A former Fox News host and current election denier is pushing an election ballot measure for 2024, one that would defang the environmental law CEQA that’s often used to hold up controversial housing developments.
California housing news junkies are well aware of a 53-year-old law called the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA, pronounced ‘SEE-kwa’), which was intended to ensure legislators conducted a full review of any environmental impacts that would result from proposed large development projects — and allowed any common folk to challenge these findings.
But over the years, the law has been commonly used to hold up projects over concerns that don’t have anything to do with the environment: the allegation of loud student parties was behind a CEQA appeal of the People's Park housing development in Berkeley, that Embarcadero Navigation Center was held up by CEQA appeals, and people even used CEQA to try to block a coffee shop on Mission Street.
Governor Gavin Newsom has long railed against what he calls frivolous CEQA appeals and lawsuits. Just last week, he signed a bill that would require only one CEQA review for a proposed project, rather than many reviews for every time a project gets a CEQA appeal, according to KTVU. That seems a common sense elimination of red tape, though it's not a sweeping overhaul.
A far more sweeping overhaul could be on your November 2024 ballot, if a one-time Fox News host and COVID conspiracy theorist gets his way. The Chronicle reports on a proposed ballot measure that would effectively render CEQA toothless, which would be music to the ears of developers.
It’s just a proposal for a ballot measure that currently has no signatures or momentum except for a Chronicle article. It’s called the California Homeownership Affordability Act, though the “Affordability” may be more for the developers. And it’s brought by former Fox News The Next Revolution host Steve Hilton, an Atherton resident known for his COVID-19 conspiracy theories and Trumper “stolen election” claims.
That aside, the proposed measure, which the Chronicle charitably asserts would “fix California’s housing crisis,” would still allow CEQA appeals, but only by district attorneys or the state attorney general, not by regular citizens. It would also cap developer fees at 3%, and give construction workers bonuses to put down payments on homes.
“I love California. I feel incredibly supportive of the state and everything it represents,” Hilton told the Chronicle. “Looking at all the issues, the one that felt foundational to us was the housing issue, in the sense that it underlies so many of the other problems.”
It’s unclear if this proposed measure is even written yet, and even if it were it would require at least 500,000 signatures to get on the ballot. But it may also represent a coming YIMBY/right-wing nexus, ironically centered in the the wealthy enclave of Atherton, whose populace is rather notorious for wanting to block new housing there.
It's also notable that Hilton only lost his Fox News job two months ago, and he seems to be angling for some sort of new gig. Stay tuned.
Image: Marcus Lenk via Unsplash