September 12, 2009

CEQA Stuff and the Land Swap

I realize that the last several posts have been about the Extravaganza, and fair enough. But the purpose of this blog was for it to be an information sharing platform. In that vein, I'm hearing a lot of questions about the "CEQA stuff" surrounding the land swap, so I'm taking a "TV timeout" to steer back to the mission of the blog.

The City of Long Beach declared that the land swap was "categorically exempt" under CEQA. Whether or not that was the right decision isn't my call to make; I simply don't know enough about the action. However, I do understand the process, which I can (hopefully) explain.

The City filed a Notice of Exemption (NOE). An NOE is defined in CEQA guideline 15374. In CEQA, this "starts a clock" under which a party may bring legal action. CEQA has a very clearly defined statute of limitations. CEQA 15062(d) states, "The filing of a [NOE] and the posting on the list of notices start a 35 day statute of limitations period on legal challenges to the agency's decision that the project is exempt from CEQA. If a NOE is not filed, a 180 day statute of limitations will apply."

As I understand it, the 35 days was up on Sept 10. I have not seen the NOE, nor do I know when exactly it was filed.

Secondly, filing of a NOE for the swap and expiration of the timeframe to bring legal action do not preclude future environmental review on the subject lands. Should a project (or mitigation for another project) be proposed on the wetlands parcel in the future, the appropriate level of environmental review should be conducted at the time of proposal.

In other words, that a NOE was filed for the swap itself, does not mean that a road proposed (either directly or as mitigation) through the wetlands "escapes" subsequent environmental review. Granted, it could be tried, but I just don't think it is a very defensible position (my opinion).

In any event, I hope the above is clarifying.