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
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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.
Lynne Bynder, firstname.lastname@example.org