Thursday, February 4, 2010

Sacramento's New Business Plan: Selling CEQA Exemptions?

I guess when the money is all gone and there isn't much else to do about it, you might as well start selling the walls and whatever else happens to be handy. And for Sacramento that apparently includes taking in offers for exemptions to state environmental laws. Not officially, mind you. Or at least not yet. But you do know what makes the world go 'round, right? This from Capitol Weekly:

The Schwarzenegger administration seeks to exempt 100 major construction projects across the state - including private developments - from California environmental laws. The plan, denounced by environmentalists, would block the power of the courts to review 25 projects each year from 2011 through 2014, and give final authority over the projects to his administration.

Anybody starting to see a trend here? One of the cornerstones of SB 375 is the CEQA exemptions it offers to those wishing to develop high density housing projects in places identified as "transit corridors." Sierra Madre being one of many cities so unfortunately situated. Then there was the CEQA exemption offered to Ed Roski and his NFL stadium and shopping complex, effectively ending any hope of mitigating the effects of this massive project on the less than thrilled neighboring communities.

And now Arnold and his allies in the State Legislature want to further eviscerate our environmental laws by doling out exemptions to major corporations hoping to save themselves some time, bother, and money. All by making a few phone calls to the Governor and coming to some sort of mutually rewarding accommodation.

CEQA, which is the acronym for California Environmental Quality Act, was originally signed into existence by that noted tree hugging liberal governor Ronald Reagan. Here is how the California Natural Resources Agency describes all of this:

CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act, is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible ... The impetus for CEQA can be traced to the passage of the first federal environmental protection statute in 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). In response to this federal law, the California State Assembly created the Assembly Select Committee on Environmental Quality to study the possibility of supplanting NEPA through state law. This legislative committee, in 1970, issued a report entitled 'The Enironmental Bill of Rights,' which called for a California counterpart to NEPA. Later that same year, acting on the recommendations of the select committee, the legislature passed, and Governor Reagan signed, the CEQA statute.

The irony here is that Arnold Schwarzenegger and his friends in the State Legislature, all the while heaping praise upon themselves as being the greenest of all greens, are 40 years after its inception looking to turn California's groundbreaking environmental protection law into a tool for fundraising. Here is how one aggravated Sierra Club spokesman described this process to Capitol Weekly:

"We've been concerned since last year's (Los Angeles) stadium CEQA exemption that it opened the floodgates, and now you've got lots of wealthy developers hiring lobbyists to try and buy their own CEQA exemptions. This proposal would kind of institutionalize that feeding frenzy," said Bill Magavern of Sierra Club California. "It's as if the developers' lobbyists are writing the bill," he said.

And why not? After all, they wrote SB 375, right?


  1. Fish rot from the head down, as they say...

  2. Calif revenue stream is all real estateFebruary 4, 2010 at 8:31 AM

    CEQA was written to protect communities from the serious averse consequences of development, as well as forcing banks and developers to publicly price the risk to the community in their proposal, since everyone knows that these projects are 90% hype based upon future guesstimates of revenue. CEQA also, by its existence, acknowledges that much development was not being controlled by the local mechanisms of plan review and community public comment because of the influence of money on the system (lawyers appealing community review processes to the City Council which they pressure into approval).

    Now CEQA is seen as something to defeat or overturn as a cost of generating profits from hyped development, much of which is now funded by government grants. So you have government paying out tax dollars in public-private ventures that pay out to the initial developers but then leave the community saddled with big developments that fail to perform or even provide much of a tax base for local government due to the giveaways used to induce the project development in the first place.

    CEQA is a big target because it has been used very successfully by communities for a long time, and now the legislature is complicit in the destruction of local control to get revenue via SB 375 as well as now granting CEQA exemptions.

    The residents of this state need to either craft an initiative (constitutional convention) or abolish the legislature. This has been a long time coming. Sacramento is totally sold out to development interests, to the detriment of communities, environment and our resources. We can't even maintain the infrastructure we've got.

  3. I wonder how much money could be raised just selling the job of Governor? If you were to add up the millions and millions of dollars some of our candidates spend in advertising and marketing to win the job at the polls, wouldn't we just be better off putting the job up for sale? Or holding an auction? Better the state gets the money rather than TV stations. If we sold the governorship off at one year increments, we could raise billions for schools and health care.

  4. One would think that affected communities like Walnut would have leagal recourse to the assult on basic environmental protections being compromised by the legislature. The corruption implicit in voiding CEQA requirements for development interests alone should be cause for lawsuits by both Cities and Individuals. Money talks but so does Justice.

