SBCTC-sponsored bill to protect CEQA passes Legislature

Sept. 14, 2017 - Big business interests will no longer be able to coerce local governments into approving their development projects under threat of costly special elections under a bill that has passed the Legislature and is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The state Assembly voted 44-29 on Wednesday in favor of Assembly Bill 890 that was sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council. The state Senate previously approved the same bill on Sept. 6 by a 22-15 margin.

Authored by Assembly Member Jose Medina of Riverside, the bill was aimed to close a legal loophole that has allowed developers to circumvent the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by having city councils and boards of supervisors approve their projects under threat of initiative campaigns.

California courts have found that projects submitted to the initiative process are not required to undergo environmental review. Increasingly, developers have since submitted voter petitions to get their projects approved. Facing costly elections, local elected officials instead have been approving many of these projects themselves, in order to save money. The result has been the absence of CEQA review to assess contaminated sites, or to learn the impacts projects might pose to neighborhoods, water supply, air quality, traffic, health and public safety.

AB 890 would return environmental review discretion to the local government bodies on land use approvals and any land use or zoning changes that would intensify a development designation. It also would enable city councils and boards of supervisors to allow more intensive land uses within an existing designation and to approve or amend development agreements.

The bill would not affect initiatives that encourage affordable housing and other socially beneficial projects.

“We thank those legislators who voted with the Building Trades coalition to send this bill to the governor,” said SBCTC Legislative and Political Director Cesar Diaz.

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