How environmental law is misused to stop housing

It’s well known that the California Environmental Quality Act, signed by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1970 and meant to protect the natural environment in public and private projects, is routinely misused to stop or delay much-needed housing construction.

Anti-housing NIMBYs in affluent communities misuse it to stymie high-density, multi-family projects, arguing that their neighborhoods’ bucolic ambience would be altered. And construction unions misuse it to extract wage concessions from developers.

It’s a long-running civic scandal and a major factor in California’s chronic inability to reduce its severe housing shortage, one that cries out for CEQA reform, which former Gov. Jerry Brown once described as “the Lord’s work.” But neither Brown nor any other recent governor has been willing to take on the task, which would mean confronting environmental groups and unions, two of the Democratic Party’s major allies.

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