News

Under the auspices of CCB’s The Two Hundred Project, we filed a lawsuit after failing to convince the California Air resources Board (CARB) to modify its new scoping plan so it does not unfairly and disproportionately affect families of color. The Two Hundred filed a civil rights discrimination lawsuit on April 27, 2018.

Enclosed is a background description and explanation of why we had to take this action.

Also, on July 23, 2018 a settlement hearing was held to see if we could reach a compromise to avoid the suit.  Their attorneys  warned me that I could not disclose details of this meeting however you can guess by the tone of this communication how well that went.  They will get back to us in three weeks and perhaps I will be free to share the results with you.

Yours Truly,
John Gamboa

Complaint

Download the Complaint

CARB Lawsuit

The Two Hundred (The 200) has filed a civil rights violation lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to stop implementation of their scoping plan. A plan that is very detrimental to the health and economic welfare of California’s communities of color. CARB is supposed to be the clean air agency protecting Californians from unhealthy and polluted air. It has 1500 employees to do this with 15 board members.

CARB’s scoping plan has four measures that expand the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and make it even more expensive to build homes. As we know, CEQA has been for a long time, misused by wealthier white homeowners (NIMBYS) to keep minorities out of their neighborhoods they do this by filing numerous anonymous CEQA lawsuits on workforce and affordable housing developments that eventually discourage builders or stops projects.

The scoping plan four measures include:
● A “net zero” requirement that all new houses produce an equal amount of renewable energy as it consumes through efficient design and “renewable” sources like solar; it adds $40,000 to home construction costs (CARB estimate)
● A numeric per capita threshold or a per person polluting quota. (Can you believe this?). Cities and counties are supposed to come up with ways to enforce this.
● A mandated “vehicle mile travelled” mileage quota for each person with a per mile charge. This charge will hit communities of color hardest because they commute farther to work from lower cost of living regions.
● And a “vibrant communities appendix” which quite frankly we have tried but failed to totally understand. It directs eight, (yes eight) state agencies to act as big brothers and block the few housing projects already approved by local governments. They can also block voter approved new infrastructure transportation projects.

The stated purpose of this “scoping plan” is to address climate change by decreasing greenhouse gases (GHG). A good cause but not a critical one because California only contributes 1% GHG worldwide and this scoping plan will only decrease this amount by 1% (yes, 1% of 1%). Last year California’s grass and forest fires created nearly five times more air pollution than the goal they are trying to achieve.

The unintended consequence of this scoping plan increases the already astronomical cost of housing and cost of living in California. These costs disproportionately attacks low and moderate income families and endangers the economic future of the state.

The high cost of housing affects the communities we are most counting on to keep California afloat and to fund the senior entitlement programs our elderly are planning on.

California has the highest housing and living costs in the nation – 2 million Californian children live below the national poverty line. Our housing shortage and housing prices are a primary source of our huge and growing homeless. The primary cause of this catastrophe is the shortage of 3 million homes to meet the need. The scoping plan raises the cost of housing by making it easier to file CEQA lawsuits that reduce overall supply at a time we need it most.

Families of color are disproportionately affected. Thanks to decades of redlining, predatory lending and the recent mortgage meltdown African American wealth is 16 times less than that of white families (Forbes).

In spite of this, CARB’s scoping plan would add additional cost to home building to meet the net zero goal. And in doing so would push working families farther away from work to find low cost housing and then charge them a per mile fee for driving more.

The scoping plan also contributes to gentrification by encouraging destruction of workforce housing to build expensive apartment towers current residents will not be able to afford.

The Two Hundred (The 200) believes in preserving the environment for our children too – but our families shouldn’t have to shoulder most of the effort and cost.

Millennials, Minorities, and Students (M&Ms) will be the first generation to be less well off than their parents. How will they afford homes, families and student debt and still pay California seniors’ entitlement programs they have become accustomed to?

California needs to develop legislation similar to CEQA that measures the actual impact of protecting the environment policies on people and livelihoods, perhaps, a California People’s Quality Act (CPQA). In this way, laws such as CEQA could be forced to distribute the cost and benefits of environmental protection more fairly. This is particularly important for communities of color which are often disproportionately negatively impacted by public policy. We should pay our share to clean the environment but only our fair share.

