With 3,000 prospective UC Berkeley students facing rejection due to a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit, the nonpartisan Pacific Research Institute today released “The CEQA Gauntlet,” a new research project detailing how CEQA adds expense and delay to – and in some cases halts – critical California projects including housing, schools, infrastructure, renewable energy, homeless shelters, and wildfire prevention.
“As a Cal graduate, it is unconscionable that a law to protect California’s environment could deny thousands of students the opportunity for a UC education,” said Chris Carr, Ph.D., head of the Environment and Energy Practice Group at Paul Hastings LLP and “CEQA Gauntlet” co-author.
“CEQA has become an obstacle to achieving California’s top goals, from building new housing and schools to addressing homelessness and achieving renewable energy milestones. By reading our flowchart and report, we hope that Californians will learn what’s at stake in the CEQA reform debate and demand an end to its abuse so much-needed projects and important priorities can move forward,” Carr said.
“The CEQA Gauntlet” (co-authored by Carr with Navi Dhillon and Lucas Grunbaum, also with Paul Hastings LLP) documents how projects big and small ranging from housing to infrastructure to renewable energy are hindered by CEQA.
The cornerstone of the report is a full-size flowchart that illustrates the CEQA gauntlet – a maze of tests and trials that far too often frustrates construction across the State.
The paper provides concrete examples of “CEQA Horror Stories” that show how CEQA can pose an obstacle to even the most straightforward projects:
- In downtown San Francisco, a 495-unit apartment development located next to BART and other public transit was nixed by the Board of Supervisors, which directed its Planning Department and the developer to add further analysis to the 1,129-page CEQA document that had been prepared for the project.
- Efforts to build new Los Angeles homeless shelters after voter approval of a bond measure were stymied by opponents using CEQA lawsuits to block the projects.
- Project developers racing to build renewable energy projects have faced CEQA lawsuits from opponents hoping to leverage tight deadlines to secure settlements.
Building on a decade of incremental policy changes enacted by state lawmakers, “The CEQA Gauntlet” proposes several realistic and reasonable reform ideas that should garner bipartisan support and form the nucleus of CEQA reform efforts. Among the ideas:
- Enacting a moratorium on narrow CEQA exemptions to focus the Legislature’s efforts instead on the broader systemic reforms needed to benefit the public and the State.
- Streamlining the CEQA review process to reduce time and unnecessary costs.
- Adopting reforms to the CEQA litigation process to preserve meritorious suits, crackdown on frivolous or unnecessary actions, and improve efficiency.
- Increasing public transparency requirements so we know who is paying for CEQA lawsuits.