PROTECT ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS: Planning Commission, Thursday., March 14, 12 PM

By Howard Wong

Hello Everyone:
IMPORTANT HEARINGS!  Forward this to friends and colleagues.
THREATS TO OUR ENVIRONMENTAL BILL OF RIGHTS
Proposed CEQA legislation weakens public’s right to know and to participate.

The 1970 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) gives environmentalists, neighborhoods, disadvantaged communities, ethnic minorities, cultural groups, Labor and the average citizen a chance to fight bad projects and powerful special interests.  History demonstrates that rigid state power and greased projects have bad consequences; by example, rampant freeway construction, filling in the Bay, destruction of ethnic neighborhoods, demolitions of the Western Addition/ Lower Fillmore/ Nihonmachi, disregard of environmental justice, erosion of open space, snubbing nature conservancy, demolition of historic resources, weakening health protections and ramrodding misguided development projects.
Please testify to oppose the proposed CEQA legislation.

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA HASTINGS, COLLEGE OF THE LAW, CIVIL JUSTICE CLINIC: RE:  CEQA Amendments’ practical impact to community advocates
Conclusion:  The Amendments arguably would better reflect state law and streamline the CEQA process for various projects. However, they pose a substantial risk of significantly curtailing public participation and the ability of public officials to make well-informed decisions, contrary to the purpose of CEQA. The current fair argument standard should be preserved, requirements providing notice of CEQA determinations should be strengthened, and appeal procedures should be formalized and simplified.

PLANNING COMMISSION, THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 2013, 12:00 PM, City Hall Room 400
Agenda:  Item 8: Extension of Project Deadlines;   Item 12:  CEQA Procedures.
http://sfplanning.org/index.aspx?page=3411
Email Planning Commissioners:
john.rahaim@sfgov.org, hs.commish@yahoo.com, Mooreurban@aol.com, plangsf@gmail.com, wordweaver21@aol.com, jonas.ionin@sfgov.org, cwu.planning@gmail.com, richhillissf@yahoo.com, planning@rodneyfong.com

HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION (To be confirmed), WEDNESDAY, MARCH 20, 2013 – See future Agenda

LAND-USE COMMITTEE (To be confirmed), MONDAY, MARCH 25, 2013
See future Agenda:  http://www.sfbos.org/meeting.aspx?page=720

BOARD OF SUPERVISORS (To be confirmed), TUESDAY, MARCH 26, 2013
See future Agenda:  http://www.sfbos.org/meeting.aspx?page=2315

For many years, stealth attacks on environmental laws have been financed by building developers, business associations, conservative lawmakers and Republican deregulators.  Often sponsored by termed-out politicians and those seeking higher office, CEQA legislation has been stealthily maneuvered around public scrutiny.  After failed attempts in 2006 and 2011, with CEQA legislation introduced at the Board of Supervisor’s year-end sessions, an attempt was made to sneak in legislation during the 2012 Thanksgiving Holidays – under false pretenses without public collaboration.   In August 2012, CEQA legislation was introduced in the last two weeks of the California Legislative Session, but was deferred to 2013 – whereupon its chief advocate, Democratic State Senator Michael Rubio (Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties), resigned to take a job with Chevron – depriving Democrats of its supermajority.

TALKING POINTS

ITEM 8:  Proposed extension of start deadlines for many developer projects from 3 to 6 years.

  • These rule changes should not be considered until after CEQA procedures are decided on.
  • The proposed time extension would allow developers to delay and leave parcels vacant – depending on market conditions and property values.
  • It gives the Zoning Administrator excessive power in extending such delays indefinitely.

ITEM 12:  Proposed changes to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Procedures

  • We [name and organization] recommend a NO vote on Supervisor Wiener’s CEQA legislation.
  • The Planning Commission asked Supervisor Wiener to meet with stakeholders—for a collaborative amended legislation.  But there has been no true collaborative process.
  • Supervisor Wiener held selective meetings with selected participants.  In some cases, upon discovering such meetings, community representatives alerted others at the last minute.
  • No substantial changes AT ALL have been made in this legislation—to address the serious problems that have been clearly documented.
  • Attempts to confuse the general public and elected officials are just that—to erect unrecognizable hurdles for open government and public process.
  • The weakening of environmental laws creates an even more uneven playing field—for the citizenry already facing powerful special interests, big money and state power.
  • CEQA appeals constitute a tiny percentage of the tens of thousands of projects In San Francisco.  Problematic projects usually involve other issues, like rezoning, height exemptions, code variances, financing, violations of ordinances, building codes, ADA….  There are far greater development issues than CEQA alone – which warrant a holistic overview.
  • The proposed legislation benefits a small percentage of developers while disenfranchising the citizenry as a whole.

Regards,
Howard Wong, AIA

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