The Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment just released a major study that finds there’s no evidence that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) severely impacts development in the Golden State — a direct repudiation of claims made by Gov. Jerry Brown and wealthy developers. Brown and the state legislature are currently considering highly controversial legislation that would gut environmental protections that CEQA provides.
Titled “CEQA in the 21st Century,” the study notes several key findings:
— The number of lawsuits filed under CEQA has been surprisingly low, averaging 195 per year throughout California since 2002. Annual filings since 2002 indicate that while the number of petitions has slightly fluctuated from year to year, from 183 in 2002, to 206 in 2015, there is no pattern of overall increased litigation. In fact, litigation year to year does not trend with California’s population growth, at 12.5 percent overall during the same period.
— The rate of litigation compared to all projects receiving environmental review under CEQA is also very low, with lawsuits filed for fewer than 1 out of every 100 projects reviewed under CEQA that were not considered exempt. The estimated rate of litigation for all CEQA projects undergoing environmental review (excluding exemptions) was 0.7 percent for the past three years. This is consistent with earlier studies, and far lower than some press reports about individual projects may imply.
— In San Francisco, just 14 EIRs were prepared in the past three years (less than 5 EIRs per year). The case study of San Francisco provided in this report highlights how, contrary to critics’ claims, at least one of California’s major cities routinely uses the streamlining procedures encouraged and built into CEQA statutes and guidelines.
— Despite critics often citing CEQA as a “major barrier to development,” no evidence supports that assertion. There are no studies available which quantify the cost of CEQA compliance or its impact on development projects.
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