  5. Years ago I heard Bart Doyle brag that he was professionally acquaianted with all the particulars of CEQA. Turns out that was absolutely correct BUT it was from the standpoint of his efforts with BIA to overturn any aspect of CEQA law protection that would hinder his long list of clients and their development projects.

  6. Kind of all fits in with a previous article on this blog. California is become a 3rd world state.

  7. This is the reason we must re-elect Don Watts, elect John Crawford and Pat Alcorn.
    Along with MaryAnn MacGillivray and our large group of preservation/activist residents, we can fight this.
    Now is a good time to pursue this and put a stop to it.
    MaryAnn and Don, John and Pat will work to get a coalition of cities to fight this. We can and will win, but we need everyone's help.


  8. CEQA - Exemption: Schwarzenegger's Bargaining Chip

  9. What next from the Schwarzenegger administration? The intentional exemption of construction projects from state environmental laws? The selling of those exemptions to developers? Political corruption is defined as the use of legislated powers by government officals for illegitimate gain via cronyism and nepotism. California is locked in the jaws of the Terminator, and what an irony it is that the cinematic Terminator is a robotic assassin. Time to disconnect this cyborg.

  10. Arnold the backroom wheeler dealer. I wonder how many people will now admit to voting for this guy?

  11. Should have never recalled Davis...............


  12. Remember when the governator was new to politics, and the tree huggers were pointing out his taste for Hummers?
    Seems like the Gov was pandering to the Feds when he proclaimed he was greening.
    Now he's leaving, so he's going to prey on the environmental protections that have been a last hope.

  13. Hey Sir Eric, you are not seeing developers in the true light Brother! Development is GOOD for California - jobs, you know. Besides, you can trust 'em. They will protect the wildlife habitat, the water supplies, the quality of life.Repeat after me:
    Developers good, environmentalists bad.
    Don't be a weepy save the trees type. Learn to inhale concrete.

  14. What I've read is that they've really bought into Arnie's green routine over in Europe (or "Yurp" as we here in the foothills like to say) and that he gets paid some serious money to hear him speak on the topic.

  15. This is beyond an outrage.
    How dare they.
    What do they want, the whole place covered with asphalt, and everybody in a cement box.
    Jeez, it's the Matrix.

  16. So imagine the feeding frenzy, the bidding war, that will result from the fact that the plan will:
    "block the power of the courts to review 25 projects each year from 2011 through 2014"
    Can't you just hear it,
    "Pick my project, pick my project, I'll do anything for you to pick my project"

  17. Maybe this will turn out to be the developer lobbyist power grab that finally wakes the public up to who controls the state.

  18. Boysen - Arnold would like that. He'll
    think they're fans.

  19. Info please.
    How do we stop this? Tattler, you say they are proposing this rape&scrape of CEQA, & that means we have time to take action?

  20. A Vision Without A Plan Is An HallucinationFebruary 4, 2010 at 3:29 PM

    This is just so orwellian. The biggest roll back of environmental protection in 40 years by people who claim they are doing it to stop global warming? Are we now being ruled by people from another planet?

  21. I'm telling you Man it's the matrix....

  22. Did you see the same cat go past a door two times within 5 seconds?

  23. Arnold says "Our hills are alive with the sound of construction". Weep away Julie Andrews

  24. Another nail in the Billion Dollar Bus Station coffin...

    El Monte Transit Village Loses Another Federal Grant

  25. Do you think the developer community has any idea about how hated they have become? I figured out the realtor community knew how much they've become objects of scorn when the National Realtors Association started advertising on TV, about how realtors make homes and neighborhoods possible, with soft music playing in the background and big smiley realtors making googoo eyes at the camera.
    Maybe being hated is what developers really want, to get their juices flowing. All the war instincts redirected to the land.

  26. Regular person: CEQA is for the common good.
    Developer: What's the common good?

  27. Developer's song - Climb every mountain (with your developer's forklift), Forge every stream (with a condo development) Follow every rainbow, (for the pot of gold) Till... You... find your Dream (a condo development on every corner of Sierra Madre)

  28. How did it ever come to people being able to buy CEQA exemptions?

    Brings to mind the indulgences sold by the Catholic church in the Middle Ages - buy your forgiveness. Such corruption produced an extraordinary revolution.

  29. Can't come soon enough 6:50. This disgusting triumph of the bad guys is a shame.