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Watered-Down CEQA Reform Could Still Speed Up Development

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There might finally be changes coming to 35-year-old California Environmental Quality Act, which is blamed for holding up myriad development and infrastructure projects (like the Regional Connector light rail, for instance). CEQA requires any significant development project to go through an environmental review and public outreach process, and it's supposed to allow the little guy to sue--unfortunately, it's too often used by rival developers or by NIMBYs looking to cash in. Democrats recently rejected a Republican reform bill, calling it "too broad and comprehensive," but last week a more neutered reform bill from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg passed the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, the Sacramento Bee reports. Aside from speeding up lawsuits that allege violations against CEQA, the Democratic legislation focuses heavily on speeding up urban infill projects (i.e., projects built on previously developed lots or on lots surrounded by development) that help enliven dead space in cities (think LA Live). Many think the bill is tailored too specifically to speed up work on a new sports arena in Sacramento, but Steinberg says it's just a happy coincidence that Sacramento is working on a stadium at the same time the bill is hammered out. Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce CEO Gary Toebben, vice chair of the CEQA Working Group, seemed meh about Steinberg's bill, saying only that he supports Steinberg's "process" of modernizing CEQA.
· Bill to change California's environmental review law advances [SacBee]
· A Field Guide to CEQA and Its Controversies [Curbed LA]