More changes to CEQA timelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Allen Matkins – April 30
In response to public-health concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-54-20 (Order) on April 22. Among its provisions, the Order suspends certain noticing and California Native American tribal consultation requirements under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Order "suspends" for 60 days "public filing, posting, notice, and public access requirements" associated with the following five CEQA actions: Notice of Exemption; Notice of Intent to Adopt a Negative Declaration (ND) or Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND); Notice of Preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR); Notice of Availability of a Draft EIR; and Notice of Determination after approval of a project for which an EIR, ND, or MND has been prepared. It is important to note, however, that the Order neither lengthens timelines for public review nor suspends noticing requirements altogether. Rather, it appears to temporarily suspend certain specific noticing requirements that rely upon public postings that may no longer be possible due to the closure of government buildings and social-distancing orders.
UC Davis study estimates driving in California has dropped 75%
The San Diego Union-Tribune – May 6
One of the consequences of the stay-at-home orders to curb the spread of the coronavirus has resulted in something many Californians never dreamed of seeing: roads and highways devoid of traffic, even during rush hour. Now, a report from UC Davis attaches some numbers to the phenomenon, estimating the number of miles driven in the Golden State plunged more than 75 percent between the first week of March through the second week of April. Based on daily travel data from websites using custom algorithms with cellphone tracking figures, the report calculated the distance driven by California motorists dropped from 7.8 billion miles between March 2 to March 8 to 1.9 billion miles for the week of April 11 to April 17. The UC Davis study estimated gasoline sales tax revenue dropped $161 million a week during the shutdown, or $1.3 billion less than would have been collected before the outbreak. That figure includes money generated by the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 2017, which increased the gas tax by 17.6 cents per gallon that supporters promised will go directly to road repair, transportation, and safety projects.
New law allows tenants to sue landlords over violating L.A. restrictions on evictions
Los Angeles Times – May 6
Tenants will soon have the right to sue landlords who violate restrictions that Los Angeles has placed on evicting renters during the coronavirus crisis, under a law passed Wednesday by the City Council. Renters could potentially win penalties of up to $10,000 per violation — or $15,000 per violation if the tenant is disabled or a senior. Landlords are currently barred from evicting tenants who have been affected by the coronavirus, although the council has held off on imposing a blanket ban on evictions sought by tenant activists. Some council members had also pushed unsuccessfully for the city to order a halt to rent increases in other apartments that are not covered by the Rent Stabilization Ordinance. City attorneys had warned that unless a California law known as Costa-Hawkins was suspended, the city would probably be blocked from doing that in court.
Google machine learning shifts data center operations to maximize efficiency, renewables use
Utility Dive - April 24
Google is using machine learning to improve the energy efficiency and renewable energy consumption of its data centers, shifting the execution of non-urgent computing tasks to times when there is more solar and wind power on the grid. Data centers consume about 1 percent of worldwide electricity, and thanks to efficiency improvements that figure has remained relatively stable in the last decade while computing tasks have grown by almost 600 percent, according to the internet search giant. Data centers have made strides in reducing energy consumption through more efficient construction, as well as being built in areas where there is a natural cooling ability, as heat management is a major source of energy consumption. But more recently, efficiency advances have come from advances in computing power and shifting processes to less carbon-intensive periods.
Optimizing for energy efficiency during COVID-19
Urban Land – May 4
In the face of unprecedented economic realities, commercial real estate owners are facing the potential for reduced capacity for an undetermined amount of time. While operators cannot simply “turn off” an entire commercial property, there are ways to leverage efficiency to reduce the utility cost burden during these times. Generally, an office building’s largest energy-using systems are HVAC (40 percent), lighting (20 percent), and plug loads (33 percent). If no one is in the building most of the day, these simple steps can help landlords immediately drive down energy use and reduce costs across these three systems: operate the building automation system on a weekend or holiday schedule with reduced hours, delayed startup, lower setpoints, and wider temperature dead-bands (while maintaining appropriate ventilation and air quality); turn off the lights in tenant spaces and common areas; and turn off and unplug appliances like televisions, monitors, printers, and kitchen equipment.
Del Mar moves to invalidate bluff resort documents
The San Diego Union-Tribune – May 5
Opponents of the Marisol blufftop resort, which Del Mar voters defeated by 59 percent to 41 percent in March, want to make sure that the developer’s unfinished environmental documents will never be used for another project on the site. The Del Mar City Council agreed 3-2 this week to consider a resolution to “close the file” on the Marisol project, including the 464-page draft environmental impact report that was prepared but never certified for the 17-acre site at the city’s northern edge near Solana Beach. The local chapter of the Sierra Club, the Surfrider Foundation, and the San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority were all critical of the project and its draft EIR. “The study committed serious errors in its evaluation of geologic erosion rates in the area,” Surfrider said in its written comments, adding that as a result of the errors the resort would be built too close to the edge of the bluff.