SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed a bill intended to help plans for building an NBA arena in downtown Sacramento while also aiding some other urban development projects throughout the state that face environmental challenges.

SB743 will accelerate the review process for lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act. Easing the way for a new arena was part of Sacramento’s pitch to the NBA earlier this year in its effort to keep the Kings from moving to Seattle.

The bill by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg also includes several protections for urban projects statewide. It will prevent legal challenges based on a project’s aesthetics or parking requirements, and includes a provision requiring state officials to revise how traffic effects are assessed.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, had sought approval of more comprehensive reforms to the California Environmental Quality Act but encountered resistance during discussions with business, labor and environmental groups. He said after the legislation’s approval that the final bill still incorporated some significant reforms to the state’s landmark environmental law, which was approved in 1970.

“Modernizing a good law means making it work better, as opposed to stripping it of meaning,” Steinberg said in a statement Friday. “That’s what these changes to our environmental regulations achieve.”

Several developer groups commended the statewide changes, particularly those dealing with a project’s traffic impacts, which they said could improve how urban redevelopment occurs.

The state Sierra Club chapter and the Planning and Conservation League were among those objecting to SB743. Those groups said it represented the latest example of big-ticket projects receiving preferential treatment from state lawmakers.

In addition to streamlining the review of legal challenges against the arena project, the new law also will limit when a court could halt its construction.

Also on Friday, Brown signed AB1273, which would assist the Golden State Warriors in their plan to move the team from Oakland to a possible waterfront arena in San Francisco.

The legislation from Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, would authorize the State Lands Commission to give its approval that the proposed 18,000-seat arena planned for Piers 30-32 is consistent with laws for development along the shoreline. It would not change the required reviews under the California Environmental Quality Act.


Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.



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