A New Day for the California Environmental Quality Act

The California Natural Resources Agency posted the final version of amendments to the California Environmental Quality Act, enabled by 2013's SB 743, at the end of 2018.

2 minute read

January 8, 2019, 10:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

empty parking lot of Eastvale, California's best buy and kohl's, mountains in background

Brien Clark / Wikimedia Commons

Melanie Curry reports on the long-awaited adoption of California's SB 743—a bill signed in 2013 to reform the California Environmental Quality Act by ending the use of Level of Service as a metric for development impact. Vehicle miles traveled is now the preferred metric. Curry refers to Level of Service as car delay, and environmentalists and smart growth advocates have long noted that it's a strange way to measure environmental impact.

"The [new] rules say that vehicle miles traveled–the amount in distance of automobile travel produced by a project–is a more appropriate measure of transportation impacts than vehicle delay," explains Curry. "Specifically, the new rule states that 'a project’s effect on automobile delay shall not constitute a significant environmental impact.' In addition, development projects within a half-mile of high quality transit are presumed not to have a significant environmental impact."

The bill that passed in 2013 might have shot higher than the final rules produced by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, however, after compromises during the rule making process. For instance, "planners will be allowed 'discretion' on which measure to use–so they could choose to stick with the outdated and discredited Level of Service metric," reports Curry.

"The new rules take effect immediately as advisory, but by June 2020 they will apply to all new environmental analyses," according to Curry. For more information on the final bureaucratic actions that put the new rules into advisory effect, see an article posted by Norman F. Carlin, Kevin Ashe, and Eric Moorman on the Pillsbury Law website.

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