State lawmakers have approved a bill that would exempt a proposed football stadium in the City of Industry from having to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, as well as state planning and zoning law.
The legislation, AB 81 X3 by Assemblyman Isadore Hall III (D-Compton), was passed in the Assembly but did not leave the upper chamber before the Legislature recessed its two-year term on September 11 (see CP&DR, September 15, 2009). While meeting in a special session regarding the state's "fiscal emergency" during October, however, the Senate took up the bill and approved it, 21 to 14. Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the bill during a ceremony at the proposed stadium site on October 22.
In the days before the Senate's approval of the measure, Schwarzenegger vetoed some of the year's most significant land use bills. Among them: two fire-safety planning bills; legislation funding regional and local planning; and a bill giving local government more authority over the conversion of mobile home parks to condominiums.
While state lawmakers have previously exempted a few projects from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), no waiver has been as far-reaching as that in AB 81 X3. In addition to the CEQA waiver, the bill exempts developer Majestic Realty from a state law requiring its project – a 75,000-seat football stadium, a 25,000-space parking lot and 3 million square feet of entertainment, commercial and office space – to be compatible with the City of Industry's general plan. Finally, the bill bars any legal challenge based on CEQA, including two lawsuits already filed by the City of Walnut and a Walnut citizens group.
Under pressure from the Legislature, Walnut settled its lawsuit in late September, receiving $9 million in traffic mitigation fees, annual payments from Majestic of  $350,000 to $500,000 for a Walnut "community fund" and other considerations (see CP&DR In Brief, October 1, 2009).

But Citizens for Community Preservation reached no agreement with Industry and Majestic. According to newspaper reports, Majestic offered to add $2 million worth of traffic and pedestrian upgrades in Walnut, pay for a $250,000 air-filtration system at Walnut Elementary School and pick up the group's legal fees. State Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) also promised to ask Caltrans to investigate the possibility of building dedicated ramps from Interstate 10 to the stadium so motorists could bypass Walnut streets.
The citizens group's attorney, Bruce Tepper, declined to discuss details of any negotiations with Industry and Majestic. But he did say that the group had participated in eight days of talks mediated by former Attorney General John Van de Kamp and has had direct and indirect contacts with state lawmakers.
"It doesn't speak well for the Legislature to have adopted this exemption," said Tepper. "It is testament to the power of Majestic Realty. It is disastrous for CEQA."
A number of environmental groups – including Sierra Club California, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Heal the Bay and Defenders of Wildlife – opposed AB 81 X3 because of the precedent it would establish by setting aside state law to allow a favored project to proceed and eliminate citizens' legal recourse.
While the Majestic-backed legislation would appear to "substantially moot" the citizens' lawsuit to block the football stadium, AB 81 X3 does not address a legal claim made under the Water Code, Tepper said. The group contends that Industry should have adopted a new water supply assessment for the stadium project rather than rely on an assessment, approved in 2004, for a different project (a 4.8 million-square-foot industrial park and commercial development) proposed on the same site . In the meantime, the state's water situation has worsened.
In lobbying for the bill, Majestic and labor unions said that the stadium and related development would create 12,000 construction and more than 6,000 permanent jobs – numbers that clearly influenced some state lawmakers, as California's unemployment rate was 12.2% in September. State Sen. Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles), in whose district the stadium would be built, told the San Gabriel Valley Tribune that the project "puts us on the map and gives us the respect we deserve."
"This will be one of the most significant job-creation projects in the nation," Romero said.

