Senate Judiciary Committee Passes CEQA Accountability Bill

On Tuesday evening the Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Bill 659 by Senator Andreas Borgeas (R-Fresno) to address actions filed under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that seek to delay or block critically needed infill housing projects. 

California is in the midst of a severe housing crisis and reports estimate the shortfall to be between 3 to 4 million housing units. The lack of affordable housing makes homeownership impossible for many. SB 659 seeks to address lawsuits filed specifically to delay or block much needed housing projects.  

“The Senate moved today to enact real CEQA reform and help address the housing crisis.  It is indisputable that housing prices statewide are grossly disproportionate to average incomes and that California is simply behind in meeting its need,” said Senator Borgeas. “We can no longer accept the status quo and must look for every opportunity to support efforts to meet our housing needs.”

According to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, CEQA appeals delay a project by an average of two and a half years. Project opponents use CEQA’s overly litigious procedures to stop or reduce the scope of projects. CEQA litigation is indeed a significant impediment to the construction of housing in California and adds significant costs to the base price of housing when a project is challenged.

Often CEQA challenges are filed for reasons that have nothing to do with the environment with little to no cost to the plaintiff. SB 659 seeks to discourage frivolous lawsuits by awarding reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party.

The California Chamber of Commerce listed SB 659 on its 2019 Job Creator List and testified in support.