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San Diego Bike Lane Sued Under CEQA

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October 22  |  Case Studies  |   user

SUMMARY: A local community group in San Diego is using CEQA to sue the City of San Diego for putting in a bike lane that was a part of the City’s Bicycle Master Plan.  The community group is claiming that using one of the three car lanes for the bike path and buffer space should be used for vehicles, even though the bike lane will allow safe travel for bicyclists and slow speeding traffic on the street. The San Diego Master Bike Plan has already gone through environmental review, and this portion of the bike lane was included in an effort to get cars off of the roads and lower GHG emissions.

The City of San Diego updated their Bicycle Master Plan in 2013 to enable more bicyclists to safely get around the area’s busiest streets, while cutting the need for car use and greenhouse gas emissions. Creating more bike lanes throughout the city is also part of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, which seeks to increase bicycle commuters 6 percent by 2020. The city’s bike plan had gone through a thorough environmental review under CEQA before it was ever approved.

The end goal of the city is to have the bike lane connect those in densely populated area of Hillcrest to downtown shopping, museums and parks.  Many restaurant and shop owners and commuters in the area of the bike lanes are fully supportive of the plan because the increased bike traffic will bring more business and safer streets.

The Bankers Hill Community Association led by a local resident filed a CEQA lawsuit in December of 2014 arguing that removal of the lane for cars on that street would divert traffic to other lanes and cause more congestion. However, in the following months since the bike lane was put in traffic has not been greatly impeded.  The lawsuit also argues that a full environmental review would be needed to remove a vehicle lane, even though the bike lane plan has already gone through that process, and would reduce emissions over the long-run.

Alternative transportation options for San Diegans is a major part of the city’s work to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals by 2020 and 2050, and bike lanes are also convenient and safe ways for people to get around.  Using an environmental law to stop an environmentally friendly bike lane is another in a long list of CEQA abuses that actually harms the environment.

The lawsuit is still moving through the courts with court papers filed at the end of 2014. However, even if the judge rules against the plaintiffs, they will likely appeal. This lawsuit is a waste of needed taxpayer dollars, and could potentially hurt the planned future portions of this bicycle path from moving forward in the future.

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Sacramento Senior Assisted Living Project Delayed by NIMBY – Who Lives in Orange County

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October 7  |  Case Studies  |   user

SUMMARY: The development of a new senior housing community on the site of a vacant church in Sacramento was stalled by a resident of Orange County 400 miles away using CEQA, all because he didn’t want the housing complex near his vacation home. The project to bring assisted living for seniors to East Sacramento was delayed for over a year while the costly lawsuit was dragged through the courts.

An infill project to redevelop a vacant church lot in East Sacramento into a much needed 32-bed assisted living facility for seniors was yet another victim of CEQA. The dilapidated church had sat empty for over a year, and the revitalization of the unused property would bring special memory care and physical therapy for the elderly into the community.

The developers of the senior housing project went through a thorough environmental review process to ensure any impacts were mitigated.  However, an Orange County resident 400 miles away from the development site, was able to have the project stalled using CEQA. Wells filed a lawsuit in an attempt to block the redevelopment project claiming that the environmental impact report failed to address the requirements of CEQA.

Yet, the lawsuit claimed that the redevelopment of the church into a senior housing project, where many of the residents wouldn’t drive, would result in an influx of congestion and traffic to the area. Therefore a full Environmental Impact Report was necessary. Such a report can cost upwards of $100,000, which would be tacked onto the developments cost – and ultimately the cost of living for the seniors.

City officials and the site developer argued that the site was an excellent location for the development – close to McKinley Park, a hospital, and mass transit. The real issue was that the site also happens to be near a multi-million dollar property owned by the plaintiffs – a property used “on occasion”, “when he is in the area” – according to the CEQA lawsuit.

The lawsuit resulted in a year-long costly delay for seniors to have access to the redevelopment. Despite the Sacramento City Council voting to approve the project in January 2014, legal battles rolled on until November when a judge turned down the legal arguments challenging the project. Yet, despite the ruling, the plaintiff vowed to “change the judges mind”, and continued the costly appeal process until the suit was finally thrown out in February 2015.

The result? Over a year of delays, costs, and litigation to block housing for seniors who need assisted living facilities.

