California’s signature environmental law needs to be reformed because NIMBYs are using it to block smart growth.
Parker Place provides a case study in how CEQA could be reformed.
Ali Kashani thought he had a sure thing. In 2008, the longtime Berkeley developer proposed to build one of the greenest housing projects in East Bay history. Kashani has long been an advocate for smart-growth development — dense housing and mixed-use projects built on major transit corridors in urban areas. And the architect that he commissioned for his smart-growth project in Berkeley designed it to meet LEED Platinum standards.
….In other words, the Parker Place project is a liberal environmentalist’s dream.
…But nothing’s ever a sure thing in Berkeley, a city that is home to some of the most vocal and stubborn anti-growth activists in the state. In November 2010, after the Berkeley City Council approved Parker Place, a small group of these activists sued to block the project, using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to do it. And now, more than four years after Kashani unveiled his proposal, it’s still tied up in litigation. “They really don’t like infill projects,” Kashani said, referring to how anti-growth activists view urban development. “And they’re holding up good projects that could be on the market.”
"The law has become so dysfunctional," said Jennifer Hernandez, an attorney for the Holland & Knight firm and a Berkeley resident who advocates for broad reforms of CEQA. "To call this environmental protection anymore … it’s really about quality-of-life" issues.
The California Legislature has approved minor reforms to CEQA during the past decade in an effort to spur smart growth. But CEQA still allows anti-growth activists to pervert environmental law. For example, the group that sued to block Parker Place contended that the city’s environmental study was “inadequate,” essentially because the project involves the cleaning up of polluted soil and groundwater.
Yes, you read that right. A project that would not only help fight climate change, but also would clean up contaminated soil and groundwater in downtown Berkeley has been blocked in court thanks to a law that’s supposed to protect the environment.
read more: eastbayexpress, 13.03.13.