Proposal to Expedite Housing Projects Fails to Pass

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JobCreatorA California Chamber of Commerce-supported job creator bill that sought to expedite and reduce costs for housing projects failed to pass an Assembly policy committee this week.

AB 641 (Mayes; R-Yucca Valley) aimed to streamline and reduce regulatory burdens for the approval and construction of housing developments by providing an expedited review process under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The proposal failed to move out of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee on April 27.

AB 641 would have required CEQA litigation brought against a housing project to be resolved within 270 days, in an effort to expedite the legal process for housing developments.

High Housing Costs

A report released earlier this year by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office identified CEQA abuse as a major factor that has driven California housing costs to be among the most expensive in the nation.

The report, California’s High Housing Costs: Causes and Consequences, notes that “environmental reviews can be used to stop or limit housing development.”

California home prices are 150% higher than the national average, and the state needs to build 100,000 more units per year to help control rising costs in home affordability, according to the report.

In supporting the bill, the CalChamber commented that housing in California needs to be a top priority for policymakers, and applauded the author’s leadership on this issue.

CEQA Misuse

Although CEQA is an important and well-intended environmental law, the CalChamber continued, the unfortunate reality is that CEQA is being misused by interest groups for reasons completely unrelated to the environment, thus keeping many of California’s most impoverished residents from a safe and adequate place to call home.

CEQA was initially passed to ensure that California’s environment is considered before proponents move forward with a project. Over time, however, CEQA has become a hook for litigation and a means to delay worthy projects for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment. Until changes are made to the underlying process, the CalChamber supports legitimate CEQA exemptions, such as AB 641, that will encourage the expeditious approval and development of important housing projects.

Key Vote

The Assembly Natural Resources vote on AB 641 was 2-7:

Ayes: Dahle (R-Bieber), Harper (R-Huntington Beach).

Noes: Williams (D-Santa Barbara), Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Hadley (R-Manhattan Beach), McCarty (D-Sacramento), Rendon (D-Lakewood), Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), Wood (D-Healdsburg).

Staff Contact: Anthony Samson

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Anthony Samson
About Anthony Samson
Anthony Samson, CalChamber policy advocate for environmental regulation, housing and land use issues from November 2013 through 2016, is senior attorney/policy advisor for Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP. He previously was an attorney at a statewide law firm that specializes in mining, land use, and natural resources law. He earned a B.A. from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and a J.D. from Michigan State University College of Law, where he served as the articles editor of the Michigan State Law Review.