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In Case You Missed It: San Francisco Chronicle Editorial: “Of all the well-documented abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act, this one may be the most absurd” 4/13/15

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April 13  |  Editorials, News  |   user

In an editorial today, the San Francisco Chronicle again called for reform of the California Environmental Quality Act, noting it can be manipulated and abused for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment.

Case in point: A CEQA lawsuit filed by anti-abortion activists against a Planned Parenthood clinic in South San Francisco. The CEQA lawsuit alleges city planners had not sufficiently taken into account “environmental impacts,” specifically the noise and traffic disruptions that would be caused by the activists OWN protests.

Calling this “absurd” the Chronicle said “We can now add women’s health services to the toll of public goods that have been stymied by the California Legislature’s refusal to stand up to the interest groups who seem to think CEQA should remain carved in stone.”

Read the full editorial, “Antiabortion group exploiting environmental law to halt clinic”

Below are key excerpts,

  • “Of all the well-documented abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act, this one may be the most absurd.”
  • “This nonsense must stop. The 40-year-old CEQA has been a critical tool for preserving our natural resources, but it also has been exploited by interests whose motives have nothing to do with the environment, such as businesses that stifle would-be competitors or unions looking for leverage.”
  • “The plaintiffs are not going away easily, despite a tentative ruling against the lawsuit by San Mateo Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner in July 2014. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is being forced to spend money on legal fees that could have gone into health care.”
  • “We can now add women’s health services to the toll of public goods that have been stymied by the California Legislature’s refusal to stand up to the interest groups who seem to think CEQA should remain carved in stone.”

In Case You Missed It: California Legislative Analyst Report Says California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a Major Reason for High Housing Costs in California. 3/17/15

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March 17  |  News, Press Releases  |   user

LAO Report Recommends “Major Changes” to CEQA to Address California’s High Housing Costs

SACRAMENTO—In a new report released today, California High Housing Costs Causes & Consequences, the California Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) cites the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as a major impediment to building enough housing in California. The LAO says CEQA is a factor in California’s lack of housing supply, which leads to higher housing costs that burden working families and low income residents, and serve as a drag on our economy.

The LAO goes on to recommend, among other policy reforms, “major changes” to CEQA in order “to address California’s high housing costs.”

Today’s LAO report is further evidence that California needs to modernize CEQA in order to preserve the law’s original intent of environmental protection, while stamping out unnecessary abuses that have little to do with the environment.  

Key Excerpts from the Report:

  • “…CEQA’s complicated procedural requirements give development opponents significant opportunities to continue challenging housing projects after local governments have approved them.” Pg. 15
  • “Our review of CEQA documents submitted to the state by California’s ten largest cites between 2004-2013 indicates that local agencies took, on average, around two and a half years to approve housing projects that required an EIR. Pg. 18
  • “The CEQA process also, in some cases, results in developers reducing the size and scope of a project in response to concerns discovered during the review process.” Pg. 18
  • “If California continues on its current path, the state’s housing costs will remain high and likely will continue to grow faster than the nation’s. This, in turn, will place substantial burdens on Californians— requiring them to spend more on housing, take on more debt, commute further to work, and live in crowded conditions. Growing housing costs also will place a drag on the state’s economy.” Pg. 34
  • “Given the magnitude of the problem, the Legislature would need to take a comprehensive approach that addresses the problem from multiple angles and reexamines major policies. Major changes to local government land use authority, local finance, CEQA, and other major polices would be necessary to address California’s high housing costs.” Pg. 35

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.

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LA Daily News Opinion Editorial, LA EDC and SCAG: Jobs are lost as CEQA goes off the rails: Guest commentary 10/28/14

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October 28  |  News, News Articles  |   user

The California Environmental Quality Act was established to protect the environment and ensure that development does the same. So how is it that a project to build hundreds of “green” public transit rail cars in Palmdale was killed by a CEQA lawsuit that has nothing to do with the environment?

The time is long past due to reform CEQA to preserve the law’s original intent, while stamping out these types of abuses that eliminate jobs our region desperately needs.

Kinkisharyo International LLC is set to build hundreds of environmentally friendly rail cars for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, but it recently pulled the plug on the $50 million, 400,000-square-foot permanent manufacturing facility planned for the city of Palmdale that would have employed more than 250 manufacturing workers in this economically depressed area.

