Photo: Clinton Steeds

State legislation potential game changer

Greenbelt Alliance has long been a champion of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)—our state’s marquee law that ensures the environmental impacts of development projects are identified and mitigated.

At the end of this past state legislative session in September, Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 743, a bill with both potential game-changing improvements to CEQA. While we are excited about these new provisions, we are disappointed that the bill included exemptions from the law for a sports stadium in Sacramento.

SB 731—the broader CEQA measure we supported—didn’t pass out of the state legislature, but several key provisions from SB 731 were added to SB 743. This would not have been possible without the concerned residents and organizations that generated momentum behind the positive provisions of the bill. Thank you to everyone who responded to our action alert.

Here’s what we like about the new law:

  • SB 743 eliminates traffic congestion and level of service as the focuses of CEQA’s transportation analysis, particularly in areas well served by transit. These car-centric transportation models had often led to costly widening of intersections or additional traffic lanes, at the expense of penalizing projects such as new bike lanes, bus rapid transit, and infill development.
  • SB 743 calls on the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to come up with a new methodology for assessing transportation impacts in CEQA, with a first draft due by July 2014.

We are disappointed that the final bill did not include a provision for the OPR to study displacement, the involuntary departure of low-income residents from a community due to increased housing costs. Tackling this issue is an important step toward helping communities ensure everyone benefits from sustainable, transit-oriented development. There’s clearly more work to be done to get strong state policies that facilitate the right development in the right places.

For a more detailed picture of SB 743, check out this summary from Ascent Environmental [PDF].

 

 

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