With California mired in a housing affordability crisis, you would think that folks in the Capitol could summon the gumption to reform the state’s landmark environmental law.
But the California Environmental Quality Act, signed 48 years ago by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, marches forward — often used to better the state, as was intended, but also wielded as a battering ram for special interests less interested in protecting the environment than in feathering their nests.
In his Aug. 2 CALmatters column, Dan Walters cites a classic example of CEQA abuse. A 20-unit Habitat for Humanity housing complex in Redwood City had to overcome months of delays and rising costs because one property owner — a firm of attorneys, by the way — objected to it.
“Those kinds of misuses, along with the protracted political and legal processes attached to even sincere CEQA compliance, have given rise to many efforts to change the law, and even more efforts to get around it,” analyzes Walters.
And Californians saddled with expensive mortgages or sky-high rents because of the housing shortage have yet to get the relief that CEQA reform might provide.
Opines Walters: “Despite expressing verbal support for reform, however, (Gov. Jerry) Brown has been reluctant to make it a priority and his governorship probably will end in a few months with no major CEQA overhaul. …”
CEQA Exemptions for the Favored Few
Walters also notes that Brown and the Legislature have no problem fast-tracking arenas and stadiums for wealthy sports owners and developers.
“Self-evidently, they’d rather cater to sports moguls than address the critical need for new housing,” he concludes.