Bill to Create Special CEQA Courts Clears Hurdle

Bill to Create Special CEQA Courts Clears Hurdle

By Cheryl Miller: law.com – excerpt

SACRAMENTO — Over the objections of judicial branch leaders, a Senate committee on Tuesday approved legislation that would create at least a dozen specialized CEQA courtrooms around the state.
Senator Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, the author of SB 123, promised to shelve the bill if she cannot secure a method to pay for the new divisions, which would process litigation brought under the California Environmental Quality Act and other land use laws designated by the Judicial Council.
“I have not introduced this bill to suck resources out of our already over [taxed] courts,” Corbett told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The bill originally called for every court in the state to create a CEQA division. Responding to concerns about the impact on smaller courts, Corbett amended SB 123 earlier this month to now require that the specialized divisions be created in a minimum of 12 courthouses around the state — at least two in each of California’s six appellate districts… (more)

Stop Attacks on Our Environmental Bill of Rights

Stop Attacks on Our Environmental Bill of Rights

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JOIN WITH Sierra Club, Coalition For San Francisco Neighborhoods, Black Human Rights Leadership Council, Unite Here Local 2, SEIU Local 1021, San Francisco Beautiful, San Francisco Tomorrow, Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Council, D-5 Action, Potrero Boosters Neighborhood Association, San Francisco Preservation Consortium, SF Ocean Edge, San Francisco Architectural Heritage, San Francisco Green Party, Center For Biological Diversity, Wild Equity Institute, Arc Ecology, Parkmerced Action Coalition, Golden Gate Park Preservation Alliance, Take Back Our Parks, Greenaction For Health & Environmental Justice, Our City, Eastern Neighborhoods United Front, Gray Panthers of San Francisco, North Mission Neighbors, San Francisco Neighborhood Network, Sunset District Neighborhood Coalition, Aquatic Park Neighbors, Hunters Point Art Gallery, Cole Valley Improvement Association, Cathedral Hill Neighbors, West Of Twin Peaks Central Council, Middle Polk Neighborhood Association, Telegraph Hill Dwellers, Miraloma Park Neighbors, Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association and many San Franciscans.

WHO HAVE raised strong concerns about Supervisor Wiener’s legislation, and have collaborated to help Supervisor Jane Kim build strong community-based legislation, which will improve CEQA for everyone—while being fair to the average citizen and disadvantaged communities.

TESTIFY:  Land Use Committee, Monday, April 22, 1:30 PM, City Hall Room 263
Agenda, Items 1 & 2:  http://sfbos.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=45153

EMAIL:  Scott.Wiener@sfgov.org, Jane.Kim@sfgov.org, David.Chiu@sfgov.org

ADD Your Organization’s Name:  Along with the Sierra Club/ Labor/ neighborhood groups, add your organization’s name in opposing the Wiener CEQA Legislation and supporting the Kim CEQA Legislation—by emailing  brookse32@earthlink.net .

OPPOSE Supervisor Wiener’s CEQA Legislation, which confuses the average citizen, curtails public participation and the ability of public officials to make well-informed decisions.
SUPPORT Supervisor Kim’s CEQA Legislation, which was built by a broad collaborative process.  Also, support continued efforts to refine Legislation to assure fairness for the average citizen and disadvantaged communities—who need some chance to see notifications, approval timelines, appeal milestones, project modifications and final project designs.

Sierra Club: “Defending the California Environmental Quality Act–locally and in Sacramento” http://theyodeler.org/?p=6929
CEQA Successeshttp://ceqaworks.org/ceqa-successes

Before CEQA existed, demolitions of San Francisco’s Western Addition, Lower Fillmore and Nihonmachi were ramrodded with alliances of government power, business associations, developers, builders, real estate interests, public relations firms and the one percent who benefited financially.  Average citizens had little recourse.  In1970, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) offered environmentalists, neighborhoods, disadvantaged communities, ethnic minorities, cultural groups, Labor and the average citizen a chance to fight bad projects and powerful special interests.  Now, that chance is under attack.