According to news reports, groups trying to force the rail car manufacturer to unionize its workforce filed a CEQA lawsuit in an attempt to coerce the company to give in to its demands. Fearing the uncertainty and delays from the CEQA litigation, Kinkisharyo decided to look to another state for its manufacturing facility.

Unions serve an important purpose and provide great value to workers, but we think everyone can agree that this is a wholly inappropriate use of CEQA, a law adopted to protect environmental resources and public health.

This flagrant abuse of CEQA couldn’t come at a worse time. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the city of Palmdale has an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent (as of September). In neighboring cities such as Lancaster, unemployment is 11.1 percent — far greater than the statewide average of 7.3 percent.

The region, too, is suffering worse than it has in years. According to a recent Southern California Association of Governments study, the share of residents in the six-county SCAG region living below the federal poverty level increased from 13 percent in 1990 to 18 percent in 2012. Today, the region has 3.2 million residents in poverty, including one in four children. We must do something to address this crisis.

Instead, abuses of CEQA are taking us backward.

The rail car project would have brought hundreds of middle-class jobs to the region, all while promoting environmentally friendly public transit that will help get people get out of their cars and meet California’s emission-reduction goals. SCAG’s most recent Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy places heavy emphasis on public transit, including rail, and as we begin work on our updated RTP/SCS, we’re keenly aware of the value of projects that support that goal.

Sadly, what we’ve seen in Palmdale is all too common — CEQA used as a blunt tool to strong-arm economic concessions out of a developer or to stop projects for non-environmental reasons. Throughout the state, CEQA lawsuits have gridlocked affordable housing, schools, renewable energy projects, hospitals and many other local environmentally desirable projects we need.

Lawmakers must take a serious look at CEQA to preserve the law’s original intent while stopping clear abuses of the law.

Achieving these goals will not be easy, but with participation from diverse stakeholders and commitment from Gov. Brown and legislators on both sides of the aisle, meaningful CEQA reform can and should be accomplished this year.

We urge legislators to make this a top priority for 2015.

William Allen is president and CEO of the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. Hasan Ikhrata is executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments.

Full Opinion Editorial

In Case You Missed It: Los Angeles Newspaper Group Editorial: “Loss of Tesla factory should put a charge in CEQA reform”, 9/5/14

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September 9  |  News, Press Releases  |   user

SACRAMENTO – Last week the nine Southern California newspapers that make up the Los Angeles Newspaper Group editorialized their disappointment that California legislators ended yet another legislative year without accomplishing “meaningful changes in the California Environmental Quality Act.”

The editorial emphasized that the California legislature needs to use 2015 to pass “CEQA reform [that] would not eliminate environmental protections but would simplify and remove duplications, restrict last-minute challenges and clarify its requirements.” 

Below are excerpts from the editorial:

  • “CEQA’s purpose is noble…Too often, though, it is exploited by local governments, landowners, business rivals and labor unions to block projects they dislike or to add to their negotiating leverage.”
  • “Done right, CEQA reform would not eliminate environmental protections but would simplify and remove duplications, restrict last-minute challenges and clarify its requirements.”
  • “This would limit — preferably eliminate — the need for exemptions like the ones state officials have handed to projects like the bullet train and sports stadiums and arenas from Los Angeles to Sacramento.”
  • Lawmakers “failed completely on CEQA reform — again. Let’s make sure our lawmakers don’t forget the lessons of the Tesla mess when they set their agenda for 2015.”

About the CEQA Working Group:

The CEQA Working Group is a broad coalition representing business, labor, schools, hospitals, clean tech, transit, affordable housing and other organizations that are pushing 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. Follow us on Twitter: @FixCEQA or online at www.CEQAWorkingGroup.com.

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Governor Brown / Neel Kashkari Agree on One Thing: CEQA Reform is Needed

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September 5  |  News, Press Releases  |   user

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 5, 2014                               

CONTACT: Kathy Fairbanks, 916.443.0872, kfairbanks@bcfpublicaffairs.com

SACRAMENTO — Though they didn’t agree on much during last night’s gubernatorial debate, both candidates did agree on one thing: Governor Jerry Brown and Neel Kashkari acknowledged the need to reform California’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). See 27:10 mark of last night’s debate.

