A measure aimed at discouraging environmental appeals of some public projects is apparently dead for the moment.
The Land Use and Transportation Committee voted 2-1 Monday to table the bill – which means unless six supes vote to call it out of committee, it’s not going anywhere.
Sups. Aaron Peskin and Dean Preston voted to table. Sup. Myrna Melgar voted against that move.
The bill, by Mayor London Breed and Sup. Matt Haney, was not a profound or far-reaching proposal. It would have allowed some public-sector projects to move forward while environmental appeals were pending, and would have required the signatures of 50 SF residents to file an appeal.
Under the California Environmental Quality Act, anyone who believes a projects needs further review can file and appeal to the supes.
At issue, mostly, are what the laws calls “negative declarations” and “categorical exemptions.” Those are rulings by the Planning Department that a project “could not have a significant environmental impact” – which means no environmental impact report is required.
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Developers and project sponsors love negative declarations at categorical exemptions, because they avoid the time and expense of an EIR.
But the Planning Department sometimes seems to hand them out like candy, even when a project has potentially serious environmental issues.
At the hearing, Haney noted, “too many public projects can be caught in costly and sometimes fruitless delays. … this is a very narrow common-sense reform.”
But as Peskin pointed out at the hearing, those appeals are rare – and right now, the supes are able to address them within four to six weeks. So it’s not a huge delay anyway – and in most cases, the appeals are denied or withdrawn:
I think fundamentally, this is a solution looking for a problem. And, if you look at the data that the planning department gave us and I’ll drill down into that, I believe it proves that, if you look at a 5-year period of the total universe of the projects that were subject to analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act, over 20,000, there were less than 100 in that five-year period that were appealed through the Board of Supervisors.
More important, he said, CEQA has been a target for developers for years:
I understand that Supervisor Haney believes this is narrowly crafted. But CEQA has been under assault by the same developers and capital interest in Sacramento year after year and it’s a shame to see that same assault at the local level for what is truly not a problem.
Haney told me today that he’s not pursuing the measure any further at this point. “I think it’s dead,” he said. “I’m focused on the budget.”