A developer's wet dream - Page 3

Wiener offers far-reaching proposals to amend environmental-review laws

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Sup. Scott Wiener has sponsored some of the most controversial legislation of the last two years.
PHOTO BY SF NEWSPAPER CO.

Many of the lawyers and activists who have reviewed the legislation say it limits public notification of some CEQA determinations, particularly when the city concludes that a project is categorically exempt.

"If the ERO determines that a project is exempt from CEQA review, he may or may not be required to provide public notice of this determination," the Hastings analysis states.

There's no question that it would add to the complexity and burden of filing an appeal; and shorten the time frame for doing so — in a way that some say would actually encourage more lawsuits.

Kevin Bundy, a lawyer with the Center for Biological Diversity, argues that "The proposed amendments create a situation where appellants will be required to file litigation prior to the board's decision on appeal."

It's a complicated situation, but in essence, the new Wiener rules would set the timeline for project approval at the first stage of policy decision — and if the supervisors overturned an environmental appeal, the clock for the project would be set back to that day.

That could upset the statutory timeline for CEQA lawsuits — and thus lead to more cases.

Wiener acknowledged that there were a lot of technical issues like that one that still need to be resolved. "We will be conferring with the people who have commented on the legislation and making the appropriate changes," he said.

He added, however, that he sticks by the essential parts of his proposal despite the opposition: "There are a lot of CEQA lawyers out there," he said. "And they aren't always right."