One silver lining of the crisis is that the country has been getting rid of a lot of regulations that slow things down. CA, however, has decided to slow things down even more.
Included in the council’s rules was a blanket extension of deadlines for filing civil actions until 90 days after the current state of emergency ends. Ominously for housing construction, this extended statute of limitations applies to lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
That law requires local governments to study proposed developments for potentially significant environmental impacts. CEQA also gives third parties the power to sue local governments for approving a construction project if they feel that a particular environmental impact wasn’t studied enough.
The law has become a favored tool of NIMBYs and other self-interested parties to delay unwanted developments or to extract concessions from developers. Anti-gentrification activists use CEQA to stop apartment buildings that might cast too much shadow. Construction unions use the law as leverage to secure exclusive project labor agreements.
Under normal circumstances, these CEQA lawsuits have to be filed within 30 or 35 days of a project receiving final approval.
Notice that the law doesn’t say the NIMBYs get an extra 30 or 35 days to file. It says that NIMBYs get to file until 90 days “after the current state of emergency ends.” In other words, no one can know when they are free to build so the law could put every CA construction project that hasn’t already past CEQA review into limbo.
“If I’m a builder I can’t move forward with my project until the [CEQA] statute of limitations has expired. The reason why I can’t do that is because if you do move forward, courts have the authority to order you tear down what you’ve built,” Cammarota tells Reason, explaining that “lenders today are unwilling to fund those loans for construction until the statute of limitations has expired.”
Hat tip: Carl Danner.