BILL NUMBER: SB 731 INTRODUCED BILL TEXT INTRODUCED BY Senator Steinberg FEBRUARY 22, 2013 An act relating to the environment. LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST SB 731, as introduced, Steinberg. Environment: California Environmental Quality Act and sustainable communities strategy. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires a lead agency, as defined, to prepare, or cause to be prepared, and certify the completion of, an environmental impact report (EIR) on a project that it proposes to carry out or approve that may have a significant effect on the environment or to adopt a negative declaration if it finds that the project will not have that effect. CEQA also requires a lead agency to prepare a mitigated negative declaration for a project that may have a significant effect on the environment if revisions in the project would avoid or mitigate that effect and there is no substantial evidence that the project, as revised, would have a significant effect on the environment. This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation revising CEQA to, among other things, provide greater certainty for smart infill development, streamline the law for specified projects, and establish a threshold of significance for specified impacts. Existing law requires the regional transportation plan for regions of the state with a metropolitan planning organization to each adopt a sustainable communities strategy, as part of their regional transportation plan, as specified, designed to achieve certain goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles and light trucks in a region. Existing law establishes the Strategic Growth Council to manage and award grants and loans to support the planning and development of sustainable communities strategies. This bill would state the intent of the Legislature to provide $30,000,000 annually to the council for the purposes of providing planning incentive grants to local and regional agencies to update and implement general plans, sustainable communities strategies, and smart growth plans. Vote: majority. Appropriation: no. Fiscal committee: no. State-mandated local program: no. THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: SECTION 1. (a) It is the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to adopt provisions of Chapter 3 (commencing with Section 15000) of Division 6 of Title 14 of the California Code of Regulations (CEQA Guidelines) that are intended to provide greater certainty for smart infill development, such as Section 15183.3 of the CEQA Guidelines and related appendices that implement Chapter 469 of the Statutes of 2011. It is further the intent of the Legislature to explore amendments to expand the definition of "infill" and to accommodate infill development in the Central Valley. (b) It is the intent of the Legislature to explore amendments to the California Environmental Quality Act (Division 13 (commencing with Section 21000) of the Public Resources Code), to further streamline the law for renewable energy projects, advanced manufacturing projects, transit, bike, and pedestrian projects, and renewable energy transmission projects. (c) (1) It is the intent of the Legislature to update CEQA to establish a threshold of significance for noise, aesthetics, parking, and traffic levels of service, and thresholds relating to these land use impacts, so that project meeting those thresholds are not subject to further environmental review for those environmental impacts. It is further the intent of the Legislature to review other similar land-use- related impacts to determine if other thresholds of significance can be set. (2) It is not the intent of the Legislature to affect authority, consistent with CEQA, for a local agency to impose its own, more stringent thresholds. (3) It is not the intent of the Legislature to replace full CEQA analysis with state or local standards, with the exception of the land use standards described in paragraph (1). (d) It is the intent of the Legislature to amend Section 65456, which exempts from CEQA projects undertaken pursuant to a specific plan for which an EIR has been prepared, unless conditions specified under Section 21166 of the Public Resources Code have occurred, to define with greater specificity what "new information" means, and to avoid duplicative CEQA review for projects and activities that comply with that plan. It is further the intent of the Legislature to review the possibility of defining other types of plans to determine if similar treatment could be applied to those plans or portions of those plans that are consistent with sustainable communities strategies adopted pursuant to Section 65080 of the Government Code or that have had a certified EIR within the past five years. (e) It is the intent of the Legislature to enact amendments to Section 21168.9 to establish clearer procedures for a trial court to remand to a lead agency for remedying only those portions of an EIR, negative declaration, or mitigated negative declaration found to be in violation of CEQA, while retaining those portions that are not in violation so that the violations can be corrected, recirculated for public comment, and completed more efficiently and expeditiously. It is further the intent of the Legislature to explore options under which a court could allow project approvals to remain in place, and for projects to proceed. (f) It is the intent of the Legislature to amend Section 21091 of the Public Resources Code and related provisions of law to establish clear statutory rules under which "late hits" and "document dumps" are prohibited or restricted prior to certification of an EIR, if a project proponent or lead agency has not substantively changed the draft EIR or substantively modified the project. (g) It is the intent of the Legislature to provide $30 million annually to the Strategic Growth Council for the purposes of providing planning incentive grants to local and regional agencies to update and implement general plans, sustainable communities strategies, and smart growth plans pursuant to Chapter 728 of the Statutes of 2008.