Press release from the Environmental Protection Information Center

A newly-formed group called “Citizens for a Better Eureka” have filed litigation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) against the city of Eureka for releasing city-owned properties for building affordable housing. Citizens for a Better Eureka argues that the city has violated California’s most important environmental law by failing to consider the environmental impacts of housing development in underutilized parking lots. On behalf of the Environmental Protection Information Center, Northcoast Environmental Center, Coalition for Responsible Transportation Priorities, Humboldt Baykeeper and the Redwood Coalition for Climate and Environmental Responsibility, we say, “Bullshit.” Not only is the lawsuit frivolous, but it actively undermines much-needed housing and climate action.

California has properly recognized that infill development, like that moved forward by Eureka, is both necessary to meet the state’s housing crisis as well as a climate-smart strategy for community development. By centrally locating new residences, infill development reduces greenhouse gas emissions and reduces the threat to greenspace, like farms and forests, by converting poorly-utilized urban areas to higher, better uses.

The lawsuit is based on the absurd claim that building housing on a few downtown parking lots will lead to an array of impacts ranging from traffic congestion to business closures and violent crime. In fact, decades of research and evidence demonstrate that exactly the opposite is the case, and the projects will help revitalize downtown and lead to more walking, biking and bus riding. Even if this weren’t the case, the types of “impacts” imagined by the petitioners are legally excluded from being considered under CEQA. The petitioners either lack a basic understanding of both the planning profession and the law, or just believe that they can get their own way regardless of the facts.

The threatened litigation is all too familiar to housing and environmental advocates. Throughout the state, well-heeled neighbors attempting to preserve the status quo have brought lawsuit after lawsuit alleging that new housing will result in novel “environmental” impacts. NIMBY abuse of CEQA to stop desperately-needed projects is one of the chief threats to CEQA, California’s foundational environmental law. The weaponization of environmental laws is now a prime driver for calls to weaken these laws to prevent their abuse. Such weakening also impacts our organizations, as we routinely utilize state and federal environmental laws to protect wildlife, ecosystems, clean water, and the climate.

Our organizations support the proposed housing projects brought forward by the City of Eureka and oppose the blatant abuse of CEQA.