The California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) generally requires local municipalities, counties, and other public agencies to consider the environmental impacts of proposed development projects in California. Assembly Bill 2782 (“AB 2782”), which Governor Brown signed into law in August 2018, expands the scope of review under CEQA by allowing a more comprehensive approach when considering whether to approve or deny proposed development projects, including the potential impacts a proposed project may have on housing, an issue of critical concern to many Californians.
AB 2782 (Friedman) expands the scope of environmental review under CEQA by adding section 21082.4 to the Public Resources Code. That section states: “In describing and evaluating a project in an environmental review document prepared pursuant to [CEQA], the lead agency may consider specific economic, legal, social, technological, or other benefits, including regionwide or statewide environmental benefits, of a proposed project and the negative impacts of denying the project. Any benefits or negative impacts considered pursuant to this section shall be based on substantial evidence in light of the whole record.”
The new law allows (but does not require) public agencies to consider not only the negative environmental impacts that may result from approving development projects, but now also the negative consequences of denying development projects. As explained by Rural County Representatives of California expressing its support for AB 2782, “Without consideration of all potential negative and positive impacts of a project, the value of a project within a community can be diminished. As such, we believe it is beneficial that every aspect of a project and its impact to be considered, as part of the final approval or denial of a project under environmental review.”
In sum, AB 2782 encourages public agencies to take a more holistic approach in evaluating the benefits and drawbacks of a proposed development project, such as how the project may impact housing, commutes, local businesses, and the economy. Proponents hope that the expanded scope of review will spur more housing construction projects, as California’s housing shortage crisis creates an estimated annual drag of $140 billion on the California economy and damages health, infrastructure, and the environment because Californians must make longer commutes.
The attorneys at Fenton & Keller regularly advise clients on issues relating to CEQA and other land use regulatory schemes, such as the California Coastal Act. Please contact us to learn more.