L.A. Times Editorial Board Calls for CEQA Reform

The Board argues that the environmental law, while important, has too often been ‘weaponized’ by NIMBY groups to delay or halt housing development.

1 minute read

January 31, 2023, 12:00 PM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

While the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) “has improved countless construction projects,” the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board argues that reform of the landmark law is desperately needed. According to the Board, “CEQA lawsuits have also too often been used to thwart progress on the state’s most pressing needs by stalling or blocking important projects.” 

The Board provides an example from Berkeley, where a CEQA lawsuit is holding up the planned construction of hundreds of housing units for students and unhoused people in People’s Park. A district court ruled that the university did not conduct a thorough environmental review about the potential impacts of 1,100 student residents while ignoring the benefits of adding dense housing near campus. The Board writes that “That’s one of the pitfalls of CEQA — the law only considers the possible negative effects from a project, without giving equal weight to its benefits or the consequences if the project isn’t built.”

The Board argues that rather than creating piecemeal CEQA exemptions, such as the Berkeley project is likely to receive, state legislators should reform the law to promote development that makes sense. But the Board sees little political will to reform the law at the legislative level, urging instead that Governor Newsom “draft clear, broad exemptions for urban infill development and clean-energy projects.”

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