“There is near universal agreement that CEQA is a good law that needs to be modernized,” said Carl Guardino, President & CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and member of the CEQA Working Group. “Legislative changes are needed to update CEQA so that we maintain its original intent – environmental protection – while stamping out abuses of the law that are hindering vital job creation and environmentally friendly projects. We look forward to working with lawmakers in 2015 to accomplish this important priority for California.”

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.

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In Case You Missed It: Los Angeles News Group and Bakersfield Californian Reiterate Support for CEQA Reform this Year, 5/6/13

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October 18  |  News, Press Releases  |   afrew

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 6, 2013

CONTACT: Kathy Fairbanks, 916-443-0872, kfairbanks@bcfpublicaffairs.com

SACRAMENTO – In an editorial today, the Los Angeles Times advocated in favor of thoughtful reforms of CEQA that strike a balance between preserving environmental protections and curbing misuses of the law. Excerpts from the editorial are below. The full editorial can be read here.  The Times joins a growing chorus of newspapers throughout California that have editorialized in favor of meaningful CEQA reform.

Los Angeles Times, Editorial, May 20, 2013, “Alter CEQA but don’t weaken it”

  • “Over the years, the law has successfully compelled many builders to improve their proposals, but it also has been used at times as a tool to stop development by opponents whose objectives have nothing to do with protecting the environment.”
  • “Perhaps the poster child for what riles CEQA’s critics is a gas station in San Jose whose owner won city approval to add a couple of pumps. A CEQA lawsuit brought by a competing gas station at the same intersection claimed that the extra pumps would create too much traffic — and held up the modest expansion for years.”
  • “Critics also point to what they call not-in-my-backyard lawsuits brought under CEQA to kill construction of housing for low-income senior citizens on a dilapidated corner in Berkeley, to keep a school from being renovated in El Cerrito and, last year, to keep the so-called subway to the sea from tunneling along its most logical route under Beverly Hills High School. Competitors have filed CEQA lawsuits to stop businesses from opening or expanding, and unions have filed suits on supposedly environmental grounds, only to withdraw them as soon as a labor agreement is reached with the developer.”
  • “Reforming the law, then, requires striking a delicate balance between preserving its protections and curbing its unnecessary job-killing costs and delays.”
  • “A bill (SB 731) that goes before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday might not resolve all the valid complaints about the law, but it moves the state in the right direction.” 

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CEQA Working Group Responds to End of Session CEQA Developments, 9/12/13

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September 13  |  News, Press Releases  |   afrew

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 12, 2013

CONTACT: Kathy Fairbanks, 916-443-0872, kfairbanks@bcfpublicaffairs.com

SB 731 Turned into Two-Year Bill.  SB 743 Contains Only Minor Improvements.

The CEQA Working Group is a broad coalition of local government, business, transportation, transit, schools, hospitals, and other organizations that have come together to work towards meaningful CEQA reform this year. The coalition issued the following statement in response to the end-of-session efforts to implement true CEQA reform.

Carl Guardino, President & CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group:

“Senator Steinberg made the right choice by turning SB 731 into a two-year bill. The bill as it is currently written is not meaningful CEQA reform, and actually contains troublesome provisions that would increase opportunities for litigation and delays for worthy projects. We want to thank the Pro Tem, Assembly Speaker and the Governor for the time they have dedicated to this issue. In particular, we want to thank Senator Steinberg for taking on the difficult and thankless task.”

Gary Toebben, President  & CEO, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce:

“While we are disappointed we were not able to accomplish CEQA reform this year, we believe our coalition has been successful in raising awareness that CEQA needs to be modernized.  This resulted in a widespread consensus from editorial boards, lawmakers, and thought leaders from throughout California that we must preserve the law’s environmental protections, while reducing opportunities for meritless litigation and bureaucratic delays for projects that meet our state’s stringent environmental laws and regulations. While we appreciate the effort that went into SB 743, we want to be clear that this law represents only a very marginal improvement. It is not the comprehensive reform that we need to support environmentally responsible job-inducing projects that our state needs. We remain committed to achieving true CEQA reform and will continue to pursue this important and long-overdue task.”

 

In Case You Missed It: San Jose Mercury News Editorial: “CEQA Reform Must be Comprehensive,” 9/9/13

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September 9  |  News, Press Releases  |   afrew

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 9, 2013

CONTACT: Kathy Fairbanks, 916-443-0872, kfairbanks@bcfpublicaffairs.com

SACRAMENTO – In a recent editorial, the San Jose Mercury News urged the legislature to pass comprehensive CEQA reform this session that will curb abuses of the law and benefits worthy projects statewide.

