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Libertarian Foundation Uses CEQA to Litigate 'Plan Bay Area'

The group, Bay Area Citizens, worried about loss of property values and quality of life, will be represented by the libertarian Pacific Legal Foundation, which will use CEQA as the basis of the lawsuit against regional agencies MTC and ABAG.
August 8, 2013, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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In what might be perceived as an ironic application of the landmark 1970 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), written in part to reign-in the Golden State's sprawling growth in that era, a libertarian foundation is using the law as the basis for a lawsuit challenging the July 18 approval of the regional growth plan known as Plan Bay Area by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (PDF).

The plan steers growth toward "Priority Development Areas", determined by local jurisdictions, that are accessible to transit and services as opposed to promoting more exurban development, and away from "Priority Conservation Areas".

Bay Area Citizens sees the plan as promoting dense growth that "restricts people's ability to make their own choices", according to its co-founder, Peter Singleton.

Neal J. Riley writes that Bay Area Citizens says the plan will hurt their property values. It is being represented in court at no cost by the Pacific Legal Foundation, a Sacramento libertarian organization "that fights for limited government, property rights, individual rights and a balanced approach to environmental protection," according to its website. "The lawsuit alleges that Plan Bay Area violates the California Environmental Quality Act by omitting alternatives to its plan to steer 77 percent of future growth near "priority development areas....", Riley writes.

Richard Halstead of the Marin Independent Journal writes that "(t)hese are areas typically accessible to mass transit, jobs, shopping and other services that have been identified and approved by local cities or counties for future growth."

"That's great for people who want to live in crowded city centers," said Peter Singleton, a co-founder of Bay Area Citizens. "Most people don't."

"MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler said he could not comment on the lawsuit, but noted that regional planning has been routine for decades. But Plan Bay Area has attracted a "whole different cast of characters" this time around, he said.

Rentschler added, "Whenever you introduce climate change into a discussion, you tend to amp it up, and that's certainly happened here."  

In fact, Plan Bay Area was written to meet the greenhouse gas reduction requirements described in SB 375, the "Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008". In addition, it will serve as the Bay Area's Regional Transportation Plan and specify affordable housing requirements for Bay Area cities and counties.

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Published on Wednesday, August 7, 2013 in San Francisco Chronicle
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