A recent economic analysis from BAE Urban Economics disputes the assertion that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) hinders the State's economic prosperity. The report uses quantitative analysis to show that, among other things, CEQA does not hamper the development of affordable housing in urban areas, California's largest cities show ongoing improvement in walkability, and less than 1% of projects subject to CEQA review face litigation.
The number of CEQA lawsuits in California has remained constant over the past 14 years, despite the rapid population increase and subsequent increase in development. This suggests that CEQA does not significantly hinder new developments, as claimed in a number of recent reports.
What is CEQA? Signed into law in 1970, CEQA requires public agencies to identify environmental impacts associated with development, and to reduce such impacts where possible. Practically, this means that CEQA is often one of the only protections for communities disproportionately burdened by environmental harms. These are often communities of color and low-income communities. CEQA also encourages community involvement in development decisions and ensures transparency.
The press release announcing the BAE analysis is timely because it responds to a number of recent reports that inaccurately paint CEQA as the reason for the state's economic challenges. The report not only refutes these anti-CEQA claims, but shows that California continues to develop economically and environmentally with CEQA in force. Finally, the report finds that litigation under CEQA is minimally intrusive, and public enforcement of this law is crucial to protecting California's most vulnerable communities from inappropriate development plans.
Read the full press briefing and report here.