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Our View: CEQA needs to be addressed

Posted: September 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: September 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

Land development in California has become a burdensome and lengthy process.

An attempt was made by a coalition of business and government groups to overhaul California Environmental Quality Act regulations to make the process less painful for developers, as well as reduce voluminous lawsuits and redundant oversight, without jeopardizing protection of the environment.

The proposal didn’t succeed in the Legislature, but supporters promised to return next session and make another attempt.

The state’s difficult development climate was chronicled earlier this year when The Signal examined the 17-year process developer Newhall Land Development Inc. went through to build a new master-planned community off Highway 126.

In the almost two-decade-long process, documents totaled nearly 109,444 pages, 25 government agencies reviewed and signed off on the plans, there were 21 public hearings and more than 700 meetings on the development, and several lawsuits were filed along the way — all without a single home being built.

It’s estimated completing the master-planned community will take another 15 years at least.

Even though the developer received final sign-off earlier this year to start building, environmental lawsuits continue to be filed against the project. One builder estimated that as impact fees grow over the years, they now cost local homebuyers, on average, an additional $88,000 when buying a new house — all to cover the cost of building the home. That’s before they even get around to installing the granite countertops.

CEQA lawsuits have tied up some projects for decades. Environmentalists know that such litigation may not stop a project, but it will certainly slow it down — perhaps for a long time. Such tactics amount to nothing more than working the system.

We don’t mean to imply that every developer is responsible nor that every environmentalist supports endless delays. We believe that environmental safeguards should be in place — and the fact is, they are.

But 17 years to secure approval for building a new community? Children become adults in that span of time. It seems to us that the overall process is broken.

Responsible development results in the building of infrastructure, providing businesses, services, schools and parks that create a quality of life for residents. And it means putting people to work — lots of people.

California once led the nation in innovation. Now the state is mostly mired in so much bureaucracy that businesses are fleeing.

We urge state legislators to come back in 2013 prepared to create meaningful CEQA reforms that will both protect the environment and help us become a thriving, productive state once again.

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