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We do need smarter growth to combat global warming. But CEQA isn't the problem. According to California's Attorney General, only 0.3 percent of CEQA projects in San Francisco — hardly a NIMBY-free zone — ever end up in court. The litigation rate in LA is only 1.5 percent. And in a recent statewide survey of planning directors, fewer than 5 percent ranked CEQA as the primary barrier to infill —infrastructure constraints, zoning issues, lack of funding and general economic malaise beat CEQA hands-down.
Besides, the legislature has already streamlined CEQA for "smart growth" projects multiple times in the last few years. The ink is hardly dry on the latest pro-infill guidelines, yet developers keep coming back for more — which shows this isn't really about infill.
The developers' lawyers quoted in the Express piece want to dismantle the law entirely. Their proposals would turn thorough environmental studies into meaningless checklists while allowing officials to ignore the law without fear of being sued. If they get their way, both our environment and open government will suffer.
The Express rightly notes that this bedrock environmental law has protected our air and water, our coastline, our wildlife, our open spaces, and our health for more than forty years. Climate change shows we need it more than ever.
The law's twin goals — ensuring our elected officials honestly and publicly assess the impacts of projects, good or bad, and take feasible steps to reduce significant harm — are producing smarter, less carbon-intensive projects. We shouldn't throw that away because of a few disgruntled neighbors.
Senior Attorney, Center for Biological Diversity
In our March 20 What the Fork column, "The Story of Oakland's Food Scene," we got wrong the last name of Oliveto chef Jonah Rhodehamel.
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