The California Legislature has a useful web site that permits customers to discover and observe the hundreds of payments that might be launched throughout its two-year periods.
If one enters the “California Environmental Quality Act” into the web site’s search perform, 171 payments pop up for the session that ended a fortnight in the past, implying the Legislature’s penchant for tinkering with California’s landmark environmental laws that then-Gov. Ronald Reagan signed 50 years in the past.
As utilized after enactment, CEQA advanced right into a polarizing aspect of governance — revered by environmental teams as an instrument to block or alter developments they dislike, denounced as a wasteful obstacle by private and non-private builders, and misused by unions and anti-housing organizations for causes having nothing to do with the atmosphere.
Jerry Brown, who adopted Reagan into the governor’s workplace, later turned one in all CEQA’s sharpest critics, significantly after serving a stint as mayor of Oakland and seeing it used to stifle plans to remake town.
After returning to the governorship in 2011, Brown declared that reforming CEQA was “the Lord’s work” and complained that it was being misused to thwart his plans to broaden housing for low-income households.
Brown, in an interview with UCLA’s Blueprint journal, lamented that “it’s easier to build in Texas” however that altering CEQA could be politically unattainable as a result of “The unions won’t let you because they use it as a hammer to get project labor agreements.”
However, as an alternative of spending political capital for a complete overhaul of CEQA to stop its misuse, Brown continued the follow — or malpractice — of granting full or partial CEQA exemptions for particular person initiatives whose builders had political pull, most clearly for sports activities arenas reminiscent of a basketball palace close to the Capitol.
No legislative session could be full without a flurry of CEQA exemption payments and the dying hours of this 12 months’ model were typical.
When the session ended, for instance, Senate Bill 995 was nonetheless sitting on the Senate flooring and nonetheless needing yet another vote to ship it to Gov. Gavin Newsom. The loss of life of SB 995 was particularly odd because it was being personally carried by the Senate’s chief, President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, and was a part of the Senate’s effort to jump-start badly wanted housing by extending fast-track CEQA processing for some initiatives.
Although SB 995 died within the last hours, the Legislature did approve easing CEQA necessities for sure sorts of transportation initiatives (Senate Bill 757 and Senate Bill 288) and for ingesting water enhancements in deprived communities (Senate Bill 974).
There’s each purpose to imagine that initiatives receiving fast-track therapy by these three payments are deserving, but it surely additionally raises the query typically posed in debates on such payments: Why not overhaul CEQA for everybody, not simply these championed by explicit legislators for explicit causes?
Truth is legislators quite like the present de facto system of individualized exemptions from CEQA’s often-ponderous, time-consuming necessities. They can posture as quasi-partners in style initiatives reminiscent of sports activities arenas, and as advocates for politically right infrastructure reminiscent of mass transit or water methods. They can draw marketing campaign money from exemption-seeking builders.
Moreover, they’ll sidestep the more durable work of reforming CEQA, which might imply confronting the regulation’s influential customers, reminiscent of environmental teams, labor unions, and the NIMBys who oppose housing improvement.
By catering to exemption seekers, legislators and governors make CEQA much more onerous, comparatively, for these not in political favor and make much-needed complete reform much less seemingly.
CEQA reform could also be, as Jerry Brown stated, “the Lord’s work,” however the state’s politicians are agnostics.