Down with CEQA

The NY Times had a great piece yesterday on the legislature’s attempt to reform California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”).

When then-Governor Ronald Reagan signed CEQA in the 1970’s, it may have been a good law. Now it’s an abomination that allows anyone who believes any project will negatively impact the environment to sue to halt the project.

The Times article gives a few examples of how this ability to sue is mis-used, none better than the guy who sued San Francisco to prevent the creation of bike lanes under the theory that they would increase pollution. The city won, winning took four years of totally wasteful, idiotic litigation.

Why is this relevant to a bunch of real estate obsessives like us?

CEQA lawsuits are the main way that NIMBY (“Not in my back yard”) types delay real estate development projects. Sometimes, their motives are pure. But, often, the goal is simply to hold a developer’s project hostage in order to extract concessions unrelated to mitigating the environmental impact of the project.

I’m generally in favor of sensible environmental protection. But CEQA makes it way too hard to develop the kind of dense, in-fill projects that Los Angeles desperately needs in order to add population without adding sprawl. So let’s hope the good guys win on this one.