With the economy humming along, innovative ideas sprouting up around the state, and, of course, the occasional dispute, 2015 was as lively a year for land use as any other in recent memory. To mark the new year, CP&DR presents its most-read stories of 2015.
The California Environmental Quality Act does not apply in reverse, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
Overturning the First District Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court ruled that, with a few exceptions, CEQA analysis must be limited to the project's impacts on the environment (and, by extension, the project's environmental impacts on its own population) but not the environment's impact on the project.
Among other things, the ruling would seem to suggest that a CEQA analysis cannot analyze and mitigate the effect of future sea level rise or other climate change effects on a proposed project. >>read more
Perhaps fittingly, one of the state's oldest, stateliest cities will be the first to institute one of the most sophisticated advances in planning tools since the slide rule. Not long ago, the City of Pasadena implemented metrics that measure projects' impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act in terms of vehicle miles traveled rather than level of service.
Pasadena is not only the first city in the state to adopt VMT metrics but may also be the first in the nation.
Pasadena's switch both responds to and precedes the adoption of Senate Bill 743. Passed in 2013 as an amendment to the California Environmental Quality Act, SB 743 will require cities to evaluate traffic impacts according to vehicle miles traveled, not to traditional level-of-service thresholds.
The California Supreme Court has acceptedCleveland National Forest Association v. SANDAG, the controversial case that raises the question of whether a governor's executive order must be taken into consideration in CEQA analysis.
The proposed CEQA Guidelines prohibiting lead agencies from categorizing traffic congestion as a significant impact will likely trump any significance finding tied to local general plans that contain a level of service standard, state officials said at a forum on the draft guidelines Friday in San Diego.
It can sound like a simple step, to end Level of Service (LOS) metrics in CEQA transportation analysis. The more conceptually elegant Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) metric is easy to welcome in the abstract, with its incentives for shared and active transportation, its arguably simpler calculation methods, its potential to realign CEQA analysis with state climate protection law – and most of all, its escape from the addictive spiral of induced demand for broad, free-flowing highways that, under the logic of LOS analysis, always need widening again.
But in early August the Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR) published a detailed discussion draft setting out an alternative transportation impacts metric in compliance with last year's SB 743 mandate. And alongside the big-picture discussions of environmentally conscious innovation, the technical arguments began.
SB 731 – now pending in the Assembly – is intended to do just that. But in the latest twist in an increasingly long-running tale, the bill has now been amended in a way that could push CEQA significantly in the direction of assessing the socioeconomic impact of infill development.
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.