CEQA Working Group Coalition:
Today the San Francisco Chronicle ran a great oped by Carl Guardino and Jim Wunderman on the need for CEQA modernization. Please see oped below.
As with Senator Rubio’s piece earlier this week, we encourage you all to tweet this oped and we’ve crafted a sample tweet for you to use.
Sample tweet: Time to modernize #CEQA say @SVLeadershipGrp & @BayAreaCouncil in @SFGate oped page today bit.ly/XGCpBU #FixCEQA
Thanks very much
San Francisco Chronicle, Oped, Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council and Carl Guardino, President and CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, January 17, 2013
Time to modernize CEQA
Jim Wunderman and Carl Guardino
When it was first signed into law by Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970, the California Environmental Quality Act represented a groundbreaking statement by Californians that our environment was important and deserved protection.
Since then, CEQA has served to protect the environment and foster better planning. More recently, however, CEQA has too often been abused by those who simply seek to stop development, often for reasons that have nothing to do with environmental protection.
In San Francisco, for example, CEQA has been used as a legal tool in an attempt to stop the revitalization of the Park Merced neighborhood into a modern community with thousands of rent-controlled homes near retail and transit. The lawsuits have delayed the project by nearly two years and added countless dollars to the cost.
In San Jose, CEQA is being used by the owner of one gas station who wants to prevent his competitor across the street from adding a few more pumps.
In El Cerrito, neighborhood groups have abused CEQA to prevent the modernization of the Castro Elementary School as a replacement for the seismically unsafe Portola Middle School. The lawsuits have added $10 million in additional costs for the school district, more than four years of delays in school construction and the displacement of hundreds of students.
Since CEQA was passed, myriad federal and state laws (120 in total) have been passed that emulate and go even beyond the protections en- shrined in CEQA. However, CEQA has yet to be updated in any meaningful way to better reflect the changing nature of environmental threats we face, including climate change and sea-level rise.
All too often, good, environmentally beneficial projects that comply with laws such as the federal Clean Air or the Endangered Species acts are needlessly delayed or killed because of conflicts with CEQA and abusive CEQA litigation.
Most people would agree that if a school, a transit-oriented housing development or even a solar-power-generation facility had completed extensive environmental review and met all local, state and federal environmental-protection laws, then the project should be allowed to proceed without the threat of suit. Sadly, this is rarely the case.
The Bay Area Council and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group are part of a broad coalition representing business, local government, schools, hospitals, clean tech, transit, affordable housing and other organizations that are pushing for moderate reforms to CEQA that will preserve its original intent while eliminating some of the misuses of CEQA that hurt job creation, community renewal and our environment.
Stakeholders on all sides agree that, after 40 years, there are important reforms that can be made to CEQA. These must retain the foundation of the law - public disclosure and environmental protection - while limiting misuses of the statute for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment. Gov. Jerry Brown has made a strong commitment to CEQA modernization in 2013, as has Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, and we strongly encourage all the voices in this debate to work with our elected leaders to achieve this goal.
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