CEQA change moves faster in SF than Sacto

Examiner file photo

So the Guv says he doesn't think he's going to be able to gut CEQA this year. I think he's right: The party he supposedly leads (but doesn't tend to follow him) won't go for it, any more than the party Obama leads will got for cuts to Social Security.

It's partly that both are hard-fought pieces of progressive history. The late 1960s and early 1970s were a good time for the environmental movement -- Congress passed both the National Environmental Policy Act and the Endangered Species Act, and Nixon signed both. The California Legislature passed CEQA in 1970, and Gov. Reagan signed it. Back then, even Republicans thought it was a good thing to be on the side of protecting the planet.

But there's more -- and it's interesting that the state Leg, typically not known as a bastion of progressive thought, is better on this issue than San Francisco, where some sort of changes to CEQA are almost inevitable.

Some background:

What NEPA and CEQA did, first and foremost, was eliminate the problem of "standing" that had plagued environmental lawyers for years. If I couldn't prove that a horrible development project on the San Francisco waterfront would personally injure me (which would typically mean I had to own adjacent property), I had no right to go to court to oppose it. CEQA mandates a valid, complete environmental review of any major project, which gives anyone the right to sue; I may not be able to describe specific financial damages from a project, but as a citizen, I have a legal right to an adequate Environmental Impact Report.

Likewise, anyone can appeal a development in San Francisco to the Board of Supervisors on the grounds that the EIR was inadequate.

CEQA review slows down projects and costs money. If you "streamline" the process, you make life easier for developers. But there's a hefty price to pay -- because while Sup. Scott Wiener talks about homeowners fixing rotting handrails, very few CEQA suits or appeals are ever filed over that kind of thing. Yeah, there are exceptions; year, one lone bike-hater slowed down the city's bicycle plan. Yeah, NIMBYs will sometimes slow down affordable housing projects.

But most major CEQA lawsuits and appeals are over big projects, ones that, in San Francisco, tend to slide through the official approval process no matter how horrible they are. Mayors of this city for most of the past half-century have liked developers; mayors appoint the majority of the Planning Commission, and they appoint commissioners who like developers. There's big money in San Francisco real-estate development, and the savvy builders spread enough of it around that they typically get their way.

CEQA gives the rest of us a way to fight back. Most of the time, it doesn't work: A CEQA appeal, for example, didn't stop the atrocious 8 Washington project. CEQA hasn't stopped developers from building about 50 million square feet of office space in the city since the 1970s. CEQA didn't stop that hideous Rincon Hill tower. Oh, and it hasn't stopped a single affordable housing project.

In a city where developers rule and bad decisions are made all the time, for all the wrong reasons, you have to look at tradeoffs. Is it worth accepting a delay in the bike plan and the Dolores Park plan because lone nuts are using CEQA -- if that means we can force big commerical projects to mitigate some of the damage their doing? CEQA isn't perfect, but "reforming" it to make appeals harder is, on balance, a bad idea.

Have at me, trolls. I am a backward-thinking luddite who hates success and never wants anything in the city to change. I am an old curmudgeon. I am whatever you come up with next.

Or maybe I've just lived here long enough to see that much of what passes for "progress" in this town does more damage than good.



or maybe you were right the first time. I hear Portland is perfect for people like you. change is a terrible thing.

Posted by Erick Brooks on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 5:36 pm

And a crime for which you can be sentenced to up to a year in prison.

If you do it again, I will not hesitate to have you located and prosecuted.

Here is a link to the law's text:


Posted by Eric Brooks on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 6:32 pm

So... whaddya babbling about again?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 6:54 pm

A judge would be unlikely to be impressed by the distinction. Online impersonation is serious business that often leads to bullying, harassment, suicide, and sometimes even murder. No one should be fooling with it. Accordingly, I consider it a public duty to aggressively prosecute anyone who perpetrates it. And I will do so.

Posted by Eric Brooks on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

You are not the DA's office. Go file a civil lawsuit with your meager resources if you're so concerned.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 8:05 pm

actually, someone who is the victim of a crime, can press charges genius...

Posted by anonymous on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 9:05 am

But the DA has to sign on or, failing that, a hail mary pass to the AG is an option. I'm sure that Gascon is going to Get Right On It.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 10:00 am

so what?

the point is that if someone has a crime committed against them, and there is enough proof of that crime, the perpetrator gets prosecuted

Posted by anonymous on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 11:16 am

This bill would provide that any person who knowingly and without
consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an
Internet Web site or by other electronic means, as specified, for
purposes of *harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding* another

I dont see how the person who posted as another name which looked like yours was doing it with the purpose of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding anyone

Posted by NOT_Eric_Brooks on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 5:07 pm

imping inherently intimidates people into not using their real identities because they are afraid imposters will make them look bad to others - it has a deep chilling effect on freedom of speech, and open expression and interaction, and it is meant to have that chilling effect - it gives abusive trolls a feeling of power and enables them to bully others into staying silent in debate

(this kind of intimidating imping and similar troll attacks are precisely why I myself, post anonymously)

and as was said previously, it is a slippery slope from such intimidation to more vicious forms that can lead to really bad things happening to people - there should be zero tolerance for this kind of crap

and if someone wants to go after somebody for it, and get them fined and put in jail, I am in 100% support of that

Posted by anonymous on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

I am sure the people who wrote that law totally were talking about what is happening here on this board.

Posted by NOT_Eric_Brooks on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 11:25 am

Staff gets the license to produce even worse environmental crap if they don't have the sword of a CEQA EIR appeal and lawsuit hanging over their heads.

The Bike Plan EIR revealed that some bike projects would delay some transit lines via increased congestion and that is an environmental impact. It is not okay to further delay snails pace transit lines for a bike lane. Leah Shahum who's supporting Wiener's conservative legislation exceeded her exipry date at the SFBC is truly a Captain Ahab here and CEQA is her Moby Dick.

Cyclists and sustainable transit depend upon a vigorous and effective CEQA process. This is about Leah avenging her bike plan humiliation by getting into bed with developers to preserve the SFBC's status as sole constituency of value to the MTA.

The SFBC is the sole cause for pressuring policy makers to do an end run around CEQA. Leah was the lone nut in this case, not Anderson and Miles. But cyclists paid for Leah's error and now she's doubling down on stupid.

Perhaps Shahum thinks that the Saturday JFK drive closure jihad against the will of the voters that led to McGoldrick rolling on 3400 Cesar Chavez and the resulting tsunami of luxury condos in the Mission did not do enough damage?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 8:24 pm

How long does Shahum think she can stand up to the will of the majority of the environmental groups opposing the Wiener way without losing face? Where is her support coming from?

Transit first means FIX MUNI FIRST, not build bike lanes and slow down traffic, yet, CEQA determinations did not stop the bike lanes from being installed as designed by the SF Bicycle Coalition, even though they do not conform to state regulations.

We have evidence that the bicycle coalition and SFMTA contractors are working to change the state standards in the "Highway Design Manual" to make them conform to the current configuration of the Golden Gate Bike paths. Is this what the taxpayers voted for? An insatiable city agency in bed with developers and contractors?

Posted by Guest on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 4:24 pm