Like the Sherlock Holmes story featuring the “dog that didn’t bark,” sometimes proposed legislation that doesn’t pass can nonetheless provide fundamental insights. A case in point: Senate Bill 469 (Vargas), the Small & Neighborhood Business Protection Act, which would have required a lead agency to prepare an “economic impact report” before acting on any request to construct or convert to a “superstore retailer,” but which was vetoed by Governor Brown.
The failed bill first serves as a reminder of what CEQA isn’t. Under CEQA it is fundamental that economic or social impacts of a project need not be analyzed, except to the extent they are part of a chain of “cause and effect” leading directly or indirectly to adverse physical changes in the environment. Where substantial evidence of such effect is shown, an urban decay analysis — evaluating the potential physical environmental impacts of blight that result from the construction of a “superstore” in a particular area — is often required in connection with the entitlement process for a “superstore.” Even so, the case law rejects the notion that an EIR must contain an urban decay analysis in the case of every “supercenter” approval. (Melom v. City of Madera (2010) 183 Cal.App.4th 41.)
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