CEQA in the Crosshairs

According to the Union-Tribune, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s administration is pushing for an overhaul of the California Environmental Quality Act to remove obstacles to more affordable housing statewide. The goal is to increase the housing supply by streamlining the development review and approval process and giving developers more certainty as they navigate through it. According to the article:

The Schwarzenegger administration’s main thrusts include trimming some environmental reviews that slow housing projects and mandating that local agencies approve enough homes to meet demand. “The governor’s goal is to to have more (development) in the pipeline,” said Assemblyman Guy Houston, R-San Ramon. “Right now, it takes an extraordinary amount of time to get that done.” . . . . One draft bill would limit environmental review of projects that are consistent with approved regional development plans. Environmentalists are suspicious, saying such plans aren’t detailed enough to anticipate all the environmental impacts of a specific project. San Diego developer Reese Jarrett welcomed efforts to reduce redundancies. “That could save a lot of time, and obviously time is money,” Jarrett said. CEQA is designed to identify the environmental effects of a wide range of developments ââ?¬â?? everything from water pollution to loss of animal habitat ââ?¬â?? and find ways to limit such problems. Over time, it has become the de facto land-use planning tool for development in much of the state. State environmental reviews can take more than a year for tract housing developments and cost tens of thousands of dollars per unit. The process varies widely from project to project. CEQA reviews also commonly end up being the focus of time-consuming lawsuits. Houston said that while environmental analysis is important, “you can’t keep going back and forth to slow down or stop a project.” “Anybody who builds deserves a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in a timely manner,” he said.

My favorite part of this article:

Molloy, of the Building Industry Association, said San Diego County residents wielding CEQA have pushed development to Riverside and Imperial counties. The result is an increasing number of people who buy relatively less-expensive homes in southwestern Riverside County, then commute to work in San Diego, he said. “The irony is that all of the emphasis on the environmental impacts on the local level has led to … one long, massive impact on the I-15 corridor’s traffic and pollution,” Molloy said.

It amazes me that the environmental community largely fails to acknowledge this unintended, but utterly counterproductive, consequence of their often rigid and dogmatic stand on growth issues.