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In Case You Missed It: LA Times Columnist George Skelton says CEQA reform is needed: “stop using environmental laws to kill jobs”, 9/8/15

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September 8  |  News, News Articles, Press Releases  |   user

Yesterday, Los Angeles Times political columnist George Skelton called out blatant abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), arguing that CEQA lawsuits are leading to middle class job loss and attacks on “green” projects like solar and renewable energy projects. Reforms are needed, he suggests, including transparency to identify those bankrolling CEQA lawsuits.

Key excerpts from Skelton’s column:

  • “…CEQA also has been shamefully abused by union blackmailers — “greenmailers” — who threaten to derail a project by filing an environmental lawsuit unless the developer caves in to their labor demands.”
  • “Unions aren’t the only abusers. Business rivals try to drive off potential competitors. And NIMBYs — “not in my backyard” — fight local projects, even environmentally friendly ones such as transit stations.”
  • “The result is costly, years-long delays, if not outright project scuttling, that discourages future investments in the state.”
  • “The fact that CEQA is flawed and abused is no secret in the state Capitol.”
  • “Another much-needed reform is transparency. The true plaintiffs — the CEQA lawsuit bankrollers — don’t have to be identified.”
  • “[The Holland & Knight] study found that 45% of plaintiffs remain basically anonymous, using fronts with nice environmental-sounding names and hiring “bounty” and “shakedown” lawyers. Digging into the paperwork, she estimates that most of the anonymous plaintiffs are NIMBYs, but roughly one-third are unions.”
  • “Her report includes this chilling statement: ‘CEQA, which in its heyday was used to challenge nuclear plants, coal-fired plants and plants burning hazardous waste or garbage, is now used most frequently to challenge solar and wind renewable energy projects — precisely the ‘green’ projects that are most critical to meeting California’s climate change reduction mandates.’”

Read the press release from the CEQA Working Group which hits the highlights from the Holland & Knight CEQA study examining 600 CEQA lawsuits. 

San Diego Union Tribune, Column, Steven Greenhut, “Climate bill may chill new infrastructure”, 9/4/15

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September 4  |  News, News Articles  |   user

Business and labor fear new greenhouse-gas targets put them in crosshairs

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature are wrangling over a new transportation plan to help the state meet its growing population, with the differences centering on whether to raise taxes — or focus on reforming the existing transportation bureaucracy — to assure projects aren’t delayed. That’s the hot Capitol debate these days.

But at the same time this transportation session does its work, legislators are moving ahead major climate-change bills that could slow major infrastructure projects in the future, although newly introduced amendments could lessen the blow.

The most climate-change attention has gone to SB 350, which would mandate a 50-percent reduction in petroleum use, a 50-percent increase in energy efficiency in buildings and 50-percent use of renewable energy by utilities — all by 2030. But another bill is causing more consternation to business and trade unions.

SB 32, authored by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, advances the state’s original anti-global-warming law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006 (AB 32). “AB 32 requires California to reduce its (greenhouse gas) emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 — a reduction of approximately 15 percent below emissions expected under a ‘business as usual’ scenario,” according to the California Air Resources Board, which gained power to impose reductions under the original law and would gain more under the new proposals.

Similarly named SB 32 steps up the goals, by mandating these greenhouse-gas emissions are 40 percent below the 1990 level by 2030 and 80 percent below that level by 2050. Critics say these mandated reductions have diminishing returns — e.g., it’s easier for a dieter to lose the first few pounds, but tougher to lose additional pounds as the weight decreases.

But the biggest problem may involve the impact on transportation and home-building, given the Legislature has yet to reform its infamous California Environmental Quality Act. The 40-year-old CEQA is the subject of endless Capitol debates given that it makes it easy for opponents of virtually any construction project to file time-consuming litigation.

It’s often abused, as unions threaten lawsuits unless they get Project Labor Agreements, businesses file lawsuits to hobble the competition, and local activists file lawsuits against any projects they don’t like. Proof of CEQA’s problem: Even environmentally friendly politicians seek CEQA exemptions for their pet projects, such as the arena being built for the Sacramento Kings basketball team. Legislators from both parties complain about it.

