Saving CEQA: The Promise and Peril of Efforts at Reform



Friday, May 19, 2017
1:45 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. CDT

San Francisco, CA, United States

CM | 1.50

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In the more than four decades since its adoption, CEQA has been magnet for controversy. While an effective tool for promoting environmental protection and public engagement in planning, CEQA is also beset with bureaucratic inefficiencies and litigation risks that can obstruct successful environmental planning efforts. Environmental review requirements, for instance, are known to add time and cost to project review and approval in California, and have thus resulted in a widespread perception, with examples to demonstrate its rooting in reality, that the state’s economic development and environmental policy goals are being thwarted by CEQA’s mandate. Further, there are those, including labor unions, business interests, and neighborhood NIMBYs, whose implicitly non-environmental motivations lead them to threaten or actually file legal actions to halt the approval of projects they oppose. Significant to the cause of promoting sound environmental planning, the threat and/or execution of such legal challenges can inhibit or halt the development of net-positive projects such as high-density, affordable housing, which could ultimately lead to better jobs-housing balances, reduced commute times for low-income workers, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions associated with more transit-oriented housing patterns.

In an effort to address some of these challenges, this panel will focus broadly on the status of and need for CEQA reform, in the context of ongoing legal challenges to projects that could provide net environmental, social, and economic benefits throughout the state. Through a discussion of whether and why CEQA reform is needed; a review of past and present reform proposals; a look at the current challenges and opportunities associated with existing streamlining techniques; and a visioning of a path forward toward effective but efficient CEQA implementation, this panel will advance the themes both of CEQA Evolution and Intersection of Planning and CEQA. Panelist presentations will be followed by opportunities for audience-directed discussion.




Erin Efner

Erin Efner is a principal at ICF and has been preparing CEQA and NEPA environmental documents for over 13 years. Ms. Efner's project experience includes stormwater infrastructure projects, transportation, large residential projects, infill development, affordable housing, commercial/ industrial projects, elementary and high schools, mixed- use developments, specific plans, and ... Read More

Darin Ranelletti

Darin Ranelletti is the Deputy Director of the Department of Planning and Building at the City of Oakland. In this position he oversees the Bureau of Planning, including the preparation of long-range policy plans and the review of development projects, and serves as the City’s Environmental Review Officer. Read More

Terry Rivasplata

Terry Rivasplata is a Technical Director at ICF, where he prepares and reviews environmental analysis documents for compliance with CEQA and NEPA for public and private clients. Prior to joining ICF, Mr. Rivasplata served as the deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. In this role ... Read More

Jennifer Hernandez

Jennifer L. Hernandez co-chairs Holland & Knight’s National Environmental Team and leads the West Coast Land Use and Environment Practice Group. She has achieved national prominence in her work on brownfields redevelopment, wetlands and endangered species, and master planned community projects. She represents private, nonprofit and public sector clients, ranging ... Read More

Greta Brownlow

Greta Brownlow, PhD is an Associate at LSA Associates, Inc., where she specializes in CEQA compliance and land use planning. Over the course of her 18-year career as an environmental consultant, Dr. Brownlow has collaborated with numerous agencies, developers, and local communities in implementing development projects throughout California. Dr. Brownlow ... Read More

Contact Info

Lynne Bynder,