Roberta MacGlashan is a member of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors and the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Another View: CEQA reform should not only be for cities

Published: Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2E
Last Modified: Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 - 9:21 am

The Bee has always been Sacramento-centric, but in response to Stuart Leavenworth's column, "A CEQA advance environmentalists should explore" (Feb. 10), I can only respond: Seriously?

Leavenworth proposes "a CEQA exemption for housing, transit and certain mixed-use projects within cities – and only cities. It would not apply to developments that counties might want in their unincorporated areas." Leaving aside the question as to whether such a distinction is even legal, does this proposal really advance the goals of promoting quality infill development and reducing greenhouse gas emissions? Empty lots and underused properties near transit stations are not found only in cities. There are counties in California that do not even have incorporated cities.

But back to Sacramento County. The unincorporated area is not just a vast swath of homogeneous urban and suburban development. It is a series of communities, each with its own name, characteristics, people and identity.

The Bee' editorial board – or at least its editorial page editor – now appears to be taking a position that all development should take place in cities.

There is no question that Sacramento County used to neglect its unincorporated communities. That is why I advocated for the incorporation of Citrus Heights and supported cityhood for Rancho Cordova and Elk Grove. New cities have largely been a success story in Sacramento County.

But what of our remaining unincorporated communities? Not all county residents want to live in cities, and most of these communities lack the tax base to incorporate.

Arden Arcade residents recently rejected cityhood. Vacant, blighted and underused parcels are not restricted to cities. Smaller infill sites abound in these communities as well. Many are near transit. Does Leavenworth really mean that these communities should somehow be relegated to second-class status when it comes to CEQA reform that promotes quality infill and mixed-use development?

CEQA is a tool that was designed to inform decision-makers about the environmental effects of projects and require mitigation for significant impacts on the environment. In practice, it can be a tool that produces positive results through design changes and mitigation measures that improve a project. It can also be a tool that obstructs good and bad projects through litigation and delays. It has been amended multiple times.

After 40 years, it is difficult to argue that CEQA cannot or should not be streamlined and improved to produce quality projects. What is difficult to argue is that it should only be reformed to benefit residents of cities.

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