Ruckus raised over proposed change to environmental review

seal of the city of san franciscoProposed changes to San Francisco’s environmental-review rules have some of the city’s neighborhood groups in an uproar, saying the plan limits the public’s voice on developments.

The proposal would eliminate the ability to appeal development decisions in some instances and reduce the amount of time available to appeal in others, and would limit the amount of notice given to the public about citywide projects.

But supporters say the changes, which affect how the City complies with requirements in the California Environmental Quality Act, are necessary in a system that has allowed a few people to delay or block projects, even some renovating city parks that benefit all San Franciscans.

The San Francisco Planning Commission is discussing the changes Thursday afternoon, and is likely to issue a recommendation on them to the Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, who suggested the changes, told the San Francisco Examiner that his proposal isn’t intended to eliminate public involvement in the planning process, just to make it more understandable and predictable.

“Right now, one person can wait until the last minute and delay an entire project,” Wiener told the Examiner. “We think CEQA review is incredibly important — we just want to make it more streamlined.”

But some planning activists and neighborhood groups say the changes go too far.

“Building developers, business groups and conservative lawmakers have been trying to weaken CEQA guidelines for decades,” architect and planning activist Howard Wong told the Examiner. “This is their latest attempt to confuse the public into buying into their agenda.”

Read the text of the proposed changes below:

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