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California CEQA Changes for 2013

There was a proposal in Sacramento to change California’s CEQA law significantly in 2013. It was Senate Bill 787. It initially garnered a great deal of interest in the beginning of the year, but lost support in later months. The proposed law would have made it much more difficult for 3rd parties to challenge public agency actions & determinations regarding CEQA compliance.

Instead Senate Bill 743 passed. It wasn’t as ambitious as SB 787, but some of the changes are potentially significant. It dealt mainly with transportation, in particular parking and traffic.

Its parking provisions are primarily that “aesthetics and parking impacts of a residential, mixed-use residential, or employment center project on an infill site within a transit priority area shall not be considered significant impacts on the environment.” It basically sets up something called a “transit priority area,” and states that parking impacts won’t be considered at all on infill sites in such areas. It may not be such a big issue because parking has not typically been considered an environmental issue, but is addressed in other areas of the planning process.

Similarly for traffic the law states that inside a transit priority area “automobile delay, as described solely by level of service or similar measures of vehicular capacity or traffic congestion shall not be considered a significant impact on the environment pursuant.” It represents an intriguing departure from the concept that quick automobile transit is an environmental quality right. Whether or not it will have a significant impact on promoting alternatives to automobile transit is yet to be determined.