Our relentless amplification of sensible CEQA solutions has been heard at the Capitol. We’re encouraged to see proposals limiting abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in Governor Gavin Newsom’s new infrastructure package. Here’s what you need to know about the sweeping plan – and how it streamlines water, transportation, and semiconductor projects that will boost job creation and statewide livability.
WHAT’S IN THE PLAN?
The package of 11 bills includes $180 billion in investments over the next decade to address the state’s aging infrastructure, create jobs, and help meet ambitious climate goals. Executed properly, it will help create an estimated 400,000 good-paying jobs in construction and related fields. Newsom’s plan also makes it easier to build certain projects with the following proposed reforms.
- Streamline environmental planning.
- Increase coordination among local, state, and federal agencies.
- Increase funding for agencies to accelerate reviews.
- Trim required paperwork for reviews.
- Exempt certain projects from environmental reviews.
- Limit the duration of CEQA lawsuits to nine months in court.
This final bullet point is key. The CEQA “shot clock” applies to cases targeting water, transportation, clean energy, and semiconductor projects. It mirrors a solution the New California Coalition included in its 10-Point Plan for Housing Affordability following months of statewide polling, legal research, and task force discussions.
WHAT ABOUT HOUSING?
You’ll note the list of projects affected by the nine-month cap on CEQA lawsuits doesn’t include housing, despite the Newsom administration urging local governments to permit more than 2.5 million new units during the next eight years. Click below to read a CalMatters report that cites Newsom’s response to a reporter who asked the question on our minds: “What about housing?” (He noted that broad changes to permitting and record keeping will accelerate the construction of new homes, even though the CEQA shot clock doesn’t apply to housing for now.) The piece also quotes BizFed leader Jennifer Hernandez, who says she’s “cautiously optimistic” about the potential of the proposal to speed litigation.