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October 5, 2011

For More Information, Contact:
William Leiter (916) 651-4011 .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


SACRAMENTO – Governor Jerry Brown has signed into law State Senator Joe Simitian’s (D-Palo Alto) bill to streamline regulatory and environmental reviews for infill development and renewable energy projects.

Senate Bill 226 streamlines the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) compliance process in ways that assist business expansion and help create immediate jobs.  However, the new law also maintains important environmental safeguards while balancing economic development and community interests.

Simitian said he “had some pushback” against his efforts to streamline the CEQA process, but noted that “a streamlined process is a win-win situation. Protecting the environment and promoting economic development are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both.” Simitian added that he chairs the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, is a Life Member of the Sierra Club, and has a 99 percent lifetime scorecard with the California League of Conservation Voters.

When the Governor signed SB 226, he noted that the law will “avoid costly and repetitive permitting for certain renewable power projects.” Simitian welcomed the announcement; “California has the second highest unemployment rate of any state, and a streamlined CEQA process will get worthwhile projects off the ground sooner rather than later and help generate much needed jobs.”

The California Environmental Quality Act, passed in 1970, requires state and local agencies in California to follow a protocol of analysis and public disclosure of the environmental impacts of proposed projects, and adopt all feasible measures to mitigate those impacts.

Senate Bill 226 streamlines the CEQA process for so-called “urban infill” projects that meet specified requirements. “The goal,” said Simitian, “is to avoid duplicative review that is costly, both in terms of time and money, while retaining rigorous environmental review for projects, or project elements, that raise genuinely new issues.” 

“This has the immediate effect of expediting new urban housing and mixed-use projects in the Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco Bay Area regions, as well as some smaller communities,” Simitian noted. “It will help create new, high-wage construction jobs and affordable housing in major urban areas.”

The infill provisions are especially significant for the building and development industry. “We strongly support Senator Simitian’s efforts regarding infill projects,” said Chuck Toeniskoetter, Chairman of Toeniskoetter Development Inc., a real estate investment, development, and property management firm in Silicon Valley.  “The amount of time and effort required to go through a full EIR for infill development is costly and cumbersome; especially in small communities where infill is crucial for economic growth.”

Meea Kang, President of Domus Development and the California Infill Builders Association, also voiced support for SB 226. “California’s infill builders support SB 226 because it encourages the types of development we know are most effective at reducing energy consumption and the state’s contribution to climate change.” She continued to note that, “speeding up regulatory reviews for infill projects that meet high environmental standards will help California prepare for a growing population and create incentives to focus growth closer to jobs and public transportation.”

In addition, a number of environmental advocates supported SB 226. “This bill will help increase our use of renewable energy sources as well as encourage smart growth for sustainable urban communities,” said Warner Chabot, CEO of the California League of Conservation Voters.  “It will provide economic benefits to California’s solar industry and will help support urban development to reduce pressure on open space and agricultural lands,” he added.

Senate Bill 226 also makes solar projects on rooftops of buildings or in parking lots eligible for a statutory exemption.
“This provision provides a dual incentive – one to the owner of a building, the other to a solar developer – to build and use clean solar energy,” said Simitian. “These projects create immediate jobs in the form of construction and installation of solar facilities and reduce delays on projects that are built within existing footprints.”

Two other facets of the new law are designed to help businesses cut through red tape and eliminate delays to get projects underway.  If a project already has an exemption from the CEQA process, SB 226 will prohibit the project’s greenhouse gas emissions from automatically removing that exemption. The project must still meet state emission standards, but it means that an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) doesn’t have to be done, saving time and money. The bill also allows public agencies to hold two initial mandated hearings on projects at the same time, rather than consecutively; once again reducing delays.

The bill takes effect January 1, 2012. For more information on Simitian’s CEQA streamlining legislation, visit