Legislation that expands a broken California environmental law and hurts the ability to build more housing was tagged by the California Chamber of Commerce as a job killer this week.

AB 1001 (Cristina Garcia; D-Bell Gardens) expands the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to incorporate new, highly subjective, nonquantifiable and litigation-bait standards into CEQA in an attempt to address historical discriminatory land use policies.

Hard to Build

“AB 1001 will make it even more difficult to build quickly and cost effectively in California,” said CalChamber Senior Policy Advocate Adam Regele.

“Issues related to historical environmental injustices in the state should be addressed through more suitable areas of California law — but CEQA is not one of those areas. AB 1001 will impede local governments’ ability to approve new housing projects, depress jobs directly in and associated with the construction industry and further exacerbate California’s cost-of-living crisis already driving families, businesses, and jobs out of the state,” Regele said.

“This bill will worsen California’s current housing crisis by expanding CEQA’s most troubling aspects. AB 1001 offers California more problems —protracted ligation and project delays that will limit home building and disproportionally hurt California’s working families,” said Regele.

Coalition Opposition

The CalChamber and a large coalition of allied groups argue that AB 1001 is unnecessary and the wrong policy mechanism, because the goals of the bill are already addressed in existing law, and CEQA abuse by citizen enforcers already exploits the statute to delay or block critically needed housing.

Currently, CEQA prohibits lead agencies from approving projects with significant environmental effects to any community, including disadvantaged ones, if there are any feasible alternatives or mitigation measures that would substantially lessen or avoid those effects.

California recently has enacted a number of other laws specific to environmental justice, including laws directing funding to environmental justice communities, creating a community air quality protection program, and most recently requiring all cities and counties to adopt a new environmental justice land use element in their comprehensive, long-term general plans. The Legislature should allow these policies to be implemented and provided a chance to work before upending CEQA.

Voter Concern

Cost of living and rising home prices are huge issues for California voters. In a recent CalChamber poll, when voters were asked if another state offered a greater opportunity for homeownership than California, a majority of nonhomeowners answered “yes.”

More than two-thirds of renters for whom home ownership is a high priority reported that they would move if another state offered a greater opportunity for homeownership than California.

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