Regards, Howard Wong, AIA

CEQA change moves faster in SF than Sacto

CEQA change moves faster in SF than Sacto

By Tim Redmond : sfbg.com – excerpt

So the Guv says he doesn’t think he’s going to be able to gut CEQA this year. I think he’s right: The party he supposedly leads (but doesn’t tend to follow him) won’t go for it, any more than the party Obama leads will got for cuts to Social Security.
It’s partly that both are hard-fought pieces of progressive history. The late 1960s and early 1970s were a good time for the environmental movement — Congress passed both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and Nixon signed both. The California Legislature passed CEQA in 1970, and Gov. Reagan signed it. Back then, even Republicans thought it was a good thing to be on the side of protecting the planet.
But there’s more — and it’s interesting that the state Leg, typically not known as a bastion of progressive thought, is better on this issue than San Francisco, where some sort of changes to CEQA are almost inevitable.

Some background: What NEPA and CEQA did, first and foremost, was eliminate the problem of “standing” that had plagued environmental lawyers for years. If I couldn’t prove that a horrible development project on the San Francisco waterfront would personally injure me (which would typically mean I had to own adjacent property), I had no right to go to court to oppose it. CEQA mandates a valid, complete environmental review of any major project, which gives anyone the right to sue; I may not be able to describe specific financial damages from a project, but as a citizen, I have a legal right to an adequate Environmental Impact Report.
Likewise, anyone can appeal a development in San Francisco to the Board of Supervisors on the grounds that the EIR was inadequate… (more)

Warriors San Francisco Waterfront Arena Debate To Begin

Warriors San Francisco Waterfront Arena Debate To Begin

Reporting Chris Filippi : cbslocal.com – excerpt

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — With the Golden State Warriors looking to build a new waterfront basketball arena, lawmakers in Sacramento will begin debating a bill on Monday that that could have an impact on the project.
Arena opponents are criticizing AB 1273; the California Assembly bill proposed by Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, which would clear the way for the development the stadium along Piers 30-32 along the city’s waterfront. They claim the bill strips the Bay Conservation and Development Commission of any oversight of the project.
“We really want to see the short cuts stop and let this project roll forward with the full and fair scrutiny that any other project of its size and significance would get in San Francisco,” Gayle Cahill, the San Francisco Waterfront Alliance president, said.
The whole process, she said, feels rushed… (more)

Jerry Brown says CEQA reform unlikely this year

Jerry Brown says CEQA reform unlikely this year

By Anthony York : latimes.com – excerpt

HONG KONG — Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday that winning a major overhaul of California’s environmental laws was unlikely this year as he focuses on transforming the state’s public school funding, developing a plan to deal with its overcrowded prisons and upgrading its water system.

As he wrapped up a weeklong trade mission to China, Brown talked to reporters about his trip and what awaits him back in Sacramento. Sipping green tea and sitting on on a long white couch surrounded by top aides, he said that changing the California Environmental Quality Act was unlikely this year.
“This is not something you get done in a year,” Brown said, explaining that “there are very powerful forces that are strong in the party that will resist” changes to the law. “But I believe before I depart this stage, we’ll see reform in CEQA.”
“I’ve got a big agenda,” Brown said, mentioning education, prisons and water. “But I would say the appetite for CEQA reform is bigger outside the state capital than it is inside.
When asked if that meant it might take an initiative to change the law, he said, “That’s always a possibility.”… (more)

OP-ED: Imagine the Bay Area without CEQA

OP-ED: Imagine the Bay Area without CEQA

By E. Clement Shute Jr. : smdailyjournal.com – excerpt

The two of us remember the challenges that faced our state before 1970, the year the California Environmental Quality Act was enacted. We are disturbed by recent proposals to weaken this landmark legislation, which has served as the cornerstone of California’s environmental protection laws.

While the challenges facing the environment are different today (in fact, they are probably even more difficult), the need for CEQA is as strong as it was in 1970. We cannot forget the reasons that led to our state’s hard-won environmental safeguards. Those reasons still exist.
Before CEQA, monied interests dominated development decisions and California residents had little power to stop the widespread damage to our shared natural resources. Our laws at that time did not allow the public any means of requiring consideration of the environmental harms caused by development.
For example, in the early 1960s, the San Francisco Bay was being filled at a rate that, according to the Army Corps of Engineers, would have left just a shipping channel by 2020. No laws existed to prevent this environmental travesty. Led by Save the Bay, the Legislature created the Bay Conservation and Development Commission in 1969 to protect the Bay; it enacted CEQA the following year… (more)

