S.F. supervisors butt heads over CEQA

S.F. supervisors butt heads over CEQA

By C.W. Nevius : SFGate.com – excerpt

Here in San Francisco we’re having a CEQA smackdown.

CEQA is the California Environmental Quality Act. It requires that proposed building projects be analyzed, with their potential impact on the environment fully disclosed and mitigated.
It is a reasonable and worthwhile concept in theory, but in practice it can lead to long delays, expensive legal costs and bitter neighborhood battles. One angry, kooky or determined resident can hold up a housing remodel or park improvement for months.
Supervisor Scott Wiener has been working since last fall on legislation to streamline CEQA in San Francisco, one of the few cities where appeals of smaller projects don’t face a set deadline.
He’s amended his bill 34 times. He’s convened roundtable discussions and held public hearings at the Planning Commission and Historic Preservation Commission. He’s lined up the support of groups ranging from the Bicycle Coalition to the San Francisco Housing Action Coalition.
Last week the Planning Commission approved Wiener’s bill and sent it forward.
That’s when Wiener and everyone else discovered that Supervisor Jane Kim had her own CEQA bill. It arrived under the radar, was neither drafted nor approved by the city attorney – as Weiner’s proposal was – and was a surprise to the Planning Commission.

“It was sudden,” Kim admits. “I was approached very late by a collection of people – of which (former Board of Supervisors President) Aaron Peskin was one – and I really wanted their perspective.”
Wiener is maintaining his trademark monotone cool, but he must be ready to tear his hair out. Peskin, a longtime neighborhood slow-growth activist, surely sees Wiener’s streamlining as an attempt to limit the power of local advocates.
So although Kim insists that “80 percent of her legislation is the same” as Wiener’s, he sees it as a direct attack. Wiener said his bill clarifies the appeals process, creates clear public deadlines and improves neighborhood notification.
“The alternative legislation,” Wiener said, “does the exact opposite. It makes it worse, more expensive and time-consuming. It is Opposite Day.”
Kim admits her bill will “trigger more hearings and offer the advocacy groups more protection,” but insists she’s as eager as anyone to reform CEQA.
Good luck to both of you. The only think we can say for certain about CEQA reform is that it has been attempted several times before, and it always ends up back at the drawing board… (more)

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