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The California Environmental High-quality Act has been weaponized in conflicts about housing for years, and a new appellate courtroom final decision affecting UC Berkeley has the moment all over again revived converse about reforming the landmark regulation. But how significantly are Newsom and the Legislature prepared to go?
“Everybody talks about the temperature but no person does anything at all about it” is an aged quip attributed – possibly erroneously – to Mark Twain.
It could be legitimately utilized to the California Environmental Quality Act, a 53-calendar year-aged legislation at first meant to prevent governing administration companies from disregarding the impacts of their public will work assignments but later on expanded, primarily by judicial conclusions, to personal developments as perfectly.
CEQA’s use, or misuse, as a weapon in the state’s perpetual battles about housing has been effectively documented. Opponents of housing jobs in their neighborhoods use it to stall design and labor unions use it to leverage developers into agreements to use union personnel.
Previous Gov. Jerry Brown decried such uses and said reforming CEQA is “the Lord’s work” but was an agnostic about carrying out it, apparently confident that opposition from environmental groups and unions, two of the Democratic Party’s most influential allies, would make reform impossible.
The Legislature has been inclined to exempt distinct jobs, these types of as sporting activities arenas, from the CEQA process, as properly as some slim types of housing. But the wide reform that CEQA’s critics say is vital has extensive been a non-starter.
The politics of CEQA could be switching.
Final year, the condition Supreme Court docket decreed in a fit from the College of California, that increasing the quantity of students admitted to UC Berkeley was an environmental impression that had to be thought of under CEQA. The decision would efficiently have forced the college to convert away countless numbers of learners it experienced prepared to admit for the 2022-23 faculty calendar year.
Furthermore, the underlying idea of people today as an affect would hand opponents of housing projects all over the condition a likely impressive weapon.
The plaintiff in that match was a area organization calling itself Preserve Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, which alleged that getting a lot more college students would degrade the community’s ambiance – really similar to the opposition of regional groups to condition-imposed housing quotas.
The Legislature reacted with lightning speed, passing laws declaring that school enrollment is not a “project” requiring mitigation below CEQA.
Nevertheless, one more group, Make UC a Good Neighbor, had also submitted a CEQA match challenging the two UC Berkeley’s extended-selection growth system and a UC housing venture in UC-owned People’s Park, the web-site of various anti-war demonstrations in the 1960s that currently is generally lined by homeless encampments.
Previous 7 days, a point out appellate court turned down the obstacle to UC’s development plan but declared that the People’s Park undertaking needed a lot more operate and – more importantly – decreed that UC “failed to assess likely noise impacts from loud pupil get-togethers in household neighborhoods in close proximity to the campus, a longstanding challenge that the EIR improperly dismissed as speculative.”
If upheld by the condition Supreme Court, the latter declaration would once all over again give NIMBY opponents to housing developments a powerful weapon. They could contend that housing for small-money people would provide sounds or other unwanted impacts to their neighborhoods.
In a statement, Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted, “A few wealthy Berkeley house owners should not be able to block desperately necessary student housing for decades and even decades. CEQA requires to adjust and we are dedicated to functioning with the legislature so California can construct extra housing.”
It raises this dilemma: How much are Newsom and the Legislature inclined to go on CEQA reform?
They could publish a slender exemption as they did on the preceding UC Berkeley scenario, they could make a wider transform impacting CEQA’s outcome on housing, or they could go entire hog and do a best-to-bottom overhaul of the regulation to return it to its primary objective prior to it was weaponized.
Words and phrases are inexpensive. Only steps depend.