Governor Newsom Signs Major Housing and Transit CEQA Streamlining Bill
On August 29, 2020, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 2731, which is intended to support the potential redevelopment of the 70-acre Navy Old Town Campus in downtown San Diego. The site would include a LEED Gold certified transit hub, a public transit connection to the San Diego International Airport and adjacent transit-oriented development, including up to 10,000 new residential units. The bill was authored by California State Assemblymember Todd Gloria and Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins. It authorizes the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) to acquire a portion of the site to house the new transit facility and to expedite judicial review of future California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) challenges to SANDAG’s Environmental Impact Report evaluating the facility.
Public infrastructure projects that are necessary to support local and state transit and climate change goals may be mired in years of litigation, delaying delivery of major projects even when the public agency has prepared a full Environmental Impact Report. Consistent with CEQA, AB 2731 encourages disputes regarding the content of the Environmental Impact Report to be resolved through a robust public engagement process instead of through protracted and costly litigation.
A transit hub and airport connection at the Navy-owned site is one of several concepts being evaluated by SANDAG as part of its ongoing transportation planning efforts. Increasing regional connectivity to the San Diego International Airport is a key planning objective of the agency.
In order to qualify for streamlining, AB 2731 requires that the future transit facility result in no increases in greenhouse gas emissions and support substantial reductions of single-occupancy vehicle use in the San Diego region.
AB 2731 also streamlines environmental review for future transit-oriented development on the site by authorizing the use of an Environmental Impact Statement that is being prepared by the U.S. Navy for purposes of future CEQA compliance required for the development’s approval. The U.S. Navy published a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Navy Old Town Campus Revitalization on January 24, 2020. In order to be used for CEQA compliance, AB 2731 requires both that the future transit-oriented development be consistent with the U.S. Navy’s development assumptions and that the Environmental Impact Statement satisfy CEQA’s procedural and substantive requirements, including the adoption of all feasible mitigation measures to reduce the potentially significant impacts of future development.
AB 2731 passed without opposition in both houses of the California Legislature and is among the most significant CEQA streamlining bills enacted this year.