 

Delaine Eastin, John Cox and Antonio Villaraigosa fielded questions about housing affordability.

On January 25th, the new alliance, Minority and Millennials for Housing and Homeownership (M & M’s), hosted the first Gubernatorial Candidates Forum. With the goal to ascertain the candidates’ positions and plans to address the housing crisis, the day proved a great success.

Gubernatorial candidates in attendance included Former Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, Assembly Member Travis Allen , Former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin and Businessman John Cox.

Over 200 community leaders and housing advocates attended and many asked poignant questions of the candidates.  All the candidates identified the misuse of CEQA and other regulations as major impediments to housing development.  Some were actually candid enough to also identify that prevailing wages on housing developments increase the costs for all renters and home buyers.

To learn more about CEQA Litigation Abuse, read the following publication:

 

 

CEQA Litigation Abuse Q & A

What is CEQA?

CEQA is a law created to protect the environment.  It grants developers permission to build prior to breaking ground.

Why is The Two Hundred against CEQA?

We are not against CEQA, but we would like to improve its effectiveness and eliminate the way it encourages litigation abuse.

What is litigation abuse?

Litigation Abuse is the misuse of CEQA to protect special interest groups like NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) organizations or Building Trades Unions. NIMBYs use CEQA to stop construction of projects out of fear of the depreciation of their homes or socioeconomic change in their communities. Building Trades Unions use CEQA to extort prevailing wage contracts and are some of the biggest abusers of these laws.

How does CEQA litigation abuse harm Californians?

Litigation abuse raises the price of housing due to the costs of the delays.  Developers often abandon projects because NIMBYs will keep them in court for as long as possible. A 2015 study estimated that land use restrictions costs the United States upwards of $1.5 trillion in lost productivity.

CEQA abuse also undermines the state’s environmental, climate, social equity and economic priorities by making it impossible to complete affordable housing projects, new forms of transit and even community parks.   It harms the poor, working class and the young, and obstructs environmental priorities.

Is The Two Hundred Opposed to environmental protections?

The Two Hundred is not anti-environment or opposed to CEQA. In fact the environment is one of our top priorities.  Many low-income minorities live in some of the most polluted areas.  We need CEQA the most because the communities we represent are in greatest need of their protection.

However, we are opposed to how NIMBYs use CEQA to camouflage their interests behind environmental concerns.  CEQA has great intentions but the unintended consequences have hurt low-income communities of color.  We want to make CEQA stronger by getting rid of those parts that people misuse when they engage in CEQA litigation abuse.

What are the immediate benefits to ending CEQA litigation abuse?
Ending litigation abuse will result in the timely construction of more housing developments at a lesser cost, the creation of more jobs to build these projects, and proof to skeptical taxpayers that California can complete important public projects on time.

How can we end CEQA Litigation Abuse?

We recommend these three reforms to curtail CEQA litigation abuse:

  • Require those filling CEQA lawsuits to disclose their identity.
    The legislature can and should require full transparency for any litigation under CEQA. Interest groups should not be able to hide behind CEQA anonymity.
  • Eliminate duplicative lawsuits aimed at derailing plans and projects that have already completed the CEQA process.
    Some projects have been sued more than 20 times.
  • Restrict the effects of a lawsuit on a given project.
    The simple act of filing a CEQA lawsuit can choke off funding and stop a project even if the lawsuit has no merit and is filed for non-environmental purposes.

What does the future hold for The Two Hundred’s Relationship with CEQA?

Without the abuse of this important law, The Two Hundred maintains that CEQA is vital to the future of our state.  Our goal is to work with the environmental community to improve CEQA by removing those elements that allow NIMBYs and unions to misuse it, while keeping those that continue to protect the environment. In the future The Two Hundred expects to work side by side with CEQA to fulfill our goals of protecting the environment and providing affordable housing for low income California residents.

This conference completes the series of leadership conferences held across the state.  Its purpose is to educate and add up to five hundred more minority and other community leaders into our housing policy and advocacy organization.  The conference features policy experts that discuss the impact of the housing shortage on California’s economy and its residents.  It details the obstacles to housing construction and how working together we can produce practical policy solutions to overcome them.

  • 1
  • 2