Summer Shorts            
July 2013
In This Issue
Sustainable Communities Strategy for the Bay Area
CEQA Reform Advances
Environmental Victories Under CEQA
CEQA and Economic Growth
Who is Douglas Herring & Associates?


In this issue of our periodic newsletters intended to keep our clients informed about recent Marin bridgeplanning and environmental developments we're reprising a format that has proven popular in the past: shorts. Since it's summertime, that only seems appropriate. Read on for several short news tidbits that may interest you.

Speaking of shorts, this is a great time of year to put on the hiking or riding kind and enjoy the outdoor splendors of the Bay Area. For some excellent suggestions of several wonderful local outings, you might want to read our August 2011 eAlert, which describes one fabulous Bay Area hike and three fabulous bike rides. The descriptions include topo relief maps with delineated routes.

Enjoy your summer!

Doug Herring, AICP

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


Sustainable Communities Strategy for the Bay Area  

Among other provisions, Senate Bill 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, requires the State's 18 Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to develop regional transportation plans that incorporate a "sustainable communities strategy" (SCS) that will enable the affected region to achieve the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals established by Assembly Bill 32, passed in 2006. The MPO governing the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area is the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).

ABAG is scheduled this month to jointly approve Plan Bay Area, the SCS document for the Bay Area. The Plan was developed in coordination with the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), and was released in draft form in March to undergo review by the public. Plan Bay Area integrates regionwide land use, housing, and transportation planning so that cities and counties can accommodate growth and meet their Regional Housing Needs Allocations (RHNA) while decreasing GHG emissions from cars and light trucks. The Plan provides a framework to accommodate the Bay Area's projected growth of 2.1 million residents and 1.1 million jobs by the year 2040, while achieving reductions in per-capita GHG emissions of 7 percent by 2020 and 15 percent by 2035.

The Plan also includes provisions for streamlining compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for proposed development projects that are consistent with the Plan.

You can download the draft Plan Bay Area along with the Environmental Impact Report for the Plan at: Plan Bay Area

Pt. Reyes National Seashore

CEQA Reform Advances

Proposals for overhauling the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) have been flying fast and furiously for the past year. CEQA is California's 43-year-old law mandating an evaluation of the potential environmental impacts of proposed development projects and public planning documents. Debate over the reform of CEQA has been quite heated, with fairly extreme positions being advocated on both sides (i.e., complete overhaul vs. leave it as-is). (For more background on the reform effort, see our January 2013 eAlert.)


Forward movement on CEQA reform has finally been made! In late May the California Senate unanimously approved (yes, you read that right) Senate Bill 731, which now moves on to the State Assembly. After the 39-0 bipartisan vote, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (who is the bill's author) stated, "We go into the Assembly with a lot of momentum."

Among the bill's many provisions, aesthetic impacts of residential, mixed-use, or employment center projects located within a Transit Priority Area would no longer be subject to environmental review conducted pursuant to CEQA. Unsubstantiated opinion would no longer be allowed as new evidence in legal challenges. The bill would require lead agencies that have adopted a Mitigation Monitoring and Reporting Program (MMRP) along with an EIR or Mitigated Negative Declaration to prepare an annual report on compliance with the measures in the MMRP. SB 371 also has provisions for speeding up legal challenges and for developing standardized Statewide thresholds of significance for certain types of environmental impacts.

You can read the text of SB 731 in its current form here: SB 731.

Marin Silhouette

Environmental Victories Under CEQA

With all of the debates about how well CEQA has been working (see the previous item), it's worth considering some of the significant ways the law has been effective over the past decades at protecting the marvelous natural resources found throughout the State. These resources are a significant reason why California has a robust tourism industry that pumped $106.4 billion in direct travel spending into the economy in 2012, according to an April 2013 report by Dean Runyan Associates. This travel spending also directly supported 917,000 jobs, with earnings of $32.3 billion in 2012. CEQA helps restrain us from inadvertently killing this golden goose.

In case you missed it, in 2005 the California League of Conservation Voters (CLCV) jointly produced with two other organizations a document recounting over 75 major "success stories" for the environment that happened as a result of CEQA. In addition to providing a survey of inspiring case studies spanning 35 years, there are essays on how CEQA has benefited the California environment, written by attorneys, State regulators, and other experts, such as Mary Nicols, Chair of the California Air Resources Board. You can download the CLCV report at: CLCV Report.

Majestic Tree

CEQA and Economic Growth

Some industry groups have asserted for years that CEQA has hampered economic growth. A recent economic study sponsored by the California Construction Labor Management Cooperative Trust convincingly makes the case that, if anything, the law's effect on the economy has been beneficial. The Economic and Environmental Impact of the California Environmental Quality Act found that since the passage of CEQA in 1970, with the exception of the 1990 and 2008 recessions where California was hit harder, California per-capita gross domestic product (GDP) growth has typically exceeded US per-capita GDP growth.


The report also found that between 1961 and 2011, California's share of total U.S. housing and population have tracked together, indicating that CEQA has not stymied housing growth in the State. In addition, California's share of total U.S. manufacturing output has grown from 8 percent in the mid-1970s to about 13 percent in 2012. The report asserts that by fostering a cleaner environment, CEQA may have actually helped high tech, bio-tech, and other industries attract professional and technical labor to California. And despite the recent recession, which affected construction in California more severely than most other states, California's current 10-percent share of the U.S. construction industry is still 25 percent higher than it was in 1970.

You can download the report here: Economic Report on CEQA.

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.
We invite you to pass this article along to colleagues who need the information and who may wish to subscribe themselves: DHA Free Tips(Please use the Forward link below to ensure that the hyperlinks will function in the forwarded message.)