The CEQA Working Group — business, labor and local government groups — sent a letter late last month to Pavley opposing SB 32 “for the sole reason that it would vastly expand opportunities for litigation under CEQA and it would create an impossible threshold to meet under CEQA.” Their concern is critics of any project proposed now — even green-friendly ones for, say, infill housing — would have to immediately “prove themselves to meet the year 2050 80 percent reduction goal today.”

That sounds like a scare tactic, until one looks at their main evidence: The San Diego Association of Governments regional plan “has been in CEQA litigation for years over a complaint (upheld by a lower court) that the plan does not meet the (greenhouse-gas) reduction requirements of a 2005 executive order … . Clearly, a more ambitious statute like SB 32 would create (an) even greater legal bar to meet under CEQA.”

In this case, environmental groups are using CEQA and long-term global-warming goals to force the San Diego agency to reduce freeway construction and focus instead on mass transit. More aggressive targets will give litigants better ammunition.

In response, Pavley’s office on Friday announced amendments intended to do the following: The California Air Resource Board “is required to work with builders, local governments, others to ensure that land use and permitting decisions on new construction are not subject to 2050 target on Day 1.”

Critics of the bill fear the amendments won’t provide enough specific direction and they will still end up in court. It would be ironic to have state leaders asking Californians to pay more to help reduce congestion as they simultaneously make it tougher for congestion-busting projects to get built.

Greenhut is the San Diego Union-Tribune’s California columnist.

Read the Full Article Here.

New Comprehensive Analysis of 600 CEQA Lawsuits Shows Law Is Most Often Used Against Transit, Renewable Energy and Housing Projects

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August 4  |  News, Press Releases  |   user

First-ever analysis of 3 years of CEQA lawsuits demonstrates law frequently abused to stop projects crucial to meeting California’s environmental, social equity, and economic policies

Sacramento — In a first-of-its-kind analysis, the law firm Holland & Knight recently conducted a comprehensive review of more than 600 lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) at the local, regional or state agency level during a three year study period (2010 – 2012).  The analysis, entitled “In the Name of the Environment: How Litigation Abuse Under the California Environmental Quality Act Undermines California’s Environmental, Social Equity and Economic Priorities – and Proposed Reforms to Protect the Environment from CEQA Litigation Abuse,” was based on all CEQA lawsuit petitions provided to the California Attorney General’s office over the three year study period.

The findings of this exhaustive analysis run counter to the common perception that CEQA litigation is primarily used to benefit the environment. In fact, the numbers show that CEQA lawsuits most frequently target infill housing projects, public works projects such as transit, renewable energy projects and other critical projects California needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The law is often used for non-environmental reasons and in ways that actually harm important environmental objectives, like building renewable energy, transit and infill housing. You can read our executive summary for more detail or read the full study on Holland & Knight’s website.

This new analysis provides clear and quantifiable metrics that demonstrate CEQA litigation is most often used:

  • Against taxpayer-funded public works projects, not “business” or “developer” projects. Nearly half of all CEQA lawsuits (49%) were filed against taxpayer-funded projects for which there was no private sector applicant.
  • Against infill projects in urban areas. Of the CEQA lawsuits that targeted infill or greenfield development projects, 80% of CEQA lawsuits targeted infill projects.
  • Against housing, especially in established communities. The most frequently challenged category of private sector project was housing (21%), and nearly half (45%) of these CEQA housing lawsuits challenged the types of affordable housing and other multi-family (apartment, condominium and mixed use) projects that are critically needed to address housing affordability, are required by state housing and general plans laws, are subsidized by state or federal taxpayer funding, and are key to achieving the state’s regional greenhouse gas reduction targets for the land use and transportation sectors.
  • Against projects designed to achieve critical environmental objectives. In fact, for utility/industrial projects, the top target of CEQA lawsuits were new and retrofitted clean energy projects like solar plants – and for infrastructure projects, the top target of CEQA lawsuits were transit projects.
  • Against projects that have already undergone an earlier environmental review process, most often a full Environmental Impact Report. Duplicative CEQA lawsuits are especially frequent for urban projects and plans, with some challenged projects emerging from a dozen or more CEQA lawsuits filed over a period of nearly 20 years.

“CEQA litigation abuse is real, it is harming people—especially the poor, the working class and the young—and it is hindering rather than advancing critical environmental priorities,” said Jennifer Hernandez, the head of Holland & Knight’s West Coast Land Use and Environmental practice and lead author of the study. “CEQA litigation abuse also allows parties seeking to advance non-environmental objectives to anonymously sue—again in the name of the ‘environment’—to gain leverage against competitors, employers and taxpayers.

