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Santa Barbara Planning Conference Tackles Environmental Quality Act Reform

Enhanced CEQA Action Team has proposed five strategies to improve efficiency

David Snow and Sande George of the American Planning Association discussed California Environmental Quality Act reform Tuesday night at the APA California Chapter’s annual conference at Fess Parker’s DoubleTree Resort in Santa Barbara.

The four-day conference featured 75 conference sessions, nationally renowned keynote speakers, mobile workshops and more than 50 exhibits.

The Cal Chapter APA’s Legislative Update session focused on the Enhanced CEQA Action Team, a collaboration of the Association of Environmental Professionals and the APA chapter that developed regulatory changes to enhance CEQA’s efficiency. CEQA is a statute that requires public agencies to identify a project’s environmental impacts.

The ECAT proposed five reforms to improve efficiency: eliminating disruptive late input to the Environmental Review Process, modifying ineffective infill project streamlining provisions, improving the defensibility of thorough negative declarations, eliminating redundancy by improving tiering provisions and improving cumulative impact analysis.

“I’m looking forward to a robust and comprehensive review of CEQA and what needs to be reformed rather than project-specific issues,” said Snow, the APA’s vice president of legislation.

He said the reforms ECAT proposed will maintain CEQA’s original intent and structure but speed up the process.

“You have the development community who is looking to reduce requirements by weakening CEQA because of litigation requirements, and on the other end you have environmentalists who want the most protective regime,” he said. “But this isn’t the type of situation where you throw the whole thing out.”

Everyone must understand that more process doesn’t equal more protection, said George, the APA’s executive director and lobbyist.

“What I think everyone is looking for is shortening the amount of time it takes, certainly for cities and counties it’s (shortening the) process,” she said. “Given some of the things you do have to go through, you could streamline the process and get to the meat of the issue and not deal with extraneous matters that don’t have to do with end product.”

The secretary of resources will review the amendments and revise CEQA guidelines by the end of the year.

Noozhawk business writer Alex Kacik can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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