BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  SB 731
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          Date of Hearing:  September 11, 2013

                           K.H. "Katcho" Achadjian, Chair
                 SB 731 (Steinberg) - As Amended:  September 6, 2013

                               AS PROPOSED TO BE AMENDED
          SENATE VOTE  :  39-0
          SUBJECT  :  Environment: California Environmental Quality Act.

           SUMMARY  :  Enacts the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)  
          Modernization Act of 2013 and makes a number of changes to  
          provisions of CEQA law.  Specifically,  this bill  :   

          1)States that this act shall be known, and may be cited, as the  
            CEQA Modernization Act of 2013.

          2)Requires the Office of Planning and Research (OPR), on or  
            before July 1, 2014, to propose revisions to the CEQA  
            Guidelines to establish criteria for determining the  
            significance of transportation impacts of projects within  
            "transit priority areas," which may address a project's  
            vehicle miles traveled, vehicle miles traveled per capita,  
            automobile trip generation rates, automobile trips generated,  
            or other metrics that promote the reduction of greenhouse gas  
            emissions, the development of multimodal transportation  
            networks, and a diversity of land uses.

             a)   Authorizes OPR to also establish criteria for models  
               used in determining these impacts in order to be sure the  
               models are accurate, reliable, and consistent with the  
               intent of this section. 

             b)   Provides that automobile delay, as described solely by  
               level of service or similar measures of capacity or  
               congestion within a transit priority area, shall not  
               support a finding of significance pursuant to CEQA once  
               these guidelines are certified. 

             c)   Defines "transit priority area" as an area within  
               one-half mile of a major transit stop that is either  
               existing or planned, if the planned stop is scheduled to be  
               completed within the planning horizon of a specified  


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               federal transportation plan.

             d)   Provides that aesthetic and parking impacts of projects  
               subject to this section shall not be considered significant  
               impacts on the environment for purposes of CEQA, while also  
               stating that the authority of a lead agency to consider  
               aesthetic impacts pursuant to local design review  
               ordinances or other discretionary powers in not affected.  

          3)Amends the Congestion Management Act (Government Code Section  
            65088, et seq.) to expand the definition of "infill  
            opportunity zone" to include areas within one-half mile of an  
            existing or planned major transit stop (to be consistent with  
            the definition of "transit priority area" in this bill), and  
            authorize a city or county to designate an infill opportunity  
            zone (currently subject to a December 31, 2009, sunset and  
            other limiting conditions), for the purpose of obtaining an  
            exemption from the application of "level of service standards"  
            (LOS, a threshold that defines a deficiency on the congestion  
            management program highway and roadway system which requires  
            the preparation of a deficiency plan).  The effect of these  
            provisions is to reinstate prior law allowing local  
            governments to opt out of LOS requirements in infill areas.

          4)Requires OPR to propose by July 1, 2015, and the Secretary of  
            the Natural Resources Agency to adopt by January 1, 2016,  
            revisions to the CEQA Guidelines establishing criteria for a  
            lead agency to assess the need for translating specified CEQA  
            notices into non-English languages.

          5)Requires a lead agency to prepare and publish a report on a  
            project's compliance with mitigation measures adopted pursuant  
            to CEQA, upon request of a member of the public.  

          6)Provides that the statute of limitations for bringing a CEQA  
            lawsuit may be tolled for successive periods up to four years  
            each by agreement of the parties (petitioner, public agency  
            and real party in interest/applicant).  

          7)For certain projects and upon a project applicant's request,  
            authorizes a lead agency to prepare concurrently with the  
            administrative process the record of proceedings that would be  
            used in a judicial challenge to an agency's action or decision  
            under CEQA.  Specifies procedures for preparation and  
            publication of the record.  Requires the project applicant to  


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            reimburse the lead agency for the costs incurred to prepare  
            the record.  Applies to projects determined to be of  
            statewide, regional, or area-wide environmental significance;  
            infill projects for which an EIR was certified for a city or  
            county's planning level decision; a project implementing a  
            sustainable communities strategy pursuant to SB 375  
            (Steinberg), Chapter 728, Statutes of 2008; or any other  
            project for which the lead agency consents to prepare the  
            record of proceedings pursuant to the above requirements.  

          8)Requires the California Research Bureau, subject to the  
            availability of funds, to report annually to the Legislature  
            regarding CEQA lawsuits, including the parties involved, the  
            type of action and violation alleged, and the disposition of  
            the case.  

          9)Requires, when a court finds that a public agency has not  
            complied with CEQA, that the court enter a judgment directing  
            the issuance of a peremptory writ of mandate specifying what  
            action is necessary to comply.  Requires the writ include only  
            those mandates necessary to achieve compliance and only those  
            project activities in noncompliance, and permits a writ to  
            direct the agency to revise only those portions of a CEQA  
            document found not to be in compliance, provided the  
            non-compliant issues are severable from the remainder of the  

          10)Requires, on or before January 1, 2015, OPR to prepare a  
            report on economic displacement, and specifies that the report  
            include all of the following:

             a)   A review of social scientific literature on economic  

             b)   An explanation and analysis of any causes of economic  

             c)   A review of the individual and community impacts of  
               economic displacement;

             d)   A discussion and evaluation of available measures to  
               prevent or mitigate the impacts of economic displacement;

             e)   A discussion of any further research needs on economic  
               displacement, if necessary.


