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Sierra Club California

Sierra Club Opposes Senate Bill 10

The California Sierra Club has officially opposed the passage Senate Bill 10, which is currently before the state legislature. Their opposition, which was issued in March of 2021, is worth consideration because it is opposed to both to the bill's effect on local environmental issues and methods the bill allows. In particular, the bill contains provisions (as amended on July 5, 2021) would allow a local government to override any legally valid voter ballot initiative that might oppose a private developer's building plans.

This new push to disenfranchise voters in California is cropping up with greater frequency, lately, as discussed at length in the recent article by Bob Silvestri, entitled "First they came for local zoning control. Now they're coming for your right to vote."

The Sierra Club letter of opposition begins,

Sierra Club California respectfully opposes your bill, Senate Bill 10. This bill would authorize local governments to override voter initiatives and exempt certain zoning ordinances from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). We agree with your intent to alleviate California’s housing crisis and provide more housing, including affordable housing. However, we believe that aspects of SB 10 unnecessarily put public health and the environment at risk.

CEQA ensures that Californians understand how land use decisions will impact their communities and health. The law is an indispensable tool to hold public agencies accountable to local and state environmental and land use laws. Zoning ordinances are typically subject to review under CEQA if they are found to significantly impact the environment. However, SB 10 would exempt zoning ordinances that up zone any parcel up to 10 units, if the parcel is located in either a transit-rich area, a jobs-rich area, or an urban infill site. This is concerning for the following reasons.