Monday, March 11, 2013

Planning Commission on CEQA "reform" Thursday

Howard Wong provides the bulletin below about the Planning Commission's agenda on Thursday. The only thing I would add is that CEQA "reform" is now getting a "progressive" seal of approval from the Bicycle Coalition---which of course thinks the massive Bicycle Plan shouldn't have had any environmental review---and Beyond Chron, where Randy Shaw recently published a call to prog lemmings to join the rush to undermine environmental review, though his analysis only showed he didn't know what he was talking about. Supervisor Wiener is pushing this bogus CEQA reform. Wiener previously tried unsuccessfully to undermine city voters' initiative rights:
Proposed CEQA legislation weakens public’s right to know and to participate.
The 1970 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) gives environmentalists, neighborhoods, disadvantaged communities, ethnic minorities, cultural groups, labor and the average citizen a chance to fight bad projects and powerful special interests. History demonstrates that rigid state power and greased projects have bad consequences:  freeway construction, filling in the Bay, destruction of ethnic neighborhoods, demolishing the Western Addition/Lower Fillmore/Nihonmachi, disregarding environmental justice, eroding open space, snubbing nature conservancy, demolishing historic resources, weakening health protections, and ramrodding misguided development projects. 

PLANNING COMMISSION, THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 2013, 12:00 PM, City Hall Room 400
Agenda: Item 8, Extension of Project Deadlines; Item 12,  CEQA Procedures.

For many years, stealth attacks on environmental laws have been financed by building developers, business associations, conservative lawmakers and Republican deregulators. Often sponsored by termed-out politicians and those seeking higher office, CEQA legislation has been stealthily maneuvered around public scrutiny. After failed attempts in 2006 and 2011, with CEQA legislation introduced at the Board of Supervisor’s year-end sessions, an attempt was made to sneak in legislation during the 2012 Thanksgiving Holidays under false pretenses without public collaboration. In August 2012, CEQA legislation was introduced in the last two weeks of the California Legislative Session, but was deferred to 2013, whereupon its chief advocate, Democratic State Senator Michael Rubio (Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties), resigned to take a job with Chevron depriving Democrats of their supermajority.

ITEM 8: Proposed extension of start deadlines for many development projects from 3 to 6 years.
· These rule changes should not be considered until after CEQA procedures are decided on.
· The proposed time extension would allow developers to delay and leave parcels vacant, depending on market conditions and property values.
· It gives the Zoning Administrator excessive power to extend such delays indefinitely.

ITEM 12: Proposed changes to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Procedures

· The Planning Commission asked Supervisor Wiener to meet with stakeholders for  collaborative amended legislation, but there has been no true collaborative process.
· Supervisor Wiener held meetings with selected participants. In some cases, on discovering such meetings, community representatives alerted others at the last minute.
· No substantial changes AT ALL have been made in this legislation to address the serious problems that have been clearly documented.
· Attempts to confuse the general public and elected officials are just that to erect unrecognizable hurdles for open government and public process.
· The weakening of environmental laws creates an even more uneven playing field for the citizenry already facing powerful special interests, big money and state power.
· CEQA appeals constitute a tiny percentage of the thousands of projects In San Francisco. Problematic projects usually involve other issues, like rezoning, height exemptions, code variances, financing, violations of ordinances, building codes, ADA. There are far greater development issues than CEQA alone that warrant a holistic overview.
· The proposed legislation benefits a small percentage of developers while disenfranchising the citizenry as a whole.
Howard Wong, AIA

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