New Year brings land-use updates, more changes on the way
With the 2013-14 legislative session closed, a number of land-use bills have been signed into law or vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Below is a roundup of some of those bills that could affect development and other building activity in the Tri-Counties.
While some bills are stuck in legislative limbo, others have been converted to two-year bills or are expected to resurface in a new and improved form. Of those that did get to the governor’s desk, several impact primary land-use areas such as the California Environmental Quality Act, California Coastal Act and Subdivision Map Act, as well as issues including air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and water, housing and redevelopment reform.
Craig Beam, a land use attorney with Westlake Village-based firm Jackson DeMarco Tidus Peckenpaugh, told the Business Times that some property owners could be surprised to find out what the future viability of their holdings are as the new laws play out and others queue up. Requirements of the various pieces of legislation also could be controversial, he said.
AB 2516 is a piece of legislation expected to push communities, especially on the coast, to do their homework. The bill would require, on or before Jan. 1, 2016, the Natural Resources Agency, in collaboration with the Ocean Protection Council, to create, update monthly, and post a plan on its website for a sea level rise database that describes steps being taken throughout the state to prepare for, and adapt to, rising oceans. The bill would also require various public and private entities to provide, by July 1, 2015, and on a monthly basis thereafter, information to the Natural Resources Agency to be included in the database, including descriptions of projects that address or prepare for sea level rise that are within the entity’s control or jurisdiction.
According to Beam, it can be assumed that the database requirement is a projection of sea level rise in the coastal zone.
“The legislation seems sure to add an additional level of information that will be part of any due diligence assessment of any coastal zone property’s acquisition or financing,” he said. “Even though the database need not be set up until 2016 … there are reporting requirements established for both public and private entities that must be satisfied by July of 2015. You can imagine position of a private property owner being required to comment on projections that their property may be subject to flooding; 2016 may be a very interesting year.”
Other bills to look out for
SB 1156, which went into effect Jan. 1, imposes a carbon tax of an unspecified amount per ton of carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions on suppliers of fossil fuels. It would exempt suppliers of fossil fuels subject to the tax from regulations imposed by the State Air Resources Board, under the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, relative to the compliance obligation in the second compliance period under which suppliers of specified fuels are required to obtain allowances for carbon-dioxide-equivalent emissions under the cap-and-trade program adopted by the State Air Resources Board.
AB 2222, which was approved by the governor on Sept. 27 declares the intent of the legislature to enact legislation relating to housing density bonuses and other incentives or concessions for developers who produce lower income housing units or the donate land within the development if the developer, among other things, agrees to construct a specified percentage of units for low- or moderate-income households or qualifying residents.
SB 985 would require a stormwater resource plan developed by a city, county or special district under the Stormwater Resource Planning Act to identify opportunities to use existing publicly owned lands to capture and reuse stormwater. The bill was approved by the governor on Sept. 25, 2014.
AB 1690 would amend existing law requiring that the housing element of a community’s general plan contain a program setting forth a schedule of actions during the planning period that the local government is undertaking, or intends to undertake, to implement the policies and achieve the goals and objectives of the housing element, to require that the program accommodate at least 50 percent of the very low and low-income housing need on sites designated for either residential use or mixed-uses. The bill was approved by the governor on Sept. 30.
Tribes get more say under CEQA
In September, Gov. Brown signed Assembly Bill 52, an amendment to the California Environmental Quality Act that gives Native American tribes a stronger role in the protection of their cultural resources. A report by the Preservation Leadership Forum said the bill creates a new category of protected cultural resources and establishes tribal consultation rights for the first time under CEQA. The bill’s author Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, said it will help to preserve California’s history and protect tribal cultural resources from development projects. Proposed mining projects, landfills, and energy and infrastructure projects frequently put sacred sites at risk.
The new law has been criticized for further complicating CEQA and potentially slowing growth in the state. Supporters, however, have emphasized the need to bring Native American tribes into the planning process earlier and in a more meaningful way, as tribes often go through lengthy litigation or sponsor individual bills in an attempt to block projects that would impact a tribal cultural site, according to the forum.
“Given the history of the Chumash and others tribes in the tri-county areas, it is predictable one might anticipate a greater level of involvement of various tribal groups, including in projects in the Coastal Zone,” JDTP’s Beam said.