Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wooding on Wiener's bogus CEQA "reform"


George Wooding provides another public service---like his article on the street bond a few years ago---with his thorough take-down of Supervisor Wiener's phony CEQA "reform." (Wooding's piece is published both on the Westside Observer and in the newsletter of the Coalition of San Francisco Neighborhoods):

So far District 8 Supervisor Scott Wiener has failed to demonstrate that his newly-proposed amendments to San Francisco’s environmental appeal laws are necessary. That’s not stopping him, as he continues tinkering with San Francisco’s open government laws. Wiener’s legislative changes are primarily designed to reduce the amount of time citizens have to review and appeal environmental impacts to proposed development projects. Wiener seeks to restrict appeals regarding projects to a short time period, so that government and project developers can then go behind closed doors to modify projects without further citizen oversight...

Wiener states that his legislative goal is to codify the environmental appeals process. Currently, public environmental appeals can be filed by average citizens throughout the life of any project. Wiener wants to limit the public’s ability to appeal to only 20 to 30 days after the first entitlement/permit is issued. Once the public is shut out after 30 days, project malfeasance may then commence in earnest. For an example of malfeasance, just look to the Parkmerced development deal, over which four City supervisors---including Supervisor Wiener---were referred to the Ethics Commission for official misconduct, as a result of withholding 14 pages of project amendments from the public until after the Supervisors voted on the deal...

Susan Brandt-Hawley, an environmental preservation attorney, wrote in the SF Bay Guardian’s September issue: “The truth is that while environmental review takes time and costs money, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process usually moves quickly. In terms of litigation, a recent report recounted 11 CEQA lawsuits filed against San Francisco last year, while many hundreds of projects were approved in the City. A more in-depth analysis by the Public Policy Institute of California found that only one CEQA lawsuit is filed per 354 projects, a fraction of a percent.”

The fraction is actually less than three-tenths of one percent. Wiener’s proposed legislation to restrict CEQA appeals seems to be taking a sledge hammer to pound a nail. When asked for data, the SF Planning Department didn’t even know the number of CEQA appeals, negative declarations, or exemptions filed last year before the Board of Supervisors. More importantly, the Supervisors have rejected every environmental appeal in recent memory, despite Wiener’s claim that the Board approved one appeal relating to a Telegraph Hill development project...(emphasis added)

See page 22 of "CEQA Reform: Issues and Options" for a graph illustrating how few projects are lititgated under CEQA.

Read the following excerpt from Wooding's 2011 article on the street bond in light of this morning's item ("572 city workers paid more than governor") in Matier and Ross:

...In 2003 the City had just 2,918 employees earning over $90,000 in total pay, excluding fringe benefits, costing $314 million. In 2010, the City had 11,838 employees earning over $90,000, an increase of 8,920 such employees, who now cost $1.47 billion, an increase of $1.15 billion, by the stroke of the Mayor's pen signing the City budget, and a compliant Board of Supervisors passing Annual Salary Ordinance increases. Clearly, the unfunded salary increases exacerbate our unfunded pension problem, largely driven by overly-generous top salaries, which isn't being addressed in pension reform ballot measures, or discussed by City officials. Thank you Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom for our terrible roads and our abundance of highly-paid, managerial employees...

No wonder he's laughing: $260,547 a year!

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