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          11)Allows OPR to make recommendations based on that report, as  
            appropriate, and defines the term "economic displacement."

          12)Authorizes the applicant for a project, including a renewable  
            energy project, to present to the public agency the onsite or  
            offsite benefits of the project.  

          13)Establishes, until January 1, 2017, the position of "Advisor  
            on Renewable Energy Facilities" in the office of the Governor.  

          14)Declares the intent of the Legislature regarding CEQA issues  
            addressed in the operative provisions of the bill.

           EXISTING LAW  :

          1)Requires lead agencies with the principal responsibility for  
            carrying out or approving a proposed project to prepare a  
            negative declaration, mitigated negative declaration, or EIR  
            for this action, unless the project is exempt from CEQA.

          2)Requires an EIR to identify and analyze:

             a)   Significant effects on the environment that would occur  
               if the project is approved, unless the agency finds that  
               alternatives to the project or mitigation measures would  
               address the effects, or specific overriding economic,  
               legal, social, technological, or other benefits of the  
               project outweigh them; and,

             b)   Cumulative impacts of a project when, considered in the  
               context of environmental change occurring over time, the  
               incremental effect is cumulatively considerable.

          3)Exempts from CEQA specified residential housing projects which  
            meet criteria established to ensure the project does not have  
            a significant effect on the environment, including urban  
            infill housing projects not more than 100 units on a site not  
            more than four acres in size which is within one-half mile of  
            a major transit stop.

          4)Establishes abbreviated CEQA review procedures for specified  
            infill projects, where only specific or more significant  
            effects on the environment which were not addressed in a prior  


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            planning-level EIR need be addressed.  An EIR for such a  
            project need not consider alternative locations, densities,  
            and building intensities or growth-inducing impacts.  Infill  
            projects may include residential, retail, commercial, transit  
            station, school, or public office building projects located  
            within an urban area.  

          5)Requires the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to develop  
            CEQA guidelines, including statewide standards to promote  
            smart growth, reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,  
            reduction in water use, energy efficiency improvements and  
            protection of public health. 

          6)Requires metropolitan planning organizations to include a  
            sustainable communities strategy (SCS), as defined, in their  
            regional transportation plans, or an alternative planning  
            strategy (APS), for the purpose of reducing GHG emissions,  
            aligns planning for transportation and housing, and creates  
            specified incentives for the implementation of the strategies,  
            including CEQA exemption or abbreviated review for eligible  
            residential projects.

          7)Authorizes judicial review of CEQA actions taken by public  
            agencies, following the agency's decision to carry out or  
            approve the project.  Challenges alleging improper  
            determination that a project may have a significant effect on  
            the environment, or alleging an EIR doesn't comply with CEQA,  
            must be filed in the Superior Court within 30 days of filing  
            of the notice of approval.  

          8)Establishes that a record of proceeding includes, but is not  
            limited to, all application materials, staff reports,  
            transcripts or minutes of public proceedings, notices, written  
            comments, and written correspondence prepared by or submitted  
            to the public agency regarding the proposed project.   
            Establishes a procedure for the preparation, certification,  
            and lodging of the record of proceedings.  

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  According to the Assembly Appropriations  
          Committee, one-time General Fund (GF) costs to OPR of  
          approximately $500,000 to develop threshold standards for noise,  
          transportation, and parking impacts.  Ongoing GF costs of  
          approximately $120,000 for the creation of the Advisor on  
          Renewable Energy Facilities within the Office of the Governor.   
          GF cost pressure of $30 million for local assistance grants for  


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          planning activities administered by the Strategic Growth  
          Council.  Unknown cost pressures for the California Research  
          Bureau to report annually.

           COMMENTS  :   

           1)Background on the CEQA Modernization Act of 2013  .  This bill  
            enacts the CEQA Modernization Act of 2013 and is intended to  
            update CEQA law and streamline project review.  According to  
            the author, this bill is the outgrowth of an effort that began  
            last summer at the end of session (2012) when Senator  
            Steinberg held SB 317 (Rubio), a last minute 'gut and amend'  
            effort to rewrite the law.  Senator Steinberg pledged to come  
            back in 2013 with legislation to update and streamline the  
            law, and to take it through a full public process.  Last fall,  
            Senator Steinberg and then-Senator Rubio convened a series of  
            experts in working groups to review key issues and identify  
            areas of consensus for new legislation, and in February 2013,  
            SB 731 was introduced.

           2)AS PROPOSED TO BE AMENDED  :  The author is offering amendments  
            to the September 9th version of the bill, to be adopted in  
            this Committee, that would do the following:

             a)   Strike out Sections 7, 9 and 10 in the existing bill;

             b)   Strike out unnecessary definitions (page 15, line 29 -  
               page 16, line 16);

             c)   Add in provisions regarding economic displacement and  
               require OPR to do a study on economic displacement issues;  

             d)   Technical corrections to Section 19 of the bill per the  
               Judicial Council.

          3)This bill passed the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on  
            September 10, 2013, on a 5-1 vote.




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           Analysis Prepared by  :    Debbie Michel / L. GOV. / (916)