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Community Rights To Challenge Development Defended

In 2010, two proposed ordinances were put forward in San Francisco City Hall that would have drastically weakened the rights of residents, neighborhoods, and environmental watchdogs to challenge corporate developer projects.

The first, written by the San Francisco Planning Department staff, would have gutted the ability of residents and neighborhoods opposing a developer construction project to force that project through a public 'Discretionary Review' hearing of the Planning Commission. Instead, the ordinance would have given Planning Department staff sweeping powers behind close doors, to selectively prevent such public review at their own discretion.

The second ordinance, introduced by then District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier and her chief aide Bill Barnes, would have severely hamstrung the ability of environmental and other organizers to challenge developer projects based on possible breaches of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This cynical legislation would have fast tracked environmental review of development, giving neighborhoods and environmental advocates less time to raise environmental challenges, and would have thrown a minefield of other bureaucratic obstacles in the path of local CEQA review.

Throughout 2010, Our City joined in an alliance with other neighborhood and environmental organizations to say loudly and clearly to City Hall decision makers, that we would not tolerate any weakening of public and environmental review of developer projects.

By early 2011, the alliance succeeded in halting both of the proposed destructive measures before they could reach the Board of Supervisors.