Residents and Developers – A World Apart

ceqa lawsuits pie chart

Only 3 out of every 1,000 CEQA projects are challenged in court.

There was a fascinating debate recently on KCRW’s Which Way L.A., moderated by Warren Olney. The disparity between residents and developers is shown in the following quotes from developer Mott Smith and our community-advocacy attorney, Robert P. Silverstein.

“A recent study … looked at Environmental Impact Reports that had gone to court under challenges like the ones we’re talking about here. According to the study, the chances that a judge would overturn the EIR across the state were about 50/50. When people are making such heroic efforts to try to respond to the market and to the community—and to build infill, which is state policy—but we still fall down half the time, that tells me there’s something wrong with the law.” — Mott Smith

“[A]bout 0.3 percent of all projects that are approved are ever challenged under CEQA.” — Robert Silverstein

These are the worst, most egregious projects, and courts block them if they find legal violations which means the public was misled or inadequately informed by the CEQA documents even after specific objections gave agencies a chance to fix them. “Overall, only one of every 354 CEQA reviews was taken to court.” CEQA Reform: Issues and Options from the Public Policy Institute of California.

Additional studies posted on the Natural Resources Defense Counsel’s website confirm this, including by the California Attorney General. “CEQA litigation is a tiny 00.02% of the total civil litigation.” CEQA – The Litigation Myth from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The important distinction between the two statistics is that Robert Silverstein was referring to all projects that were approved. Mott Smith was referring to only those projects that were challenged.

By saying “we still fall down half the time,” developers create the false impression to casual listeners that half of the projects that are approved face a court challenge. This becomes the basis for saying “there’s something wrong with the law.” But a law that only stops one-half of the three out of every thousand projects that are approved is not evidence of a law that thwarts “heroic efforts to try to respond to the market.”

This appeared in the latest edition of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce Newsletter:

“A Hollywood Chamber delegation met with our representatives in Sacramento and discussed the need for CEQA reforms. CEQA is the landmark environmental law that has been abused to stymie worthy developments throughout the State of California, and in particular in Hollywood. The Chamber supports the goals of CEQA but has urged reforms to curb abuses.”

The Hollywood Chamber is seeking to undermine the California Environmental Quality Act or CEQA, California’s premier environmental law, and by extension, the Hollywood Chamber is attacking we the public.

The community must remain vigilant to ensure the survival of the California Environmental Quality Act, one of the most important laws in California history for protecting our quality of life.

“Hollywood can be developed if it’s developed responsibly, within the constraints of the law and the infrastructure that we have. My clients do not oppose good development. What they oppose is law-breaking development and dangerous development. The Millennium case is a perfect example of both.” —Robert Silverstein

Our fight is far from over. Please support our efforts to protect our victory in the Millennium case and to help defend CEQA, including by countering the misinformation campaign from developers, the City, and the Hollywood Chamber.

Please DONATE! The link on the upper right will make that easy. Thank you.

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