The Study also confirms that CEQA litigation is only rarely used by well-known national and statewide environmental advocacy groups like the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Audubon Society.  In fact, only 13% of CEQA lawsuits are filed by these environmental groups – with the plurality (45%) filed by an assortment of “associations” which do not need to disclose either the existence or interests of “members” and individuals.  Follow-up investigations into these anonymous “associations” revealed widespread abuse of CEQA for non-environmental purposes by business competitors, labor unions, “greenmail” lawyers seeking financial settlements, and Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) groups on the losing end of votes by elected officials or residents.

“CEQA is an important law that has provided many benefits to Californians and our environment,” said Hasan Ikhrata, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments. “But this analysis shows what we have always known, that the law is also being used and abused to stop environmentally beneficial projects.  These projects are needed to meet new climate change policies, and these lawsuits frequently have little to do with protecting the environment. As lawmakers continue to grapple with the challenge of modernizing CEQA, we hope the findings of this study can inform the debate and underscore the need to fix the law.”

“The Bay Area is in the midst of a housing crisis and this study offers real insight into how CEQA has become a leading tool that groups abuse, often for non-environmental reasons, in order to block housing projects throughout the state,” said Matt Regan, Senior Vice President with the Bay Area Council. “We urge the legislature to take the results of this study, and the findings in a recent similar study conducted by the LAO, seriously and put in the hard work to make this law work in a way that continues to protect the environment, but doesn’t stymie smart growth.”

For an executive summary, please visit http://ceqaworkinggroup.com/?p=1238.

The full report can be found at: http://issuu.com/hollandknight/docs/ceqa_litigation_abuseissuu?e=16627326/14197714 and Holland & Knight’s press release can be found at: http://www.hklaw.com/news/Holland-Knight-Study-Uncovers-Widespread-CEQA-Litigation-Abuse-08-04-2015/.

About the CEQA Working Group: The CEQA Working Group is a broad coalition of local government, affordable housing, business, agriculture, education and other organizations advocating for moderate reforms to CEQA that will preserve its original intent – environmental protection and public disclosure – while eliminating some of the misuses of CEQA that hurt job creation, community renewal and our environment. www.ceqaworkinggroup.com

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New Comprehensive Analysis of 600 CEQA Lawsuits Shows Law Is Most Often Used Against Transit, Renewable Energy and Housing Projects

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August 4  |  CEQA Litigation Study  |   user

First-ever analysis of 3 years of CEQA lawsuits demonstrates law frequently abused to stop projects crucial to meeting California’s environmental, social equity, and economic policies

In a first-of-its-kind analysis, the law firm Holland & Knight recently conducted a comprehensive review of more than 600 lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) at the local, regional or state agency level during a three year study period (2010 – 2012).  The analysis, entitled “In the Name of the Environment: How Litigation Abuse Under the California Environmental Quality Act Undermines California’s Environmental, Social Equity and Economic Priorities – and Proposed Reforms to Protect the Environment from CEQA Litigation Abuse,” was based on all CEQA lawsuit petitions provided to the California Attorney General’s office over the three year study period.

The findings of this exhaustive analysis run counter to the common perception that CEQA litigation is primarily used to benefit the environment. In fact, the numbers show that CEQA lawsuits most frequently target infill housing projects, public works projects such as transit, renewable energy projects and other critical projects California needs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The law is often used for non-environmental reasons and in ways that actually harm important environmental objectives, like building renewable energy, transit and infill housing.

