Pro CEQA Letters to the editor

SacBee.com

Don’t undermine citizen participation in land-use decisions

Re “Should California make changes to landmark 1970 law?” (Forum, Jan. 13): The League of Women Voters of California, a long-time advocate of citizen involvement in the political process, is concerned about recent assaults on the California Environmental Quality Act.

CEQA is one of the few state laws ensuring that the public can weigh in on major land use decisions. It helps assure that both decision-makers and the public have adequate information to make informed decisions and that significant environmental impacts are avoided.

A major enforcement aspect of the law would be lost if provisions for citizens to go to court are weakened.

The public’s effort to enforce the law when public agencies fail to follow it is not a trivial undertaking and can require significant financial resources. Often, those concerned about environmental impacts of poor land use decisions have limited means. Current efforts to undermine citizen participation in these decisions will not serve the public well.

— Jennifer A. Waggoner, Sacramento


CEQA doesn’t prevent economic growth

Re “Should California make changes to landmark 1970 law?” (Forum, Jan. 13): If state Sen. Michael Rubio wants to argue that the California Environmental Quality Act is in need of major overhaul to save our economy from ruin, he should offer proofs of the damage allegedly done to California’s economy over the 40 years that the law has been in effect.

Since the last 40 years have been predominantly a time of extraordinary economic growth, his argument is obviously at odds with reality.

That specious argument, and the fact that CEQA is the only state law that allows the voice of the people to be heard directly on projects that impact public health and land use, marks Sen. Rubio’s plan to gut our premier environmental law as a very bad idea, one formulated in service to the wishes of big developers and polluters.

— Andrew Christie, Cambria


CEQA isn’t broken; no need to ‘fix’ it

Re “Should California make changes to landmark 1970 law?” (Forum, Jan. 13): State Sen. Michael Rubio’s advocacy for changes and “streamlining” CEQA is based on instances where challenges delayed or aborted “worthwhile” projects. There is hardly a law where misapplications of the law’s intentions has not occurred. Let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Instead let’s consider what is behind the rush to change CEQA. Developers and public agencies would like to prepare a standardized template for developers to use. No need to mess with public hearings or mitigation requirements. And if there are problems with the approved proposed development, well, the citizenry can always go to court.

We need CEQA requiring a detailed description of a proposed project before approval.

CEQA is not broken, there is no need to fix it. We should be thankful for the protection CEQA has provided to our communities.

— Ernest Goitein, Atherton


Make CEQA law stronger

Re “Should California make changes to landmark 1970 law?” (Forum, Jan. 13): CEQA does need reform but it needs to be made stronger not weaker. The agency running the review always has the upper hand since they can declare over-riding considerations. Courts usually side with the governnment on public projedts.

Lawsuits are very rare: 3 out of 1000 approved projects. It is usually a breakdown of the public process that causes problems.

It’s important to remember there is no agency that reviews environmental issues. The court is the only avenue that citizens can voice their complaints and be heard.

If the public and organizations knows about a project early there are many examples of how projects have better outcomes than anticipated because of public input.

Modernize it, allow links and audio to shorten and remove redundencies but don’t risk losing the benefits. It may be old but it doesn’t mean the law is bad.

— Kathy Hamilton, Menlo Park


CEQA process makes projects better

Re “Should California make changes to landmark 1970 law?” (Forum, Jan. 13): The success of CEQA might best be exemplified by Peter Douglas’ quote, “The best measure of our success is what you do not see!”

You do not see wall to wall ugly, if money making, developments all over the state. You do not see public space, destroyed, dense smog as in China. You do not see polluted water supplies nor poisoned land.

Without the public voice and the courts to defend ourselves from the despoilers and polluters, this state would be a much worse place to live.

For the handful, if any beneficial projects that state Sen. Michael Rubio might cite as being delayed, hundreds if not thousands of programs and projects have benefited even the developers who proposed them.


CEQA helps citizens monitor government actions

Re “Should California make changes to landmark 1970 law?” (Forum, Jan. 13): We absolutely need CEQA here in California (and other states would do well to listen, too).

State and local agencies must be monitored to assure the health and safety of humans and animals alike.

We cannot trust public agencies to have our best health interests in mind when they are so often in the pockets of big oil, big business, big government and other greedy lobbyists.

— Janet Cole, Joshua Tree


Don’t cripple California Environmental Quality Act

Re “Should California make changes to landmark 1970 law?” (Forum, Jan. 13): As a citizen who has frequently participated in the public review process established by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), I am troubled by specious allegations that this landmark conservation law has become a pretext for frivolous litigation.

To the contrary, the system was designed to give concerned citizens and groups recourse to the courts when public agencies fail to conduct a thorough environmental review as prescribed by state law. No other enforcement mechanism exists.

Although infrequently initiated, the possibility of such lawsuits plays a vital role in making sure that local governments and other responsible agencies follow the rules, and that decisionmakers have the comprehensive information needed to judge a project wisely.

It is alarming that big developers and major polluting industries want to cripple California’s vital environmental protections — and no surprise that every major conservation organization in the state opposes such proposals.

— Victoria Brandon, Lower Lake


Tweaks would fix misuses of CEQA

Re “Should California make changes to landmark 1970 law?” (Forum, Jan. 13): State Sen. Michael Rubio’s arguments for changing the California Environmental Quality Act rest on a series of anecdotes of “misuse” of the law. Interestingly, major environmental groups spoke out against these suits, implying that they could support carefully tailored fixes to the law.

It would be refreshing if the senator’s committee chairmanship led to good faith negotiations and solutions for the specified problems, and not a bait-and-switch attack on the very principle of environmental protection.

Let’s not forget: CEQA has greatly benefitted California.

— David Schonbrunn, President, Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, San Rafael


CEQA protects state from toxic past

Re “Should California make changes to landmark 1970 law?” (Forum, Jan. 13): We need CEQA to protect water, air, and soil.

If you need evidence of what long term damage can be wrought by lack of regulation, please go to the website of the San Francisco Estuary Institute at http://www.sfei.org and review their data on pollutants and contaminants of concern.

If you need more evidence, please review the documents on the Superfund sites in Region 9, online at http://www.epa.gov/region9/superfund/superfundsites.html.

Our beloved state is still on the fragile road to recovery from the toxic years before CEQA was implemented.

— R.S. Feind, Mountain View


CEQA provides check on bad developments

Re “Should California make changes to landmark 1970 law?” (Forum, Jan. 13): CEQA is the lever that requires agencies to consider our health and quality of life — and do so in a transparent way, with public review.

Is oil drilling a good idea on the beach in Santa Monica? Are massive warehouses that attract diesel trucks the best use of Los Angeles River-adjacent property near downtown? Should the state’s first large-scale toxic waste incinerator be sited a quarter mile from schools, churches, and homes in East Los Angeles? Does construction of a stadium at the junction of the 10 and 110 freeways require effective traffic mitigation to prevent gridlock?

Without CEQA, the answer to each of these questions would unfotunately have been “yes.” Without CEQA, it is too easy for developers to compromise the public interest for short-term, short-sighted financial gain.

— Joel R. Reynolds, Santa Monica