Another State Attempt to Grab Control over Local Zoning

It’s deja vu all over again…

SB4 initiates yet another inept attack by State Senator Scott Wiener on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in order to promote “Affordable Housing”, this time using “churches, synagogues, and mosques” (not Buddhist temples?) and non-profit colleges as his current “feel good” set of honey traps.

Opinions and warnings about the disastrous shortage of housing in California abound. Here’s what the U.S. Census Bureau has to say on the subject:  As of July 1, 2021 California had a population of 39,237,836 and contained 14,512,281 housing units, occupied by 13,217,586 households with 2.92 persons per household. On the face of it, that does not read as a State housing shortage.

But here’s the rub. There aren’t enough houses located where people want to live. A few decades ago, if you couldn’t afford to live somewhere, you found digs elsewhere. But that’s all changed. Now the clamor seems to be: “if I want to live there, I should be able to live there!”

Senator Wiener is at the forefront of all this. In previous years, Wiener has tried to legitimize his obsession with cramming in new residential units wherever possible by latching onto such nice-sounding catch phrases as “protecting the environment” and “transit-oriented housing”. It is necessary to remind the Senator that cramming excessive density into a well established and well-functioning community does NOT help the environment of the neighborhood.

Read more here

Nor does placing high density housing near a bus line or BART stop ease traffic congestion. How many people moving into transit-oriented housing sell their cars Senator? How many of the 20 to 40 trips the average family makes a week could logically be made by bus or train? How did a mandatory one-parking-space-per-unit creep into your transit-oriented housing?

In SB 4, Senator Wiener has upped the anti. He wants to permit the aforementioned beneficiaries to simply bypass CEQA restrictions. With respect to colleges his objective seems to be to let them skip environmental review so they can more easily turn their school properties into housing cash cows.  To review SB4 go to:
https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240SB4
Instead of trying to bypass CEQA, an important environmental product of the Senator’s own State Legislature, he might consider ways of making both the zoning approval and environmental review processes more efficient. We agree with Wiener that most local zoning approval processes are much too complicated and take much too long. Significant improvement is needed. And, thanks to State of California neglect, the EIR-writing industry has gotten ever more out of control. EIR’s with 20 — 50 pages of substance often run 500 — 1,000 pages.

Repetition, redundancy and poor writing are common. Reports that should take three to six months to complete often take two years or more. And needless to add, the cost of EIR-writing has escalated accordingly. Bypassing the CEQA environmental review process should be a non-starter. But both the local zoning processes and CEQA are in dire need of reform.

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