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New California Land Use Laws for 2015

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Timber harvests got attention from California legislators in 2014 | Photo: BLM/Flickr/Creative Commons License

The California Legislature passed tons of new environmental laws in 2014, with many of them going into effect on January 1. The area of land use regulations is no exception. We've compiled some of the most important new land use laws here.

AB 52: Protecting Native cultural resources

This new law specifies that Native cultural resources are environmental resources protected by the California Environmental Quality Act, which means that their welfare must be addressed in state Environmental Impact Reports.

AB 2142: Forest Fire Prevention Pilot Project Exemption

This bill adds Del Norte, Humboldt, Mendocino and Sonoma counties to a three-year project in which trees up up to 24 inches in diamater can be cut down without a Timber Harvest Plan if the putative reason for the cut is fire prevention. This was an emergency statute and took effect immediately on its signing by the Governor in September.

AB 1767: Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

Illegal dumping in the Santa Monica Mountains on lands protected by the Conservancy is now punishable by fines of up to $1,000, and as much as six months in jail.

AB 1867: Fire risk

Property owners often wish to remove trees in order to reduce the risk of fire and create defensible space around their homes. Existing law said that removing trees from within 150 feet of a legal structure didn't require a formal Timber Harvest Plan be filed with the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection: this new law increases that margin to 300 feet.

AB 2048: Fire prevention fees

This bill adjusts state law surrounding fees assessed by the state on structures in areas for which the state bears responsibility for firefighting and fire prevention. Most importantly, those fees can now only be levied on structures that are habitable.

AB 2082: Tree planting

State law requires that forests cut under an approved Timber Harvest Plan be "restocked," meaning that the area needs to be replanted with trees. This law introduces flexibility into the standard by which officials gauge whether an area will be adequately "restocked," which at least in theory will allow plans to more closely fit local forest types.

SB 674: Residential infill CEQA exemption

Proposed urban infill residential developments of certain kinds enjoy an exemption from full review under the California Environmental Quality Act. This bill increases the amount of commercial square footage such a project can propose from 15 to 25 percent.
 

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