Published in Los Angles Times

The real problem isn’t CEQA, but rather how local governments approve projects, the report said. CEQA only comes into play if a city or county decides to review housing developments individually. If a local government relies on zoning or other processes to determine whether a particular project gets built, developers don’t have to go through the CEQA process.

“It’s a choice that local governments are making,” said Eric Biber, a law professor at UC Berkeley and one of the report’s authors.

The study examined Bay Area cities San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Redwood City and Palo Alto. It found that all but Palo Alto require project-by-project review of any proposal with two or more homes, no matter if the development is planned on land zoned for the proposed amount of housing. In Palo Alto, this requirement is for any project of five units or more.

Doing so, Biber said, forces developers to learn specific and complex rules for getting almost all projects approved in each city, which drives much of the time, expense and uncertainty over housing.

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