The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is California’s landmark environmental law. While CEQA does not directly regulate land use, it does require state and local agencies to follow a certain procedure for every proposed development project, including the analysis, public disclosure, and mitigation of potential environmental impacts.
In recent years, CEQA has come under attack for hindering efforts to increase infill, transit-oriented development, bicycle plans, and affordable housing, amongst other things. In 2013, ClimatePlan teamed up with the Planning and Conservation League and Greenbelt Alliance to pull together a dialogue of diverse stakeholders – everyone from infill builders to environmental justice champions – to discuss the relationship between CEQA and infill development. In July, we submitted a letter to Governor Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Steinberg, and Assembly Speaker Perez which outlined our consensus recommendations for CEQA.
In October 2013, SB 743 was signed into law. SB 743 eliminates traffic congestion and its proxy, Level of Service (LOS), as the focus of CEQA’s transportation analysis. This is great news for bike lanes, bus rapid transit, and infill projects that are essential strategies for healthier, greener communities.
But this provision won’t take effect immediately. First, the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) must develop a new methodology to replace traffic and LOS. This methodology must “promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of multimodal transportation networks, and a diversity of land uses.”
Updating CEQA Guidelines
In August 2014, OPR released a preliminary discussion draft of updates to the CEQA Guidelines implementing SB 743. Click here to read the discussion draft.
In this draft, California is starting to make a huge change. The state is finally acknowledging that what’s bad for the environment (and for communities) is the amount of driving we do, not the amount of traffic.
– Watch a video from California Forward: Time for California to Get on the CEQA Reform Bus?