Assembly Passes Barrier to Economic Development

(July 11, 2013) A California Chamber of Commerce opposed “job killer” bill that creates significant obstacles for new development and opens up new avenues for California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) litigation, recently passed the Assembly.

AB 52 (Gatto; D-Los Angeles) creates new opportunities for CEQA litigation by requiring lead agencies to engage in “meaningful consultation” with Native American tribes regarding land use projects that could have an adverse impact on a tribal cultural resource.

AB 52: CEQA Consultation

AB 52 requires lead agencies to engage in substantial consultation with Native American tribes early in the CEQA process prior to approval of land use projects that may have an adverse impact on a tribal cultural resource.

The CalChamber and a coalition of employer groups emphasize that they are not opposed to the goal of protecting tribal cultural sacred places.

To that end, the CalChamber and many of the groups in the coalition worked closely with the Legislature and California tribes during the 2003–2004 legislative session to pass SB 18 (Burton; D-San Francisco), which established meaningful ongoing government-to-government consultation regarding the protection of cultural sacred places by requiring local city and county governments to consult with Native American tribes about proposed local land use planning decisions including the adoption or substantial amendment of general plans, specific plans, and the dedication of open space for the purpose of protecting cultural places.

Dramatic Shift in Decision Making

The coalition is open to a dialogue about the ways in which the SB 18 process has been implemented, but remains very concerned with AB 52’s dramatic shift in land-use decision-making from local government to tribal governments, the new complications the bill would create for environmental impact reviews under CEQA, the reliance on project-by-project reviews rather than earlier broadly based identification and planning, and the costs this measure would impose on future projects throughout the state.

Although the May 30th amendments eliminated authority for Native American tribes to unilaterally veto land use projects, as currently drafted, the bill will still substantially curtail the growth of jobs and the economy of California.

Disincentive to Invest

It will create a disincentive to invest in land, whether it is to build affordable housing, build schools and universities, or construct needed infrastructure projects such as roads and highways, or renewable energy projects.

AB 52 has the potential to stop development of state and local public safety projects, such as firehouses, police stations, and jails. Every project in California could be adversely affected by AB 52’s new CEQA process, regardless of whether there are legitimate impacts to cultural sacred sites.

Key Votes

AB 52 passed the Assembly 58-0 on June 27.

Ayes: Alejo (D-Salinas), Allen (R-Huntington Beach), Ammiano (D-San Francisco), Atkins (D-South Park/Golden Hill), Bloom (D-Santa Monica), Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), Bonilla (D-Concord), Bonta (D-Alameda), Bradford (D-Gardena), Brown (D-San Bernardino), Buchanan (D-Alamo), I. Calderon (D-Whittier), Campos (D-San Jose), Chau (D-Alhambra), Chesbro (D-North Coast), Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova), Daly (D-Anaheim), Dickinson (D-Sacramento), Eggman (D-Stockton), Fong (D-Cupertino), Fox (D-Lancaster), Frazier (D-Oakley), B. Gaines (R-Rocklin), Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Gatto (D-Los Angeles), Gomez (D-Los Angeles), Gonzalez (D-San Diego), Gordon (D-Menlo Park), Gorell (R-Camarillo), Gray (D-Merced), Hall (D-Los Angeles), R. Hernández (D-West Covina), Holden (D-Pasadena), Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), Levine (D-San Rafael), Lowenthal (D-Long Beach), Medina (D-Riverside), Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), Mullin (D-South San Francisco), Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), Nazarian (D-Studio City), Nestande (R-Palm Desert), Pan (D-Sacramento), J. Perez (D-Los Angeles), V. M. Perez (Coachella), Quirk (D-Hayward), Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton), Rendon (D-Lakewood), Salas (D-Bakersfield), Skinner (D-Berekeley), Stone (D-Scotts Valley), Ting (D-San Francisco), Waldron (R-Escondido), Weber (D-San Diego), Wieckowski (D-Fremont), Williams (D-Santa Barbara), Yamada (D-Davis).

Absent, Abstaining or Not Voting: Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo), Bigelow (R-O’Neals), Chavez (R-Oceanside), Conway (R-Tulare), Dahle (R-Bieber), Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks), Grove (R-Bakersfield), Hagman (R-Chino Hills), Harkey (R-Dana Point), Jones (R-Santee), Linder (R-Corona), Logue (R-Marysville), Maienschein (R-San Diego), Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa), Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), Morrell (R-Rancho Cucamonga), Olsen (R-Modesto), Patterson (R-Fresno), Perea (D-Fresno), Wagner (R-Irvine), Wilk (R-Santa Clarita).

The bill will next be heard in the Senate Environmental Quality Committee; no hearing date has been set.