Streamlined CEQA Reform Passes Under a New Bill

Senator Steinberg's CEQA reform bill, SB 731, which we have been following all year, died - but many of the most important aspects - LOS, aesthetic and parking impacts, have been transferred to SB 743 (Kings Arena bill), though applied more narrowly.

2 minute read

September 17, 2013, 10:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


As we noted on Monday, SB 743, the Sacramento arena bill, passed the legislature on Thursday (Sept. 12). Earlier that day, key elements of SB 731, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQAModernization Act of 2013, were added, but applied on a more limited scope. Both bills were authored by Senate President pro Tem Darrell SteinbergDamien Newton explains.

While SB 731 would have brought the statewide elimination of [Level-of-Service] LOS — a car-centric transportation planning metric that basically puts the movement of cars over everything else — as part of environmental review, SB 743 would still nix the metric for projects within designated transit priority areas (TPAs).

SB 743 goes further than just eliminating LOS for these "urban infill areas", as both of Steinberg's press releases on CEQA modernization note:

Removing parking and aesthetics standards as grounds for legal challenges against project developments in urban infill areas. These standards are most commonly used as CEQA litigation hooks to slow or terminate a new development project. The standards will remain in place to demand a higher threshold for green-field developments.

However, the most recent addition of requiring a "socioeconomic impact of infill development", described here last Thursday (Sept. 12) is no longer in the bill.

So why the change - why not just keep CEQA reform and CEQA exemption for the Kings Arena as separate bills? Justin Ewers of California Forward, writes (in the California Economic Summit) that it was a result of a "Wednesday (Sept. 11) evening meeting between Steinberg and the governor".

Insiders say the governor pushed the Senate leader to pick one CEQA bill to get behind this legislative session, and Steinberg chose the Kings arena, putting his statewide legislation on hold until next year. Steinberg also reportedly promised to add several provisions requested by the governor.

Is it no wonder that some compare lawmaking to sausage making? Oh, did I neglect to mention that the arena bill is the result of a "gut-and-amend" on Sept. 6 to a bill originally titled, "Electricity: rates"?

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