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CEQA Reform Amendments Strengthen Social and Traffic Impact Analysis

As long-debated reforms meant to streamline California's landmark Environmental Quality Act near passage, interest groups from the right and left have found plenty to quibble with. But in two key areas, observers are cheering new amendments.
September 12, 2013, 11am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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While The New York Times has focused on the ways in which Senate leader Darrell Steinberg's CEQA reform bill SB 731 will weaken the landmark environmental law, more nuanced reporting in the California Planning & Development Report and Streetsblog LA look at two distinct ways in which the bill will strengthen impact analysis. 

William Fulton, with CP&DR, looks at new language that could expand CEQA to consider the socioeconomic impact of infill development. "The major change calls on the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research to do a study on economic displacement of residents in infill neighborhoods and revise the CEQA Guidelines based on the results," he explains. "In the past, the state has explicitly rejected moves toward assessing the socioeconomic impact of development via CEQA – in contrast to New York, whose CEQA equivalent moved in that direction a long time ago (but is not as frequently used on private development)."

Writing in Streetsblog LA, Damien Newtown cheers new language that would move traffic impact analysis away from standards based solely on Level of Service (LOS). "Instead of looking at Level of Service, (LOS) the barometer of how quickly cars can move through the street, projects will be evaluated on how they impact air quality, noise, safety and overall mobility," he explains. "For years, CEQA studies have led to more fast moving traffic, more sprawl and more dangerous communities."

“By moving toward these real environmental measures, Steinberg’s bill makes good projects in the right locations easier and ensures more thorough environmental review of all projects," writes Curt Johansen, president of the Council of Infill Builders, in the Sacramento Bee. "Projects would get rewarded for reducing overall driving and burdened if they contribute to more, resulting in a solution that both business advocates and environmentalists can agree is healthy in the long term for all Californians.”

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, September 10, 2013 in California Planning & Development Report
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