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NFL Football is Bad for You and Your Neighborhood

It's not the game of football that's bad for you (unless you're prone to concussions). And it's not a downtown sports stadium or one in Irwindale (although tickets will cost you more than $100 each). Nor is it specifically AEG's brazen acquisition of the Los Angeles City Council (council members sold their souls to developers long ago).

Farmers Field and Ed Roski's competing stadium proposal are bad for you because they have been used to accelerate a game-changing shift in land use authority. And in the name of football and jobs, the state Legislature further weakened environmental protections and diminished your ability -- with your neighbors -- to question the suitability of big development projects. Almost as bad, concessions to AEG and Roski have inserted the state Legislature and the governor's office into the local development approval process -- and introduced them to new millions in campaign contributions from big developers.

Pro football was the screen behind which SB 226, SB 292, and AB 900 were introduced in the last days of the legislative session. They won approval in the final hours before the legislature adjourned. The three bills now await Governor Brown's signature. (They may already have been signed into law when you read this.)

SB 226 frees "urban" development projects defined as "green" from detailed environmental review, but without clearly defining what is "urban" or "green." AB 900 limits how communities can influence the environmental review of development projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). And SB 292 gives AEG a special CEQA exemption - like the one already given Ed Roski's Irwindale stadium - that similarly limits the ability of neighborhoods to challenge either project on environmental grounds.

SB 375 - signed into law in 2008 - already contains triggers for exempting multi-family residential projects from CEQA review if their greater density is assumed to reduce driving and expand public transit use. Under SB 375, some projects designed to increase neighborhood density could be built even when opposed by city council members. Regional and state planning agencies will determine what gets built and where.

Whatever their affect on job creation -- always difficult to measure -- these bills have one obvious goal: They allow state legislators to waive key protections in California's environmental controls for developments that are sponsored by campaign contributors. Developers with connections and political juice will be permitted to build fast, big, and profitable . . . and leave neighborhood residents to live with the results.

Dangerous precedents have been set for eroding the quality of life for all Californians who don't live in gated communities, rural enclaves, or posh neighborhoods.

Sadly and unaccountably, David Pettit, a senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, was among those who welcomed the muting of California's environmental protections.

The NRDC, which fought long and hard for the state's environmental laws forty years ago, isn't a big fan of NFL football. And it's probably not in the pocket of big developers.

But CEQA lawsuits have been used by neighborhood organizations to restrain the size and impact of dense, mixed-use, in-fill developments backed by big developers. And for the NRDC, maximizing urban density and dependence on public transit, pricing drivers out of their cars, and other forms of social engineering though land-use regulation are now more important than protecting the victories for California's quality of life that had been won by CEQA.

Football is a rough game, played for big money by very big guys. They just sacked the principle of local land use authority and ended responsible environmental review in California.

And I hear the NRDC cheering.

The image on this page is from public domain sources.

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