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One CEQA Reform Bill Advances; One Dies

CA Sen. Darrell Steinberg's bill to "modernize" CEQA unanimously passed the senate environment subcommittee. While SB 731 has no opponents at this time, it is suspected of being a means to keep the Kings NBA team from leaving Sacramento for Seattle.
May 4, 2013, 11am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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Torey Van Oot writes how two bills to reform the state's landmark but now controversial environmental law, the California Environmental Act of 1970 (CEQA) fared in the state Senate Environmental Quality Committee on May 1. The bill advocating "a broader approach more strongly backed by business groups was rejected by the committee that approved Steinberg's bill Wednesday, with Democratic senators saying the (broader) proposal went too far." SB 787 failed on a 2-7 vote.

That bill's author, Senator Tom Berryhil, did not have kind words for California Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg's more limited approach to CEQA reform

"The Legislature is quick to acknowledge CEQA is broken when a big stadium needs to get built but pretty quiet when a small business is trying to expand," the Twain Hart Republican said. "If you are a regular Joe anywhere else in California trying to expand your business you don't get much from this bill."

Steinberg defended his bill, stating that it is an attempt "to find the middle path" and promote infill development which CEQA has been charged with stymieing by some transportation and smart growth advocates. [See Planetizen, April 27 for more analysis].

The transportation "level of service" (LOS) standards is a critical planning regulated by CEQA that bicycle advocates in particular have sought to reform. See Eric Jaffe's "The Transportation Planning Rule Every City Should Reform" in The Atlantic Cities, Dec. 2011.

In fact, the bill's title, "CEQA & Sustainable Communities Strategy" refers to the landmark smart growth bill of 2008, SB 375, also authored by the Senate President pro Tem, to better match transportation investments and land use patterns to reduce driving and sprawl.

“We can promote infill development, and set standards for elements like traffic, noise and aesthetics to limit them from CEQA litigation and bring more certainty to the process,” the senator stated in his press release, which notes that the bill received support from "California business, environmental and labor groups".

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Published on Thursday, May 2, 2013 in Sacramento Bee
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