As the California legislative session winds down, both CEQA reform and the revival of redevelopment appear headed to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk.
Both bills are being carried by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. They both passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee last Friday. The redevelopment bill – SB 1, virtually unchanged since last spring -- passed 12-5, presumably on a party-line vote. The CEQA bill – SB 731, the subject of endless wrangling in August – passed 17-0.
The redevelopment bill would permit cities to use tax-increment financing in limited circumstances. Counties and other local taxing entities would have to agree; school tax-increment would not be included; and the money could be spent only in transit priority areas, walkable locations, and clean-tech districts. Brown vetoed a virtually identical bill last year.
Steinberg thought he had consensus on the CEQA bill last spring, but that appeared to fall apart at the end of July when both CEQA reformers and CEQA defenders found fault with the compromise.
Later in August, the CEQA Works – the CEQA defenders – got bent out of shape a second time in response to a set of amendments proposed by Brown's Office of Planning & Research, some of which were incorporated into the bill by Steinberg. OPR's proposals included a proposal that clarifying that parking and exceedance of level of service standards do not, in and of themselves, represent a significant impact under CEQA. The OPR proposal also includes a suggestion, which Steinberg accepted, that CEQA settlements be approved by trial judges and then only when certain findings can be made.
The CEQA Works letter of Aug. 19 zeroed in on the judicial approval of settlements in particular. Acknowledging that the provision may be intended to discourage settlement illegitimate CEQA lawsuits, the CEQA Works letter claimed the provision represented "a solution where there is, in fact, no evidence of a problem."
However, the CEQA Works letter to did not discourage Steinberg from accepting many of the proposed amendments; not did it prevent the 17 members of the Appropriations Committee – including 12 Democrats – from approving it.