California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) threatened in San Francisco

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) threatened in San Francisco

by KPFA Evening News, 05.18.2013 – excerpt

California’s most important environmental law, the California Environmental Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), is under attack, and activists are trying to make sure the act will still hold sway in San Francisco. CEQA requires corporations and landholders to provide public information about potential environmental impacts of their projects in advance. A statewide coalition recently blocked attempts to weaken CEQA at the state level, but now San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener has proposed to weaken CEQA locally. Supervisor Jane Kim has proposed competing legislation which is more CEQA friendly… (more, including audio)

Stop Attacks on Our Environmental Bill of Rights

Stop Attacks on Our Environmental Bill of Rights


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:


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 .

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”
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 : – 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)

OP-ED: Imagine the Bay Area without CEQA

OP-ED: Imagine the Bay Area without CEQA

By E. Clement Shute Jr. : – 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)

Wiener’s CEQA legislation headed for more compromise

Wiener’s CEQA legislation headed for more compromise

City Insider : – 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)

Supervisor Showdown: Wiener Versus Kim, CEQA, And Waste

Supervisor Showdown: Wiener Versus Kim, CEQA, And Waste – excerpt

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is a State statue established in 1970 which requires local public agencies to provide analysis and disclosure of possible environmental impacts prior to the approval of building permits.

Exemptions from analysis can be granted for minor projects, saving much time and money, but those exemptions can be appealed as can any findings of no environmental impact (a “negative declaration”), an appeal process which is ill-defined and costly, a favorite tool of both concerned citizens and NIMBYs alike.

Having spent months writing and re-writing proposed legislation to establish a set 20 day windows for filing appeals and clarifying the process, Supervisor Wiener’s proposed legislation was approved by San Francisco’s Planning Commission and seemed ready for a Board of Supervisors vote. And then Supervisor Kim introduced a competing bill.

Directly from Supervisor Wiener’s office:

“On March 12, Supervisor Jane Kim introduced separate, alternative CEQA legislation. The legislation was not drafted by the City Attorney nor approved as to form by the City Attorney. The Planning Department did not participate in the legislation, did not provide feedback on it, and was not aware of the legislation before it was introduced.

While Supervisor Wiener welcomes any of his colleagues to participate in this important process, unfortunately, Supervisor Kim’s legislation is exactly the opposite of Supervisor Wiener’s legislation. Instead of creating a clearer and more predictable process, it will make the CEQA process even worse than it is today: longer, more expensive, more cumbersome, more bureaucratic, and less predictable.”

A few examples from Wiener’s Office with respect to the “negative changes” that would result if Supervisor Kim’s legislation is adopted

Every project on every building 50 years or older – nearly 3/4 of San Francisco’s building stock – would no longer be eligible for a CEQA Categorical Exemption stamp (often issued over the counter in a matter of hours) for a minor change, such as changing a window, replacing a rotted out handrail, or replacing a failing roof. Instead, any and all such projects will be required to get a “Categorical Exemption Certificate,” which is a detailed report that can take 3-6 months to issue and currently costs $5,000, as opposed to several hundred dollars for a Categorical Exemption stamp.

This change would effectively mean that over the counter permits would no longer be an option for buildings 50 years or older, more than 3/4 of buildings in San Francisco.

Similarly, all projects in parks and “open space,” which is a very broad term, would require the same 3-6 month and $5,000 certificate instead of the current Categorical Exemption stamp. This would dramatically increase the time and cost associated with even small park and open space projects, like rehabilitating playground structures, adding benches, and planting trees on road medians.

In addition, under Kim’s bill every negative declaration for a park, open space, or building greater than 50 years old would be required to be considered by both the Historic Preservation Commission and the Planning Commission. Currently, negative declarations are only considered by the Planning Commission and only if an appeal is filed… (more)

S.F. supervisors butt heads over CEQA

S.F. supervisors butt heads over CEQA

By C.W. Nevius : – 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.

Continue reading “S.F. supervisors butt heads over CEQA”

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

IMPORTANT HEARINGS! Forward this to friends and colleagues.
Proposed CEQA legislation weakens public’s right to know and to participate.

By Howard Wong

Hello Everyone:
IMPORTANT HEARINGS!  Forward this to friends and colleagues.
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.

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.

Continue reading “PROTECT ENVIRONMENTAL RIGHTS: Planning Commission, Thursday., March 14, 12 PM”

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