SAN BERNARDINO, CA. (Dec. 18, 2019) – The Two Hundred, a coalition of civil rights and community leaders, filed a lawsuit today asking the San Bernardino Superior Court to invalidate new administrative rules under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because they illegally discriminate against minority homeownership.
The civil rights lawsuit (attached) names the state Office of Planning and Research, California Natural Resources Agency and Office of Administrative Law for imposing fees on new housing units based on the projected “vehicle miles traveled” (VMT) in cars and trucks by each occupant. The fees impose mitigation costs on driving even a mile – in even an electric car – as part of the state’s war on climate change.
But the lawsuit says the new fees – which will add $40,000 to $400,000 to the cost of new housing units – are not only counter-productive, they are unconstitutional because they amount to “discriminatory anti-housing ‘redlining’ practices with the intended and actual consequence of depriving minority Californians of homeownership.”
The filing draws on voluminous statistical evidence that shows the country’s racial wealth gap stems from decades of housing discrimination, which has prevented people of color from building intergenerational wealth through the equity built through homeownership.
That wealth divide is especially pronounced in California, which has some of the highest home prices and the highest poverty rate in the nation. The lawsuit says that adding another $40,000 or more, the regulatory agencies are creating a de facto – and illegal – barrier to homeownership for median-income residents, most of whom are minorities.
“Defendants had actual knowledge that minority families suffer the most from California’s housing crisis, yet intentionally adopted regulations that make housing even more expensive and easier to challenge in CEQA lawsuits – and these are minority families who work hard and earn a solid income that would make them homeowners in other states,” said Jennifer Hernandez, the lead attorney for The Two Hundred and a partner at Holland & Knight.
Added John Gamboa, co-director of The Two Hundred: “For decades, too many California minority families were denied access to homeownership by financial and zoning discrimination, and were also displaced by redevelopment and infrastructure projects that destroyed minority neighborhoods. CEQA is redlining.”
The lawsuit targets five new regulations, a regulatory appendix and two “underground” provisions adopted into administrative law during the waning days of the Jerry Brown administration in December 2018. The changes effectively reclassified VMT as a measurement used by environmental planners to an “environmental impact” under CEQA that must be mitigated by developers.
The lawsuit says the Legislature has repeatedly rejected similar VMT-based fees over the years because of their discriminatory nature. She added that the new regulations, which did not require legislative approval, are at odds with the Governor’s mandate to build 3.5 million new housing units by 2026.
The lawsuit also argues that VMT-based fees, along with other costs created by CEQA, undermine California’s war on climate change because it forces people who want to own homes to states such as Texas, Nevada and Arizona – all of which have higher per capita greenhouse gas emissions. The lawsuit also points out that there are many other greenhouse gas reduction measures that are both more effective and less racially discriminatory, like preventing forest fires and adding fee surcharges on imported luxury goods or plane rides.
Today’s lawsuit is the third CEQA-related legal action by The Two Hundred. The coalition previously sued the California Air Resources Board over its 2017 CEQA scoping plan and has sued several state agencies for refusing to release public records associated with the implementation of those regulations.
The Two Hundred is a coalition of prominent California civil rights advocates, financial advisors, former legislators and community activists dedicated to closing the racial wealth gap by promoting homeownership by families of color. Members include current and former lawmakers, organizers, advisors, county supervisors and a retired CA Supreme Court Associate Justice.
June 25, 2019
I write to make three important corrections, and one clarification, to Howard Miller’s June 13 column, “Tectonic legal plates: climate change and housing in California.” First, the plaintiff/petitioner in this civil rights lawsuit is The 200, and includes distinguished civil rights leaders in our state’s African-American, Asian, Pacific Islander and Latino communities… Continue Reading
June 13th, 2019
Howard B. Miller
This is about one of the most important cases in California you haven’t heard of. As public and political leaders are moving the tectonic plates of California land use law with statutes and policies dealing with climate change and housing, there is a largely unnoticed trial court case in Fresno challenging the central orthodoxy of those policies… Continue Reading
January 9, 2019
In what may signal the beginning of the end of alarmism over climate change, a group of civil rights activists is suing the California Air Resources Board. The issue is CARB’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by effectively limiting new housing construction. The lawsuit says this is driving up the cost of housing, worsening poverty and particularly victimizing minority communities… Continue Reading
January 7, 2019
By John Gamboa, Jennifer Hernandez and Michael Shellenberger
Newsom also should appeal directly to the enlightened self-interest of today’s homeowners. Those of us who own homes and raised families in California want our children to be able to own homes and raise our grandchildren near us. By sending away to other states more than 140,000 middle-class people every year, we are eating our seed corn — and undermining our future… Continue Reading
October 5, 2018
By Herman Gallegos, John Gamboa and Robert Apodaca
Behind the Green Curtain, we have turned to the courts to force California’s climate leaders to respect our civil rights, to disclose the economic and environmental impacts of their climate policies on our communities, and to prioritize GHG reduction measures that actually reduce global GHG instead worsening our poverty, homelessness, and housing crises… Continue Reading
SWEEPING CIVIL RIGHTS LAWSUIT ALLEGES RACIAL BIAS IN IMPLEMENTATION OF CALIFORNIA CLIMATE POLICIES (Forbes)
September 13, 2018
Top civil rights leaders are suing California for climate policies they say disproportionately harm its poorest residents, particularly Latinos and African Americans. “California politicians are using anti-racist and environmentalist words to hide the regressive impact of their climate policies on the poor and people of color,” said John Gamboa, the co-founder of The Two Hundred, a coalition of prominent civil rights leaders, which filed a lawsuit against the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in Superior Court… Continue Reading
September 15, 2018
As a lifelong advocate against exclusionary housing policies and who now fights for minorities to own homes, build wealth and achieve middle-income status with real upward economic mobility, I am very concerned that the good work being promoted by our gubernatorial candidates will be undone before it can start. The most immediate threat to a housing solution is Prop 10, the well-intentioned but flawed rental housing initiative that will be on the ballot this November… Continue Reading
July 27, 2018
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… Continue Reading
February 5, 2018
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… Continue Reading
December 12, 2017
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… Continue Reading