Sonoma Valley Sun


Don’t shoot the messenger

Posted on August 3, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

When one of our most prophetic local truth-tellers, my pal Fred Allebach, who has consistently correctly decoded regional land-use decisions in print and on social media for years, comes under fire for lack of due diligence and is charged in print with casting irresponsible aspersions, my back goes up. 

Fred Allebach is a public resource. Fred taught me how the Monopoly game of local land use policy maps the terrain of local power. His bold, independent analysis is always highly informed and aware of all the contingencies his detractors raise. It’s not a lack of information; it’s a different value system. 

The manufactured land-use dispute over the benign Hanna development is like all the rest of these fabricated calls to ‘local control’ and empowers a multitude of idiosyncratic rationales based on one group’s concept of ‘local character’ or ‘special conditions’ which can then be deployed as a club to litigate a project into the ground with a California Environmental Quality Act challenge by anyone who can afford a lawyer for a few months. 

This misuse of this built-in veto that CEQA, as we know it, gives professional-class affluent citizens is the root of why we can’t build out all the necessary 21st-century low-energy mega-infrastructure or construct essential public housing.

That exchange reminded me how much we must support Governor Newsom’s call to reform CEQA. I have heard so many CEQA challenges that were on a legal par with public defender’s death penalty appeals that I am fully convinced of the need for a new set of rules that set firm, tangible legal standards to qualify for permits and apply them uniformly across the state. Then we can meet the needs of all the 40 million humans who occupy this state.

Ben Boyce, Sonoma Valley

One thought on “Don’t shoot the messenger

  1. NIMBYS use CEQA to torment and punish local developers. A project can have the written support of thousands of local citizens, win 5-0 in Board of Zoning, be appealed and then win 5-0 at Board of Stupidadvisors, and still be challenged with a CEQA lawsuit. This requires the developer to spend 200k+ on a CEQA specialist lawyer and delay a year for a court date in Sonoma superior court. The expense for the delays costs the projects hundreds of thousands in burn expenses like lease, professional costs, delayed revenues, etc.

    Most don’t know that there is a very one-sided bonus given to the local NIMBYS who already were denied their appeal to BOS after losing BZA. Check this out: The rules for CEQA force the developer to pay THREE TIMES the legal expenses for the NIMBYS of their spiteful Hail Mary lawsuit wins in superior court. So there are many CEQA-chasing lawyers who offer their services for virtually free to the NIMBYS with the gamble that if they win they will receive the THREE TIMES multiplier lottery ticket for their work. The creates a morale hazard and a strong incentive to file damaging nuisance lawsuits. Another thing, the developer who who wins the spiteful lawsuit has no mechanism to recover their hundreds of thousand of expenses.

    The retail cannabis store in Glen Ellen went through this heinous process. The projects was applied for in 2017. It won BZA unanimous in 2021. It was appealed and then won unanimous at BOS in 2022. Then a handful of spiteful losers sued the simple retail store for a CEQA challenge. It took a year to get to Sonoma superior court where it won with a STRONG ruling in the developer’s favor. The spiteful NIMBYS did not even show up to court. The delays and expenses costs the mom and pops local developers their life savings. Retail cannabis is like any other development or land use. Some don’t like it. This is not a reasonable that CEQA stacks the deck against the developer and gives NIMBYS more tools for their spiteful torment.

    Glen Ellen Loe Firehouse Dispensary opening Q1 2024.

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