The effect that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has on infill development has been well-debated. Many infill proponents argue that CEQA hurts infill and drives development out to the sprawl hinterlands where “cows don’t sue.” Others claim that CEQA improves infill development through better planning and public involvement, while protecting the public from bad projects.
USC’s Bedrosian Center and Lusk Center for Real Estate co-hosted a lunchtime panel on this subject two weeks ago. I was part of a panel with infill developer Mott Smith, Los Angeles deputy mayor Rick Cole, and Ann Sewill of the California Community Foundation. The Bedrosian Center just posted the video here:
You can also read an article write-up of the discussion here. Overall, the debate highlighted the challenges that CEQA poses for developers like Smith, while Rick Cole described the gridlock in Sacramento that prevents meaningful reforms from taking place. Sewill noted CEQA successes while acknowledging it gets “hijacked” by bad actors. For my part, I described the overall public purpose of CEQA and the need to keep the law in context with other barriers facing infill, as well as the current SB 743 reform process taking place.