Executive Summary:

  • The most common residential housing projects targeted were higher-density, transit-oriented housing projects. The most frequently challenged category of private sector project was housing (21%), and nearly half (45%) of these CEQA housing lawsuits challenged the types of affordable housing and other multi-family (apartment, condominium and mixed use) projects that are critically needed to address housing affordability, are required by state housing and general plans laws, are subsidized by state or federal taxpayer funding, and are key to achieving the state’s regional greenhouse gas reduction targets for the land use and transportation sectors.
  • Infill projects represent 80% of all CEQA lawsuits. A common assertion by those who defend CEQA’s status quo is that CEQA litigation mostly combats “sprawl” development that causes longer commutes, destroys farms and wildlands, and draws financial and human capital away from urban areas. But CEQA litigation overwhelmingly targets “infill” development that accommodates population and economic growth that would otherwise spill into undeveloped exurban areas. Of the cases that could be categorized as either “greenfield” or “infill,” 80% were filed against infill projects including multifamily housing; urban park improvements; and commercial, retail and light industrial projects; while only 20% challenged projects in undeveloped, greenfield locations. Public and private infill projects in urbanized areas were four times as likely to be sued than “greenfield” projects in undeveloped lands outside of cities. The Study also includes additional information provided by the United States Environmental Protection Agency that California has contained “sprawl” development, and Census Bureau and other data confirming that California communities are already among the most dense in the United States. CEQA INFILL GRAPH
  • Half of lawsuits are filed against public projects, and public infrastructure projects are sued most often, with public transit the most frequent infrastructure target.  Although the political debate around CEQA is persistently framed by many as a battle between “business” and “enviros,” the data proves that nearly half of CEQA lawsuits target agency projects for which there is no private sector sponsor at all. Nearly half of the projects petitioned (just over 49%) were funded using taxpayer dollars or charitable, non-profit sources. These projects include schools, hospitals, infrastructure and other important public works projects.  The most frequent litigation target in the infrastructure category is public transit, the same projects which reduce per capita greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants by providing an alternative to cars. CEQA PUBLIC v PRIVATE GRAPH
  • CEQA lawsuits are frequently filed against projects designed to achieve critical environmental objectives.  For utility/industrial projects, the top target of CEQA lawsuits were new and retrofitted clean energy projects like solar plants – and for infrastructure projects, the top target of CEQA lawsuits were transit projects. 
  • Urban areas see the most projects sued.  Sixty-five percent (65%) of the lawsuits were filed in the Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego areas, the three most populated and highly urban regions. Disproportionately, 13% of these suits were filed in the less urban, San Joaquin area.CEQA URBAN GRAPH
  • Anonymous groups file the most CEQA petitions.  CEQA litigation is only rarely used by well-known national and statewide environmental advocacy groups (only 13% of cases).  Nearly 2/3 of the petitioners (64%) during the three year span were individuals or local/regional organizations, which do not need to disclose either the existence or interests of “members” and individuals.  Follow-up investigations into these anonymous “associations” revealed widespread abuse of CEQA for non-environmental purposes by business competitors, labor unions, “greenmail” lawyers seeking financial settlements, and Not-In-My-Backyard (NIMBY) groups on the losing end of votes by elected officials or residents.   CEQA does not require disclosure of those filing lawsuits and this has led to pop-up plaintiffs or ‘local organizations’ that serve as petitioners for lawsuits filed for strategic purposes.  These groups could be serving as petitioners for “bounty hunter” lawyers that receive CEQA fee and expense awards, or could be fronts for competitors or unions. “Bounty hunter” lawyers have been reported to file CEQA lawsuits on behalf of previously-unknown organizations with no known individual members or other community identity.
  • CEQA lawsuits are often filed for non-environmental reasons by NIMBYs, business competitors and unions.  While many businesses and unions file CEQA lawsuits anonymously or under the guise of newly-formed or innocuous sounding groups, CEQA is often used by these interests for non-environmental reasons. The greatest number of project opponents, especially for infill projects, were NIMBYs (Not in My Back Yard) petitioners. The NIMBY individuals or groups that sue using CEQA tend to be more affluent than the people who stand to benefit from the school, park, affordable housing or other needed project.

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In Case You Missed It: Bay Area Council Op-Ed in The San Francisco Chronicle

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July 24  |  News, News Articles  |   user

California Can’t Reach Greenhouse-Gas Targets Without CEQA Reform

By Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council.

Meeting the new greenhouse-gas reduction targets set in Gov. Jerry Brown’s April executive order and Sen. Fran Pavley’s SB32 will require significant changes in the way California plans, lives and operates. We will need to focus on higher-density infill housing and commercial development closer to transit. We will need to place more emphasis on congestion-reduction projects, public transit, bike lanes and walkable neighborhoods. We will also need to move more rapidly to expand our sources of clean energy, such as wind and solar.

