California Environmental Quality Act exemptions are all the rage these days--the state's legislators are working on a bill now that would grant CEQA exemptions to bike lane projects. The LADOT Bike Blog explains that AB 2245, otherwise known by the incredibly sexy title "Environmental quality: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): exemption: bikeways," would allow cities to undertake Class II bikeway projects (i.e., bike lanes) without filing an environmental impact report (an EIR is currently a requirement of CEQA for such projects and it's a pretty involved process). If the law goes into effect, it would presumably make the process of building out the two big bike plans in the works right now in Los Angeles--one by the city and another by the county--a lot easier. The city of Los Angeles, for instance,just released an EIR for 43 miles of bike facilities to be added to the "backbone" of the city's bike network. The city has already managed to deliver several bike infrastructure projects without triggering the extra layer of review (and invitation for lawsuits) that is the EIR process.
While it might seems like the most obvious version of common sense to allow less environmental review for such environmentally friendly additions to the state's transportation infrastructure, the recent use of CEQA exemptions has been given more, should we say, liberal application: CEQA exemptions were given to AEG's Downtown NFL Stadium plans (the environmental impacts of which, by the way, are still being sorted out), and the Legislature approved AB 900, which would allow a shorter EIR review process for projects costing more than $100 million and meeting certain green standards.
Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown last week gave a particularly juicy sound bite: "I've never met a CEQA exemption I didn't like," while talking about the new water plan for the Bay Delta. For now at least, legislating specific CEQA exemptions is sufficing for the CEQA reform that politicians on the both side of the aisle seem to be ready for.
As for the status of AB 2245, the bill passed through the Assembly, and is now waiting for the State Senate to return from recess. The LADOT Bike Blog expects the bill to see a vote by the end of August.
· AB 2245 Update: On to the Senate Floor [LADOT Bike Blog]
· NFL Stadium Might Not Be Only Project Getting CEQA Workaround [Curbed LA]
· LA Starts Process to Close Gaps in the Backbone Bike Network [Curbed LA]