Other Legislation

Although the Legislature's regular two-year session went into recess on September 11, lawmakers continue to meet in special sessions on water, tax reform and education.
After refusing to act on more than 700 bills to pressure lawmakers to pass water legislation (they did not), Schwarzenegger took pen in hand just before the October 12 deadline. He vetoed the following:
• AB 666 (Jones) and SB 505 (Kehoe). Jones's bill would have required counties to make specific fire-service findings before approving a development in a state fire responsibility area or a fire hazard zone; SB 505 would have required cities and counties in fire hazard zones to adopt general plan policies to minimize wildfire risk to new development. Schwarzenegger said AB 666 "would place an increased workload on the state without additional staff or other resources," while SB 505 would cost the state and counties too much money.
• AB 566 (Nava). Mobile home park owners vigorously fought this measure, which would have allowed cities and counties to consider tenant support in deciding a park owner's proposal to convert to condominiums or a common interest development. Park owners use conversions partly to avoid local rent-control regulations (see CP&DR Legal Digest, September 1, 2009) [node/2406]. In his veto message, the governor said park tenants should not be able to block a park owner's conversion request.
• SB 406 (DeSaulnier). This measure would have provided a consistent funding source for regional and local planning efforts by allowing metropolitan planning organizations and county transportation commissions to levy a $2 annual fee on vehicle registrations. The governor said voters should decide on the fee increases.
• AB 64 (Krekorian) and SB 14 (Simitian). As promised, Schwarzenegger killed the Legislature's renewable-energy package, saying it amounted to "new regulatory hurdles." He instead signed an executive order directing the Air Resources Board to adopt regulations that would increase the procurement of renewable resources. The governor would allow increased reliance on out-of-state sources of renewable energy, while Democratic legislators back greater environmental scrutiny of projects.
• AB 338 (Ma). The bill aimed to encourage use of infrastructure financing districts to fund improvements around transit stations by expanding districts' size and eliminating a voter-approval requirement. The governor said the measure would "undermine the rights of voters."
• AB 444 (Caballero). The bill would have permitted nonprofit entities to accept and disburse public funds to manage mitigation lands and conservation easements held by land trusts or special districts. The governor said the bill lacked fiscal assurances.
• AB 1176 (Ammiano). Schwarzenegger said the bill to create an infrastructure financing district to assist redevelopment of brownfields at San Francisco's Pier 70 was "unnecessary."
• AB 1404 (de Leon). The bill would have imposed limits, backed by environmentalists and social justice groups, on a cap-and-trade program for greenhouse gas emissions. Schwarzenegger called the restrictions premature.
• SB 213 (Florez). The governor said "no compelling rationale" existed for this bill, which would have extended an existing moratorium on new card clubs by five years, to 2020.
• SB 279 (Hancock). For the second time, the governor rejected expanding Mello-Roos financing authority to fund water conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements. Mello-Roos taxes should be limited to paying for core infrastructure, the governor said.
• SB 545 (Cedillo). This measure would have settled the 50-year controversy over completion of the 710 freeway by requiring that any freeway extension through South Pasadena run underground in a tunnel. The governor said there was "no need to erect statutory restrictions that would mandate certain project design options or remove others from consideration."

The governor signed the following legislation:
• SB 43 (Alquist). This lower-profile stadium bill authorizes Santa Clara to use a no-bid, design-build process to construct a new home for the San Francisco 49ers.
• SB 215 (Wiggins). Local Agency Formation Commissions will now be required to consider sustainable communities and alternative planning strategies under SB 375 before deciding boundary changes.
• SB 391 (Liu). The measure requires the California Transportation Plan to address how the state will reach greenhouse gas reduction goals in AB 32. The bill also requires Caltrans to report on how required sustainable communities strategies will influence the state's transportation system.
• SB 575 (Steinberg). This cleanup legislation to last year's SB 375 clarifies housing element due dates in the San Diego region.
• AB 881 (Huffman). This pilot project designates the Sonoma County Transportation Authority as the clearinghouse for the greenhouse gas reduction programs throughout the county.
• AB 45 (Blakeslee). This measure reauthorizes counties to regulate small wind-energy systems.
• AB 74 (Chesbro). The bill authorizes restoration of 1,400 acres of wetlands in the Clear Lake Basin. Nearly $50 million in state and federal funds are designated for the project.
• AB 570 (Arambula). This legislation modifies a Housing and Community Development program so that housing trust funds in small and rural communities have a better chance of receiving state money.
• AB 720 (Caballero). This measure permits a city or county that rehabilitates a unit using redevelopment funds – before adoption of a housing element provision – to count the unit toward the city or county's fair-share allocation of low-, very low- or extremely low-income housing.
• AB 1084 (Adams). Originally a far-reaching proposal that sought to restrict development impact fees, the signed bill makes minor changes to the Mitigation Fee Act.
• SB 93 (Kehoe). The bill restricts the ability of redevelopment agencies to fund public works projects outside of redevelopment project areas.
• SB 99 (Senate Local Government Committee). The bill imposes additional accountability requirements on public agencies that provide conduit financing.
• SB 310 (Ducheny). Sponsored by the building industry, this measure authorizes local government to develop a watershed improvement plan to address stormwater runoff and to assess fees to implement it.
• SB 494 (Caballero). This bill allows nonprofit organizations to build farmworker housing on agricultural parcels of up to 5 acres.