New Hazard Mitigation Planning Requirements            
May 2013
In This Issue
SB 1241: Fire Hazard Planning
AB 900 Update
Who is Douglas Herring & Associates?


Last September the Governor signed into law SB 1241, which imposes new requirements for public planning agencies to plan for and reduce the impacts of wildland fires. Some of the requirements don't go into effect until January 1, 2014 but will require advance planning,

Half Dome, from Glacier Point, Yosemite
Half Dome, from Glacier Point, Yosemite

so we wanted to make sure our clients were aware of the upcoming changes. We previously wrote about hazard mitigation planning and federal funding available to local agencies in our June 2009 eAlert, which you can read here: June 2009 eAlert. Read on to learn more about SB 1241.   


This issue of our periodic newsletters intended to keep our clients informed about recent developments also includes an update about AB 900, which we previously wrote about in our November 2011 and December 2011 eAlerts.


As always, let us know if there's anything we can do to help lighten your work load.    


Doug Herring, AICP

Archives:  Our previous eAlerts are now archived at:  DHA eAlerts Archive   
Photography by Doug Herring

Wildcat Regional Park
Wildcat Regional Park


Senate Bill 1241: Fire Hazard Planning

SB 1241, introduced by Senator Kehoe (39th Dist.), has three main provisions, with new requirements for:

1) safety elements of general plans;

2) tentative subdivision map approvals; and

3) the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) guidelines.

Each of these provisions is briefly summarized below. You can read the full text of the bill here: SB 1241.

General Plan Safety Elements. Upon each revision to the housing element on or after January 1, 2014, planning agencies must revise or update the safety element of the general plan to address the risk of fire in areas classified as State Responsibility Areas (SRA) and Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones (VHFHSZ) by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE). The updated safety elements will need to take into account applicable provisions adopted by the Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR), as set forth in the most current version of OPR's Fire Hazard Planning document. Updated safety elements must be reviewed by the California Geological Survey and CAL FIRE prior to adoption. As established by AB 1241, the State is not required to reimburse local agencies for complying with these or other provisions of the bill.

Among other requirements, the updated safety elements will need to provide maps or other information about the general location and distribution of existing and planned development in SRAs or VHFHSZs; adopt policies for avoiding wildfire hazards; identify construction methods and materials for minimizing fire hazard; identify local, regional, and state agencies with responsibility for providing fire protection services within the jurisdiction; and more.

Tenative Subdivision Maps. Prior to approving a tentative map in an SRA or VHFHSZ, a city or county must make the following three findings, supported by substantial evidence in the record:

1) that the design and location of each lot in the subdivision, and the subdivision as a whole, are consistent with CAL FIRE regulations promulgated in Sections 4290 and 4291 of the Public Resources Code;

2) that structural fire protection and suppression services will be available for the subdivision, either by local entities or by CAL FIRE, under contract;

3) that ingress and egress for the subdivision meets the regulations regarding road standards for fire equipment access adopted pursuant to Section 4290 of the Public Resources Code.

This requirement also applies to a parcel map for which a tentative map is not required.

CEQA Guidelines. On its next revisions to the CEQA Guidelines after January 1, 2013, OPR in cooperation with CAL FIRE must amend the initial study checklist contained in Appendix G of the Guidelines to include questions related to fire hazard impacts on lands classified as SRAs or VHFHSZs.


Wildcat Canyon
Wildcat Canyon, Contra Costa County

Assembly Bill 900 Update

As discussed in our November 2011 eAlert, Governor Brown signed AB 900 into law on September 27, 2011. Framed as a CEQA reform law, AB 900 contains provisions for expediting environmental review pursuant to CEQA for certain types of qualifying projects that are certified by the Governor as a "leadership project." Potential qualifying projects can be infill developments with a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) rating of Silver or better that can also demonstrate at least 10 percent greater transportation efficiency than for comparable projects. A leadership project must also involve investment of at least $100 million or more and must create high-wage jobs. Other potential leadership projects are wind or solar renewable energy projects and factories that manufacture products, equipment, or components used for renewable energy generation, energy efficiency, or for the production of clean alternative fuel vehicles.


On March 29, 2013, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch struck down as unconstitutional a provision of AB 900 that allowed expedited CEQA litigation of leadership projects, allowing them to bypass the trial courts and jump straight to the Court of Appeal. Other AB 900 provisions intended to expedite the CEQA process, such as reduced deadlines for decision making and expedited administrative record preparation, are not affected by Judge Roesch's ruling.


Who Is Douglas Herring & Associates?

Douglas Herring & Associates (DHA) works with public agencies, developers, and other businesses in California to expertly obtain the environmental and planning approvals needed to move projects from the conceptual stage to physical, benefit-generating reality in an efficient and cost-effective manner.  Since 1997, DHA has helped dozens of California cities and counties and scores of other businesses and organizations save money while obtaining high-quality planning and legally defensible environmental analysis services necessary to get their projects expeditiously approved and built. Learn more on our website:  Douglas Herring & Associates.
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