A Compilation of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) News

07 October 2008 Publication

Legal News: Environmental

Legislative Updates

Senate Bill 375

On September 30, 2008, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 375 (Bill). Under the Bill, the California Transportation Commission is required to maintain guidelines for travel demand models used in the development of regional transportation plans by metropolitan planning organizations (MPO). Regions that have an MPO must adopt a sustainable communities strategy as part of their regional transportation plan. The sustainable communities strategy must be designed to achieve certain goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from automobiles and light trucks. By September 30, 2010, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) must provide each affected region with GHG-emission reduction targets for the automobile and light truck sector for the years 2020 and 2035.

The Bill also includes CEQA exemption and streamlining provisions. Transit priority projects declared to be sustainable communities projects consistent with the sustainable communities strategy would be exempt from CEQA. Therefore, to qualify for the full CEQA exemption, the project must be a “transit priority project,” which means that it must 1) contain at least 50 percent residential use; 2) have a minimum net density of 20 units per acre; 3) have a floor-to-area ratio (FAR) for the commercial portion of the project of not less than 0.75; and 4) be located within a half mile of a major transit stop or high-quality transit corridor.

In addition, the Bill establishes a list of requirements for the transit priority project, some of which are listed below. The transit priority project must:

  • Be served by existing utilities
  • Be on a site that does not contain wetlands, riparian areas, or wildlife habitat with significant value
  • Not be located on a Government Code Section 65962.5 or “Cortese List” site
  • Not have a significant effect to historical resources
  • Not be located on developed open space
  • Exceed energy efficiency standards
  • Be no larger than eight acres or 200 units
  • Not result in a net loss of affordable housing units in the area
  • Not include any single-level building that exceeds 75,000 square feet
  • Provide either five acres of open space per 1,000 residents of the project, 20 percent moderate-income housing, and 10 percent low-income housing, or five percent very-low-income housing

While the Bill exempts from CEQA or streamlines the CEQA process for specified projects, no project will meet the exemption or streamlining requirements until a sustainable communities strategy is adopted, which could likely take years.

Text of the Bill is available at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/sen/sb_0351-0400/sb_375_bill_20080902_enrolled.pdf


Fresno Planning Department Loses Multiple CEQA Challenges
(The Fresno Bee, September 28, 2008) Between 2005 and 2008, government agencies and citizen groups have filed 10 CEQA challenges against the City of Fresno Planning & Development Department. The lawsuits have alleged city failure to consider impacts to air quality, traffic, historical resources, and other environmental factors properly prior to approving development projects. Of the 10 lawsuits, the city settled six and lost three after the cases were decided by the California Courts of Appeal. Regardless of the recent decisions, the city maintains that its development approval process is in compliance with CEQA.

Posted: http://www.fresnobee.com/263/v-printerfriendly/story/899308.html

San Francisco's City Identification Card Program Put on Hold After CEQA Lawsuit Filed
(Jurist Legal News & Research, September 5, 2008) After the City and County of San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance in November 2007 that authorized the city clerk to issue identification cards to give city residents access to city government services without regard to immigration status, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has postponed implementation of the program. According to the mayor's office, the postponement is necessary to ensure that the program complies with federal and state law. The Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) of Washington, D.C. has filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco alleging, among other things, that the ordinance violates CEQA. IRLI’s petition seeks an injunction and alleges that the identification card program would have a growth-inducing impact by encouraging illegal aliens to live in San Francisco. Therefore, IRLI claims that the city must prepare an environmental impact report for the identification card program.

Legal News is part of our ongoing commitment to providing legal insight to our land use planning and environmental clients and our colleagues.

If you have any questions about this issue or would like to discuss these topics further, please contact your Foley attorney or:

S. Wayne Rosenbaum
San Diego, California

Elizabeth A. Cason
San Diego, California

Heidi K. Vonblum, Law Clerk
San Diego, California

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