Wiener’s legislative changes are primarily designed to reduce the amount of time citizens have to review and appeal environmental impacts to proposed development projects. Wiener seeks to restrict appeals regarding projects to a short time period, so that government and project developers can then go behind closed doors to modify projects without further citizen oversight.
The Planning Department receives approximately 90% of its operating income from developer’s fees. The uncertainty of the public environmental appeals process is considered to be “bothersome,”as appeals cost the Planning Department time, and money....The Planning Department is already brimming with excess cash. According to Keith DeMartini, the department’s financial manager, “We’re projecting better than a $6 million surplus by the end of the fiscal year. We’ve seen more volume of development and more large projects.”
In 1971, the State of California passed an environmental bill of rights called the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA became law because many California developers and city projects were deemed environmentally harmful. Prior to 1971, the public had little legal say over — and no way to appeal —environmental impact decisions concerning private and public development projects.