The Mercury News is one of many newspapers throughout California that have editorialized in favor of meaningful CEQA reform this year.

San Jose Mercury News, Editorial, September 6, 2013, “CEQA Reform Must be Comprehensive”

  • “…CEQA is regularly abused. Labor unions use it to extract concessions from developers. NIMBYs use it to stop development in their backyards. And businesses use it to stop competitors from expanding. The law needs to be updated to help stop these abuses.”
  • “If special interests continue abusing CEQA, and if Sacramento continues giving exemptions to those it favors without reforming the law for all, public support of CEQA could falter over time. That could open the door to sweeping changes that would weaken CEQA’s valuable environmental protections, which truly would be harmful to California.”

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San Jose Mercury News Editorial, CEQA Reform Must Be Comprehensive, 9/6/13

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September 6  |  Editorials, News  |   afrew

Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg knows the California Environmental Quality Act needs to be reformed. Why else would he make a last-minute push to exempt a proposed NBA arena in Sacramento, a top priority of his, from provisions of the law?

Yet Steinberg won’t agree to broader CEQA reforms that would do for the rest of the state what he wants to do for the Sacramento Kings. CEQA reform for me, but not for thee?

We are often supportive of Steinberg’s ideas. But this time, the hypocrisy is hard to take.

The Environmental Quality Act signed by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970 requires studies of the environmental effects of proposed development and requires public and private builders to mitigate the effects or explain why they can’t. It’s a key reason the state has been able to preserve much of its natural beauty as its economy boomed.

But CEQA is regularly abused. Labor unions use it to extract concessions from developers. NIMBYs use it to stop development in their backyards. And businesses use it to stop competitors from expanding. The law needs to be updated to help stop these abuses.

Steinberg has a bill to reform CEQA, SB 731, but it falls short of what’s needed — and it could even make matters worse in some cases. The bill might not make it through the Legislature, even with some changes Steinberg says he’ll make. And if it does, it’s unclear whether Gov. Jerry Brown would sign it, since he has said he wants real reform.

So, Steinberg is pushing a separate bill to fast-track construction of his city’s arena, since, as part of a deal to keep the Kings in Sacramento, construction must be completed by 2017. The bill is similar to exceptions made for a proposed stadium in Los Angeles and for the 49ers’ stadium in Santa Clara, but the hypocrisy level wasn’t quite the same.

“When it comes to infill projects, when it comes to high-wage, big job-opportunity projects,” Steinberg said about the arena bill, “we ought to do all that is reasonable to expedite the process.”

Well said. The new arena will be a boon to Sacramento’s economy and its downtown. But why shouldn’t other economic development projects — not just stadiums with powerful supporters — get the same treatment?

Steinberg isn’t stupid. He has to recognize this gigantic hole in his logic. But he can’t get agreement on broader changes from the labor and environmental groups that support him.

If special interests continue abusing CEQA, and if Sacramento continues giving exemptions to those it favors without reforming the law for all, public support of CEQA could falter over time. That could open the door to sweeping changes that would weaken CEQA’s valuable environmental protections, which truly would be harmful to California.

Lawmakers need to add meaningful protections to SB 731 — the kind Steinberg wants for his own constituents.

Read full editorial here.

In Case You Missed It: San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Urges Legislature to Pass Comprehensive CEQA Reform that Benefits All Worthy Projects Statewide, 9/5/13

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September 5  |  News, Press Releases  |   afrew

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 5, 2013

CONTACT: Kathy Fairbanks, 916-443-0872, kfairbanks@bcfpublicaffairs.com

SACRAMENTO – In an editorial today, the San Francisco Chronicle calls on the legislature to pass meaningful CEQA reform that levels the playing field for all projects. Under current law, CEQA is frequently exploited by special interests to delay and kill worthy projects throughout the state, and comprehensive reform is needed to curb these misuses of the law.

The Chronicle is one of many newspapers throughout California that have editorialized in favor of meaningful CEQA reform this year.

San Francisco Chronicle, Editorial , September 5, 2013

  • “…there are plenty of worthy projects around the state that are threatened by litigation under a law that is being exploited by individuals and special interests with motives that have nothing to do with the environment.”
  • “If the playing field is uneven, let’s level it for all.”

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