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June 12, 2018 > Letter to the Editor: CEQA, a vital tool and double-edged sword

Letter to the Editor: CEQA, a vital tool and double-edged sword

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires an Environmental Impact Report for certain developments. CEQA is also used by developers, property owners and nimby?s, who have filed a wave of lawsuits over the past decade. In Fremont, they targeted EBRPD, seeking to block a new parking lot at Mission Peak and reduce parking at Vargas Plateau. In fact, the opening of Vargas Plateau Regional Park was delayed for eight years, and then shuttered for another 11 months. Plaintiffs wanted the park district to widen Vargas Rd, which winds through rural hills. While the widening would ostensibly improve safety, but also increase commuter traffic and encourage a new event center on Vargas Plateau.

The arms dealers who profit from the CEQA lawsuits are the lawyers, while the government and the public are paying for the litigation. Project delays are legendary, and housing costs continue to rise. Nonetheless, CEQA remains a vital tool. As the Tri-City Voice editorial of May 29 noted, ?Environment is not a touchy-feely word reserved for tree-huggers?[It] describes the quality of our lives - the roads we drive on, the air we breathe, access to parks and clean, open spaces and much more.? The environmental reports are expensive, cumbersome and complex. Some public agencies and developers in southern Alameda County have avoided CEQA review, though it's a legal requirement.

As the editorial in the Tri-City Voice notes, ?oversight and compliance are enforced by public agencies that may benefit from a development?its overriding interest is tax income from the project. A neighboring city may suffer the consequences and have little or no say in the outcome.? Recently, the county of Alameda released a draft microbrewery ordinance. It would allow the conversion of agricultural land to agri-tourism, with microbreweries, tasting rooms and event centers. Vargas Plateau has ongoing, large-scale development. The mayor of Fremont wrote the County Board of Supervisors, expressing serious concern about the impact of the ordinance on road safety.

The purpose of CEQA is to protect ecosystems, limit watercourse alterations, and slow urban sprawl onto rural hills and agricultural parcels. It is incumbent upon environmental groups to take up the cudgel of CEQA. Mission Peak Conservancy will therefore oppose local development that threatens public safety, degrades environmental quality or alters watercourses.
wm. yragui
Mission Peak Conservancy

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