Newsom says law ‘needs to change’ after UC Berkeley housing project blocked

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to the press during a visit to Ruby Bridges Elementary School in Alameda on March 16, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Gov. Gavin Newsom said the California Environmental Quality Act “needs to change” after a court cited it while blocking UC Berkeley from building student housing at People’s Park.

In a ruling issued Friday, the 1st District Court of Appeal in San Francisco said UC Berkeley failed to consider alternative locations for the housing and didn’t “assess potential noise impacts from loud student parties in residential neighborhoods near the campus.” The court said its decision doesn’t mean UC needs to abandon the project, instead suggesting UC return to the trial court and fix the errors in its environmental impact report.

UC Berkeley has vowed to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court. The housing was initially proposed in 2018 and would provide about 1,100 beds, but has been repeatedly delayed by lawsuits that cite CEQA.

Newsom said in a statement that the CEQA process “is clearly broken” and vowed to work with lawmakers to change the law.

“California cannot afford to be held hostage by NIMBYs who weaponize CEQA to block student and affordable housing. The selfish mindset is driving up housing prices and making our state less affordable. The law needs to change, and I am committed to working with lawmakers this year to making more changes so our state can build the housing we desperately need,” he said.

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