That CEQA abuse is rampant should surprise no one. As Holland & Knight confirmed in their 2015 study, most CEQA actions attempt to block infill development, mass transit, and renewable energy projects. Anti-housing advocates use CEQA to delay, kill, or reduce the density of housing projects, as recent actions in Redwood City illustrate. According to the UC Davis Center for Regional Change, Redwood City boasted 56,093 total jobs, but only 28,825 total housing units as of 2014 (Excel document). Home to long-time tech heavyweights Oracle and Electronic Arts, Redwood City needs to build more housing, especially in its downtown core served by Caltrain.
Geoff Carr, a criminal defense attorney in Redwood City, opposes the City’s plan to build tall housing downtown. Carr typifies a species of NIMBY who wields a law enacted to promote environmental sustainability to demand a reduction in housing density, which encourages sprawl. In November of 2016, Carr successfully compelled Redwood City and a developer to settle his CEQA suit, which resulted in downsizing a proposed 91-unit condo building to 68 units. Emboldened by his victory, Carr is now attempting to reduce the density of another proposed 8-story housing development in Redwood City. At a City Council meeting last year, Carr declared, “There is an end to this chitchat and it ends with me… Make this six stories and you won’t get sued.” Evidently, Carr has declared himself to be the Commissar of Housing, never mind the democratic decision-making process.
CaRLA is working with pro-housing advocates in Redwood City to prevent additional CEQA abuse. While state-level reform is necessary to align the effects of CEQA with the bill’s intent, we hope that by working with YIMBYs, the City, and the developer, CaRLA can prevent additional homes from being killed.