Ironically, one of the biggest obstacles to achieving the aggressive new targets likely will be California’s oldest environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act.

A groundbreaking report conducted by Holland & Knight, a law firm with extensive CEQA experience, analyzed 15 years of published opinions in CEQA litigation at the Court of Appeal or the California Supreme Court from 1997-2012. The report found that 62 percent of cases litigated under CEQA involved urban infill development. The analysis demonstrates how the environmental protection law actually is frustrating our greenhouse gas reduction goals by hindering infill development, more public transit and cleaner power.

Remarkably, these greenhouse-gas reducing projects are the very type of projects that anonymously funded opposition groups most frequently attempt to stop through time-consuming and expensive litigation. CEQA is their tool of choice, but environmental protection is not often their aim.

Cases in point:

  • A single individual used a CEQA lawsuit to delay San Francisco’s plan to expand its network of bicycle lanes and encourage more bicycle commuting. The lawsuit claimed the city had not sufficiently studied the negative environmental impacts of the project. Five years, several million taxpayer dollars and 2,200 pages of environmental review later, the plan finally was approved.
  • A neighborhood group used a CEQA lawsuit to further its antidevelopment agenda to block Park Merced, an affordable infill housing community in San Francisco set to become America’s first net-zero carbon community, with upgraded public transit access and on-site neighborhood-serving retail and services. The suit held up the project for three years, costing millions of dollars.

Another report by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office also points the finger of blame for California’s high housing costs squarely at CEQA. The report found that cities in California take on average 2.5 years to complete the various CEQA analyses required to permit new infill housing, and that’s before anyone files a lawsuit that can add many more years to the process.

The unfortunate reality is — for all the good it has done to improve the California environment and planning process — CEQA is being used to impede the type of responsible growth California needs in order to meet the new greenhouse-gas targets.

The governor’s ambitious executive order seeks to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, setting an interim target for the 2050 goal of 80 percent reduction set by Brown’s predecessor. Pavley’s bill codifies the new target. The Bay Area Council supported AB 32 in 2006 and supports SB 32 if amended to include CEQA reforms among other changes.

CEQA was written in the 1960s before we knew what climate change was. It is designed to analyze individual projects, not address a global threat. It’s time to modernize CEQA so that it is used to protect the environment, not to protect hidden agendas that have nothing to do with environmental protection.

Jim Wunderman is president and CEO of the Bay Area Council, a regional business association.

Read the Full Article Here

LA Times Editorial: “Too Many CEQA Execptions” 7/14/15

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July 16  |  Editorials, News  |   user

The LA Times editorialized today against the annual exercise of legislators granting favored projects CEQA exemptions and urged Governor Brown and the Legislature to instead focus on fixing CEQA.

The editorial says, But it seems he and his colleagues in Sacramento are more interested in using their power to grant exemptions rather than to fix the underlying problems.”

The CEQA Working Group believes CEQA needs to be updated to stamp out abuses. It has become an annual ritual for politically connected projects to be granted legislatively sanctioned CEQA exemptions. CEQA needs reform to prevent the law from being abused for non-environmental reasons. The law should work for everyone and reforms to CEQA should benefit all projects, not just those with political connections.  

Read the full editorial,Too many CEQA exemptions”. Below are key excerpts:

  • “The real concern is that lawmakers keep carving out CEQA exemptions for favored projects.”
  • “Yet legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown show no interest in comprehensive CEQA reform that would give all projects — not just lawmakers’ picks — the opportunity for streamlined review.”
  • “Instead, they seem perfectly happy to create a two-tier system in which projects with enough lobbyists or political supporters can get on the fast track, while other projects get stuck in the slow lane.”
  • “Certainly it will be difficult to craft a sensible, reasonable reform package that maintains the fundamental purpose of CEQA, which is to ensure that decision-makers have the analysis and public feedback they need to make intelligent choices.”
  • “Brown himself has said that CEQA reform is “the Lord’s work.” But it seems he and his colleagues in Sacramento are more interested in using their power to grant exemptions rather than to fix the underlying problems.”

