New California Law Alters CEQA in Favor of Student Housing

Following a heated legal battle over new student housing in Berkeley, Governor Newsom signed a new law removing ‘social noise’ as an environmental impact.

1 minute read

September 11, 2023, 12:00 PM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of UC Berkeley campus with Campanile tower

Yasmin / Adobe Stock

A California state bill signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, Assembly Bill 1307, removes noise impact as a factor in environmental reviews for new student housing projects, prompted by the state’s housing crisis and the battle over proposed new housing in People’s Park between the University of California, Berkeley and local activists.

As Noah Goldberg explains in the Los Angeles Times, “The passage of the bill means that the noise generated by project occupants will not be considered a significant effect on the environment.” The law, which goes into effect immediately, “reestablishes over 50 years of CEQA precedent, and reaffirms that people are not pollution,” said the bill’s author, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, and comes at a time when over 400,000 students in the state’s university systems lack stable housing.

Nicole Gordon, a lawyer for UC, said letting the noise ruling stand “would make CEQA a dangerous and powerful tool for any neighbor that does not like the social habits and customs of potential new residents” and could be “applied to perpetuate prejudice and stereotypes.” The ruling was already referenced in a Los Angeles case earlier this year.

Opponents of the projects Make UC a Good Neighbor say they support new student housing, just not in People’s Park, which they call “a historic and much-needed open space.”

Friday, September 8, 2023 in Los Angeles Times

Ornate, tan stone capitol building with a gold dome roof and low-rise city buildings in the background.

States Are Banning Guaranteed Income Programs

Four states now have laws in place that prevent cities and counties from creating or continuing guaranteed income programs, and several more have tried or are trying.

May 23, 2024 - Bloomberg CityLab

Aerial view of Oceanwide Plaza skyscrapers covered with graffiti tags.

LA’s Abandoned Towers Loom as a “$1.2 Billion Ruin of Global Capital”

Oceanwide Plaza, shuttered mid-construction after its developer filed for bankruptcy, has stood vacant on prime Los Angeles real estate since 2019.

May 21, 2024 - The Architect's Newspaper

Close-up of electric stove range with front burners red-hot.

California Cities Suspend Natural Gas Bans Following Court Ruling

A Ninth Circuit court ruling forced Berkeley to reverse its ban on natural gas in new buildings, prompting other cities to suspend their own efforts to promote all-electric buildings.

May 28, 2024 - East Bay Times

Aerial view of downtown Auburn, Indiana on a clear, sunny day.

Study: Indiana Regional Planning Project Pays Off

The Regional Cities Initiative funded economic development projects and capacity building to help local agencies collaborate more effectively to promote growth.

28 minutes ago - Ball State University

Colorful vacant, boarded-up two-story rowhouses in East Baltimore, Maryland.

States Move to Limit ‘Squatters’ Rights’

A wave of new legislation targets people who reside illegally in properties they don’t own.

1 hour ago - Smart Cities Dive

BART heavy rail train on elevated track pulling into Concord, CA station with cloudy sky and trees in background.

Bay Area Transit Projects Awarded $18 Million

The funding supports eight ‘near-term’ projects slated for completion within the next one to three years.

May 29 - Contra Costa Herald

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.