies won't need to take seriously any subsequent demands to improve the air surrounding the project, he said.”

Thursday, February 1, 2018 in Los Angeles Times

Aerial view of homes on green hillsides in Daly City, California.

Depopulation Patterns Get Weird

A recent ranking of “declining” cities heavily features some of the most expensive cities in the country — including New York City and a half-dozen in the San Francisco Bay Area.

April 10, 2024 - California Planning & Development Report

Aerial view of Oakland, California with bay in background

California Exodus: Population Drops Below 39 Million

Never mind the 40 million that demographers predicted the Golden State would reach by 2018. The state's population dipped below 39 million to 38.965 million last July, according to Census data released in March, the lowest since 2015.

April 11, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

A view straight down LaSalle Street, lined by high-rise buildings with an El line running horizontally over the street.

Chicago to Turn High-Rise Offices into Housing

Four commercial buildings in the Chicago Loop have been approved for redevelopment into housing in a bid to revitalize the city’s downtown post-pandemic.

April 10, 2024 - Chicago Construction News

View from middle of River Seine in Paris with Eiffel Tower on right side.

Seine Pollution Could Hinder Olympic Swim Events

Events like the triathlon could be impacted if tests continue to reveal high levels of dangerous bacteria in Paris’ famous river.

20 minutes ago - Euronews Green

Four-story light-colored multifamily apartment building.

How Financing Restricts the Rental Housing Market

The way apartment buildings are financed has a major impact on supply and costs.

1 hour ago - Strong Towns

Texas Bike Lane

Houston Mayor Pauses Complete Streets Projects

The move raises concerns among road safety advocates who point out that traffic deaths continue to rise.

2 hours ago - Governing

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Call for Speakers

Mpact Transit + Community

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.