SF Lawmakers’ move to reform CEQA narrows, is still divided

By: Joshua Sabatini : sfexaminer – excerpt

The gap narrowed Monday  between dueling proposals to change rules for environmental appeals of construction projects, but weighty issues remain unresolved.

For weeks now, a debate has raged at the Board of Supervisors Land Use and Economic Development Committee over how to reform the appeals process under the California Environmental Quality Act, also known as CEQA.
Under the state law, projects that would have a significant impact on the environment must undergo extensive environmental analysis to determine how to mitigate those impacts. Smaller projects can do other mitigation work or receive an exemption. The CEQA decisions are appealable to the Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Scott Wiener proposed an appeals reform months ago and Supervisor Jane Kim has a more recent counter proposal. The two supervisors sit on the committee and have been hashing out their legislation with board President David Chiu arbitrating. Monday was the third hearing on the legislation.
While Chiu offered more amendments to Wiener’s legislation in an effort to reach a consensus that could then go to the full board for a vote, the larger debates remain unresolved. They include when the clock should start ticking for someone to file a CEQA appeal — either at the project’s first approval or any time through the final approval. For some advocates, waiting until final approval is pivotal.
“The thing that keeps that developer at the negotiating table is the CEQA appeal,” said Eric Brooks, a community advocate engaged in the negotiations. “That’s just reality. We need that.”
Also, debate continues on how The City would determine whether changes to a project are significant enough to allow for an opportunity to appeal… (more)

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