State Sen. Andreas Borgeas lauded Gov. Gavin Newsom for focusing on homelessness and housing affordability in his State of the State address Wednesday.
But Borgeas, a Fresno Republican representing the 8th District, also said that reforming the California Environmental Quality Act is paramount in ramping up housing construction and easing soaring building costs.
“The governor focused his speech on some of the most important issues today: homelessness and housing affordability,” Borgeas said in a news release. “These issues must be addressed because homelessness is skyrocketing in Fresno, Turlock, and our foothill communities, much like the rest of the state.
“Resolving the housing crisis will never be achievable unless Sacramento also pursues CEQA reform to reduce the high cost of building. This is one of the single most frustrating elements preventing the construction of more housing.”
Los Angeles Democrat Calls for CEQA Exemptions
And, Borgeas received backing from across the aisle in his call for CEQA modifications. Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles, on Wednesday called for a statewide CEQA exemption “to accelerate the construction of more homeless and affordable housing.”
CEQA, which was signed into law by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970, requires public agencies and local governments to measure the environmental impacts of development projects and other major land-use decisions, and to limit or avoid those impacts when possible.
CEQA’s Pros and Cons
Critics say that the law delays projects and inflates construction costs. Supporters say it protects the environment and wildlife and makes developers account for a project’s negative impacts.
Calls from business interests for CEQA reform occur every year, but the Legislature and governors thus far have been reluctant to seriously tackle the assignment.
The Legislature’s critics note that it has granted CEQA exemptions for pet projects such as stadiums and arenas for wealthy sports franchise owners but lawmakers haven’t provided reforms to address the state’s housing crisis.
Borgeas also took issue with Newsom’s failure to talk about enhancing the state’s water delivery and water storage systems.
Lawmakers React to Newsom’s Speech
Here is a sampling of reaction from other state lawmakers:
5th District Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals — “California has bountiful natural resources, an educated workforce, a tourism economy that is world-renowned, and yet folks continue to leave our state in search of affordability. In a state this big, with an economy so strong, why are Californians not getting what they pay taxes for? We must focus on getting back to basics. Harvesting our overgrown forests to prevent catastrophic wildfires. Investing in modern infrastructure to save water for dry years. Protecting California’s communities by keeping the worst offenders locked up. Providing real access to affordable health care. Californians need their government to focus on functioning, and stop negatively impacting the people it is intended to help.”
32nd District Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield — “In the State of the State address, the governor highlighted issues of clean water, affordable housing, and homelessness. I am pleased the governor has committed to ensuring clean drinking water is available to all communities in the Valley, particularly in areas that have historically been left behind. I also applaud the administration’s efforts to cut red tape to build more affordable housing and increase accountability and transparency with the state’s investments. I look forward to continuing our work on behalf of families in the Central Valley.”
24th District Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Menlo Park — “This morning Gov. Newsom issued a call to action, challenging the Legislature, local governments, and all Californians to act with both compassion and boldness in tackling California’s severe homelessness, housing, and mental health crises. While these issues are decades in the making all elected officials, from local to state to federal, will rightfully be judged by the progress we make on our watch. I look forward to working with the governor and my colleagues to implement the policies needed to make the substantive progress that our constituents deserve.”
Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-Escondido — “While poor policies in the past have gotten us here, it’s time we look forward to address homelessness, mental health, substance use and incarceration issues one person, one family at a time. The governor is right that building more housing is needed. Unfortunately, Democratic policies have stood in the way of housing production for years. That needs to change. Well-intentioned environmental laws have been hijacked by special interests to tie up badly needed new homes. Rent control has discouraged new construction and mandates have driven costs through the roof. I look forward to working with the governor to address these important issues.”
53rd District Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles — “Homelessness is a vicious cycle and it is indeed time to fix it. Gov. Newsom today showed he is willing to fight to end homelessness and our housing crisis. With over 150,000 people facing homelessness and a shortage of over a million homes, we must deliver real solutions now! I am committed to working with the governor to expand AB 1197 (CEQA exemption for Los Angeles) statewide to accelerate the construction of more homeless and affordable housing, to reform conservatorships, and to provide historic levels of funding to end this crisis once and for all.”