SF lawmaker hits speedbump in CEQA reform

SF lawmaker hits speedbump in CEQA reform

By: Joshua Sabatini : SF Examiner Staff Writer – excerpt

Supervisor Scott Wiener’s effort to change how The City handles an environmental appeals process was slowed down Monday as a competing measure is being introduced today.
The proposed changes to the appeals process related to the California Environmental Quality Act, commonly called CEQA, have sparked tensions at City Hall, creating divisions among labor unions, community groups and housing advocates, and filling up supervisors’ inboxes with hundreds of emails from residents on both sides of the conflict.
Developers complain about the unpredictability and endless battles in the existing process, while neighborhood activists worry proposed changes would diminish their influence.
The proposal was under debate Monday for about four hours at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee, after which it was continued so Supervisor Jane Kim could introduce competing legislation today, which she crafted with a coalition of neighborhood advocates…  (more)

Wiener’s CEQA legislation headed for more compromise

Wiener’s CEQA legislation headed for more compromise

City Insider : SFGate.com – excerpt

Supervisor’s Scott Wiener’s proposal to change the environmental appeals process in San Francisco, already amended about 40 times since its inception, is likely headed for more changes.
Supervisors on the Land Use and Economic Development Committee voted to continue Wiener’s legislation that would set a deadline for challenges under the California Environmental Quality Act and allow appeals to be heard in front of board committees instead of the full Board of Supervisors.
“We should’ve done this more than 10 years ago,” Wiener said. “This has been going on for a long time and there’s always reasons for why it gets delayed.”
Wiener’s legislation is being countered by fellow committee member Jane Kim, who plans to introduce her own CEQA proposal on Tuesday that would give more support to project appellants. That leaves Supervisor David Chiu as the deciding vote, and as usual, he’s looking for compromise on increasing notification and clarity on which permits for a project would trigger Wiener’s 30-day deadline… (more)

The Result of Two Minutes of Testimony

The Result of Two Minutes of Testimony at the Land Use Committee Meeting is that discussions about CEQA reform will continue in San Francisco.

The Result of Two Minutes of Testimony at the Land Use Committee Meeting is that discussions about CEQA reform will continue in San Francisco.

In a stunning display of organization and passion, the Community CEQA Improvement Team together with speakers including former Supervisors Jake McGoldrick, Aaron Peskin and John Bardis pushed the popular agenda, resulting in Supervisor Jane Kim speaking out forcefully in favor of her version of CEQA reform, rebuffing Supervisor Wiener’s version of the legislation in this afternoon’s Land Use Committee hearing.

The outcome of today’s hearing will be a fresh review of new CEQA legislation from Supervisor Kim and the renegotiation of five points of Supervisor Wiener’s version:

  • 1)  Board Hearings of CEQA appeals should continue v. subcommittee hearings only
  • 2) The “Fair Argument” standard should be applied to every appeal
  • 3) Website notices of CEQA decisions should be published, but should also be circulated
  • 4) Documentation deadline for appeals should be maintained at the current standard
  • 5) Both ‘First Approval” and “Last Approval” triggers for CEQA-based appeals need to be reevaluated.

The number of speakers on opposing sides of the argument was very high–approximately 23 speakers came out in favor of Wiener’s version, and 49 against. Thanks to all who showed up or generously donated their time to contribute to tonight’s hearing. Thanks for your ideas and for speaking out clearly and forcefully. – Roland

Evidence Grows that CEQA is Good for Working Californians

Evidence Grows that CEQA is Good for Working Californians

sbctc.org – excerpt

April 2013Last month this column was dedicated to the history of deregulation and how workers inevitably pick up the tab when business blindly demands deregulation of longstanding protections that were enacted into law and regulation.
First, what should be asked is, why were these standards put in place? Why were these protections needed? Last month we spoke of the New Deal and the collusion between Wall Street, insurance companies, and banks that led to the Great Depression. In reaction, safeguards and regulations were put in place to protect the public and divide these financial institutions. These safeguards were removed early in the Bush Administration. And before Bush left office, the collusion of Wall Street banks and insurance companies once again almost led to the financial collapse of this nation. Working people, as in the Depression, paid the price…
A news report from KCET in Los Angeles (which can be found here: http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/government/report-ceqa-helping-not-hindering-renewable-development.html) reported, “A new report released this month says that far from hindering the development of a new, greener infrastructure for the state, CEQA may have actually promoted such development compared to states with far less stringent environmental laws.”
CEQA has protected our health without harming our economy. We cannot afford more blind deregulation… (more)

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