Land Use


CEQA Reform and Transit Planning

By Robert Cruickshank

Last Saturday the Planning and Conservation League held a daylong symposium on the California Environmental Quality Act. Coming amidst a concerted effort to reform the 43-year old law, the PCL wanted to use the day as an opportunity to rally progressives and environmentalists to defend the status quo and oppose any changes to CEQA. However, the day's discussions revealed a series of divisions among the ostensible allies regarding CEQA's future. While the PCL wants to frame the debate as one of heroic environmental and community advocates resisting evil oil companies and sprawlmongers who want to destroy environmental protections, the reality is far more complex.

New "Marine Reserve" Network Doesn't Protect the Ocean

By Dan Bacher

A new network of controversial "marine protected areas" went into effect on the North Coast from Point Arena to the Oregon border on December 19, completing the statewide network from the Oregon to the Mexican border created under the privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative.

The completion of the network was accompanied by a flurry of press releases from the Department of Fish and Game (now Department of Fish and Wildlife), Natural Resources Agency and corporate environmental NGOs and "puff pieces" by the mainstream media regurgitating the agency news releases.

California's Environmental Leadership: Making Progress Amid Economic Recovery

By Ann Notthoff

What California does makes a difference. When President Obama increased national mileage standards last year, he built on the pioneering work that Senator Fran Pavley started here in 2002. We dream big, we take big steps and when it comes to environmental and public health protection, nobody does it better. With his new budget proposal today, Governor Brown has a chance to build on our state's strong record of environmental and public health protection.

CEQA Reform Takes Shape for 2013

By Robert Cruickshank

One of the top issues facing the state legislature in 2013 will be reforming the California Environmental Quality Act. It's an idea whose time has come. CEQA is popular with environmentalists, but overall it has failed to achieve its goals of producing better development and protecting the state's environment. Since CEQA's passage in 1970, sprawl has exploded, carbon emissions have soared, species have been lost, and other environmental impacts have not been averted. Rather than promote environmentally friendly planning, CEQA's primary use is for NIMBYs who wish to prevent sustainable change. At times it does serve to stop projects that are truly bad for the environment, but those are rare cases, and too many good projects are delayed or made more expensive by the flawed process. California can do better.

California's New Fracking Regulations "First Step" to Proliferation of Permits

By Dan Aiello

Today Reuters reported that the draft regulations announced by the Brown administration set forth ostensibly to improve monitoring of the oil industry's hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," method of oil extraction from the state's depleted oil fields, are actually intended to increase the ability of the oil industry to use fracking in oil fields throughout California.

High Speed Rail Should Stay in Central Bakersfield

By Robert Cruickshank

Some Bakersfield residents, opposed to the current plan to bring bullet trains into central Bakersfield, are arguing for pause on the EIR for that portion of the route. Their argument is that the planning is flawed – but they’re only saying that because they just don’t want a downtown train station:

A kind of “time out” was proposed last week as a way to forestall lawsuits and rethink options on the proposed high-speed rail route into and through Bakersfield.

Brown Announces New Oil Industry Regulations Ahead of "Promised Land" Release

By Dan Aiello

The Brown administration Tuesday proposed new draft regulations that would require the oil industry to disclose where in California its oil extraction operations are using hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as "fracking," in advance of a new movie starring Matt Damon meant to bring public awareness to the environmental destruction caused by the practice.

Will California Reap Growth Rewards with the Sustainable Communities Strategies Initiative?

By Alan Kandel

Houston: We (California) have a problem, a Texas-sized problem.

California used to be the envy of the country - at one time, maybe of the world even. Ours was the land of plenty; it still is. The Golden State's number one industry - agriculture - is a cornucopia, a veritable cash crop to the tune of $32 billion per year - handily. The central San Joaquin Valley's contribution, incidentally, is about half.

But where acre after productive acre of the highest quality farmland once existed, much has been paved over. And left in its wake: sprawl, traffic congestion and deleterious air pollution. And the dirty air is pervasive. How problematic is it?

CHSRA Releases Agriculture White Papers

By Robert Cruickshank

At a recent board meeting of the California High Speed Rail Authority, an Agricultural Working Group brought together by the CHSRA released a series of white papers examining agricultural impacts in the Central Valley.

Overall, the papers found that high speed rail will not negatively impact agriculture in the Central Valley, including farms near the tracks. The papers are detailed and each is worth reading. A short summary of the key findings form each:

Sustainable Communities Bills Sent to Governor Brown

By Madeline Janis

On August 29, 2012, one of the most important job creation and environmental bills in recent memory was adopted by the legislature and sent to the governor. Senate Bill 1156 was developed and introduced by Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg and supported by a strong majority in both houses. Steinberg built quiet momentum behind the bill starting last February, in partnership with a broad-based coalition of community, environmental, labor, smart-growth and good-government activists, with support from the counties, infill developers, non-profit housing developers and business.