About the CEQA Working Group: The CEQA Working Group is a broad coalition of local government, affordable housing, business, agriculture, education and other organizations advocating for moderate reforms to CEQA that will preserve its original intent – environmental protection and public disclosure – while eliminating some of the misuses of CEQA that hurt job creation, community renewal and our environment.  www.ceqaworkinggroup.com

In Case You Missed It: Riverside Press Enterprise and Orange County Register Editorial: “CEQA used as legal ‘greenmail’” 7/6/15

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July 7  |  Editorials, News, Press Releases  |   user

The Orange County Register and Riverside Press Enterprise today editorialized against CEQA exemptions given by the CA Legislature in this year’s state budget to politically connected projects.

The editorials say:  “If the law is not good enough for professional sports teams and politically connected developers, then it is not good enough for anyone else.”

The CEQA Working Group believes CEQA needs to be updated to stamp out abuses. It has become an annual ritual for politically connected projects to be granted legislatively sanctioned CEQA exemptions. CEQA needs reform to prevent the law from being abused for non-environmental reasons. The law should work for everyone and reforms to CEQA should benefit all projects, not just those with political connections.  

Read the full editorial,CEQA used as legal ‘greenmail” Below are key excerpts:

  • “California has earned a notorious reputation for fickle policymaking and unequal application of the law, from targeted tax breaks for politically favored industries such as green energy and Hollywood to special exemptions from major regulations like the California Environmental Quality Act.”
  • “…not all laws are applied equally, and special interests have used CEQA to serve their interests, which oftentimes have nothing to do with the environment.”
  • “Unions have often held projects hostage through CEQA lawsuits to demand concessions… thus driving up construction costs even more.”
  • “Businesses have used the law to keep out potential competitors, and local governments and neighborhood groups have used the law as leverage to compel developers to build additional facilities or features on their wish lists.”
  • “CEQA might have been implemented with noble intentions, but capricious application of the law is no rule of law at all.”

About the CEQA Working Group: The CEQA Working Group is a broad coalition of local government, affordable housing, business, agriculture, education and other organizations advocating for moderate reforms to CEQA that will preserve its original intent – environmental protection and public disclosure – while eliminating some of the misuses of CEQA that hurt job creation, community renewal and our environment.

www.ceqaworkinggroup.com

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In Case You Missed It: So Cal Assn of Governments in LA Times: “CEQA should be for everyone”

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June 19  |  News, News Articles, Press Releases  |   user

Lack of Comprehensive CEQA Reforms Results in another Round of Legislative Exemptions for Special Projects

A story in today’s Los Angeles Times,Development deals tied to state budget sidestep ‘green’ rules,” highlights what unfortunately has become an annual tradition in Sacramento: favored projects getting special legislation to exempt them from certain CEQA rules.

Hasan Ikhrata, executive director, Southern California Association of Governments (and CEQA Working Group member) put it best: “It’s not fair, simply because if you have resources and money, you can get things done. You can get people to lobby for you…. CEQA should be for everyone.”

The CEQA Working Group has long maintained that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), California’s premiere environmental law, needs updating. Too often the law is abused for non-environmental reasons by NIMBY’s and others, and their abuses jeopardize much-needed projects.  The law should apply equally to all projects, even smaller projects like infill, low-income housing, senior housing and transit projects, not just those who have backers with enough money to hire lobbyists. 

It’s time for the legislature to modernize CEQA and even the playing field instead of giving exemptions to special projects.

Read the full article, Development deals tied to state budget sidestep ‘green’ rules

Below are key excerpts,

  • “After returning to the governor’s office, [Jerry Brown] vowed to ease California’s landmark environmental restrictions, saying it would be ‘the Lord’s work.’”
  • “… Brown and Democratic lawmakers have instead struck deals giving special consideration to certain projects rather than confront the political difficulties of overhauling the law.”
  • “‘The administration continues to support comprehensive CEQA reform, but in the meantime we are not going to pass up opportunities to achieve targeted reforms, like getting key water projects done in the face of California’s drought crisis,’ Westrup said in a statement Thursday.”
  • “‘Picking and choosing favorite projects is not good policy,’ said Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Nicolaus)”

About the CEQA Working Group: The CEQA Working Group is a broad coalition of local government, affordable housing, business, agriculture, education and other organizations advocating for moderate reforms to CEQA that will preserve its original intent – environmental protection and public disclosure – while eliminating some of the misuses of CEQA that hurt job creation, community renewal and our environment. www.ceqaworkinggroup.com

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