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Gov. Brown might accelerate 4 LA megaprojects

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A bill awaiting the governor's signature would help developers if they're sued

Four Los Angeles megaprojects could be built faster if a bill approved by the state Legislature this week is signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the Los Angeles Times reports. The bill, SB 734, would force lawsuits brought against the projects under the California Environmental Quality Act to move more quickly through the courts. Better known as CEQA, the act requires cities and counties to analyze and find ways to reduce the impacts of new development on traffic, air quality, views, etc.

SB 734 would only apply to projects that cost more than $100 million, pay high wages to construction workers, and meet certain green building standards, according to the Times. The newspaper says the legislation aims to make sure lawsuits brought against development projects accused of violating CEQA wrap up within nine months.

The tri-towered Crossroads of the World redevelopment, the Yucca-Argyle development (which includes a 32-story tower), the freeway-capping Hollywood Central Park, and a reboot of Elysian Park’s Barlow Hospital are all expected to apply for the benefits of this bill if it passes. Supporters of the bill say it could shave as many as three years off the projects’ timelines.

This isn’t SB 734’s first rodeo: The bill is a two-year extension of a 2011 measure. "Since the first measure passed, only a half-dozen projects qualified for the streamlined review," the Times wrote last month. One of them, the Frank Gehry-designed 8150 Sunset, was fast-tracked and won final approval from the city's planning commission in late July. (The potential landmarking of a building on the site might slow things down, though.)

Some opponents question why, "even a small amount of relief from CEQA" would be offered to developers with big budgets that make them able to weather the environmental review. No surprise here, but the Coalition to Preserve LA, the group trying to place an initiative on the March ballot in Los Angeles to slow down large development projects, also opposes SB 734. The group's campaign director says:

SB 734 will allow wildly inappropriate private developments to breeze through the courts, such as the traffic-freezing "Crossroads of the World" mega-blob development, proposed next to badly jammed-up Highland Avenue and Sunset Boulevard, an area now all but shut down for hours each day by overdevelopment and its endless, attendant, commuter traffic.

Other opposition comes from the Sierra Club and environmental groups, which say, "the bill’s standards aren’t strict enough to give the projects special treatment." Also against the bill is the Judicial Council, a state entity that makes policy for courts. It doesn’t like that this bill would give these big projects, "further preference in the legal system," allowing them to jump in line in front of other cases whose turns might otherwise have come first.

The Governor’s approval would mean that the bill goes into effect immediately.