Wednesday, Senator Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno), presented Senate Bill 659, which authorizes a judge to grant an infill project’s lead agency the ability to recover legal fees if it prevails under a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) suit. The bill passed Senate Environmental Quality Committee on a 5-1 vote.
Litigants under CEQA are not required to pay the attorney’s fees for erroneous lawsuits. Therefore, there is an incentive to file a lawsuit with the sole purpose of halting a project. By explicitly authorizing a judge to award legal fees, the incentive to file erroneous lawsuits decreases.
According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, CEQA appeals delay a project by an average of two and a half years. Project opponents also use CEQA’s overly litigious procedures to stop or reduce the scope of projects, thus reducing the availability of housing and driving up the cost of housing once a project is finally approved and built.