• Air District Releases Draft Land-Use Planning Guidelines--April 1 Comment Deadline

  • The Bay Area Air Quality Management District released a draft guidance document titled Planning Healthy Places [attached]. The District describes the document as a guidebook for addressing local sources of air pollutants in community planning (i.e., issues related to siting residential development near "sources" of existing air pollutants such as major roadways), with the purpose "to encourage local governments to address and minimize potential air quality issues in the land use planning process, and to provide technical tools to assist them in doing so."

    The District's activity in this area is related to the major controversy surrounding its prior effort to address these planning issues through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The District's use of CEQA in this manner led to building industry litigation against the District that ultimately resulted in a landmark California Supreme Court decision in 2015 holding that the impacts of the existing environment on proposed projects--such as existing air quality on future residents of a housing project--are as a general rule not required to be addressed in CEQA.

    Throughout that litigation, the building industry and others argued that issues relating to the siting of residential development are quintessential planning and zoning issues that should be addressed in that context--rather than in the litigation roulette wheel that is CEQA. With the Supreme Court's decision, the District has taken that approach. The key issue now is the content of the District's proposed guidance and whether it is reasonable and based on sound science and planning considerations. BIA intends to undertake a thorough review of the proposed document and provide comments to the District.

    The District will hold a public workshop (also webcast) [see attached] on March 17 at 2:30 p.m. at the District's office at 939 Ellis Street, 7th Floor, in San Francisco. Public comment will be accepted on the draft document until April 1. Additional information can be found at the District's web site: http://www.baaqmd.gov/plans-and-climate/california-environmental-quality-act-ceqa/planning-healthy-places.