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We're Watching the Planning Commission Debate About Revising CEQA So You Don't Have To

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The Planning Commission's been in session since noon, but now it's 3pm and it's time for Supervisor Scott Wiener's controversial legislation that would revise CEQA to go up before the Commission for debate. In short, Sup. Wiener's revisions would limit the public's ability to hold up development projects by appealing the hell out of them, which costs the city time and money. It's also abused regularly to stall projects, like the 8 Washington development, 555 Washington development, and CPMC. For however long this meeting lasts, Curbed Editor Sally Kuchar and Curbed Associate Editor Alex Bevk will be chiming in with highlights (we're hoping for some really juicy public comment!) from the meeting. Let's get this party started!

3:01PM - Sally: And we're live! Unfortunately the Commission's running late and is still talking about the Daggett Park Project. We'll tune back in when the CEQA debate's on the table.

3:10PM - Alex: And now they're talking 41 Tehama. Looks like that 3pm agenda start time was just wishful thinking.

3:14PM - Sally: Hey look, a blurry rendering of 41 Tehama:

3:20PM - Alex: Let's make a bet on when they actually get around to the CEQA stuff. $20 says not before 4pm.

3:21PM - Sally: I mean, you're probably going to win, Alex. This guy's been going on about bike rack accessiblity for the 41 Tehama Project for at least ten minutes. (Side note: 41 Tehama's going for LEED Gold certification.)

3:25PM - Sally: "RAIN GARDEN"

3:26PM - Alex: I will use my $20 winnings to buy something from your ground floor retail, 41 Tehama. Just get on with it, already!

3:29PM - Sally: There's a fella who's participating in public comment for 41 Tehama and opened with "I'm going to keep it short since there's so much public comment for the next item." Woo! We're in for the long run, readers. C'mon! Let's get to it!

3:35PM - Alex: Haha I love when planners and commissioners completely ignore silly public comments...

3:39PM - Alex: I want Commissioner Cindy Wu to record a book on tape. Her voice is so soothing.

3:42PM - Sally: Okay, people. CEQA's up.

3:43PM - Alex: Sup. Wiener is here! Let the sh*tstorm begin.

3:44PM - Sally: Sup. Wiener's stating his case and being as polite about it as possible.

3:45PM - Alex: Sup. Wiener says it's not about making things easy for developers, but that CEQA appeals are abused for everything from bike lanes to library projects.

3:46PM - Sally: "We make it very easy for one person to delay a project for a significant amount of time." North Beach Library reference mentioned.

3:47PM - Alex: Appeals are still to be allowed (of course), but timing will be changed. Appeals will need to be made during the application, not at 11th hour.

3:49PM - Alex: If BOS has to legislate for project, then they become the decision maker for appeals (instead of going back to the Planning Commission or Board of Appeals, for example). And if an appeal is made, permit processes can move forward - but nothing physical can be done.

3:53PM - Sally: "This doesn't impact how one appeals an EIR." - Sup. Wiener

3:54PM - Alex: Preservationists can put away their pitchforks - this shouldn't make any changes to the way historic resources are reviewed.

3:57PM - Sally: We're quite fond of AnMarie Rodgers' hair (she's the Manager of Legislative Affairs for the Planning Department). It's sassy, a real rarity around City Hall.

4:00PM - Alex: She is breaking it down in extensive detail. I'm pretty sure we're qualified to be CEQA lawyers after watching this.

4:00PM - Sally: I'd like to note that Alex now owes me $20.

4:04PM - Alex: Now Sarah Jones from the Planning Department is introducing the changes to the revisions (re-revisions?) made in the past week. Also, damn that bet came back to bite me.

4:08PM - Alex: Man, this is dry. She starting to sound like the teacher in Charlie Brown.

4:10PM - Alex: Bill Wycko (Director of Major Environmental Analysis) is rocking Movember like a champ.

4:16PM: Alex: PUBLIC COMMENT TIME! Let this chaos begin.

4:16PM - Alex: Bernard, you are a treasure.

4:19PM - Sally: Two public speakers in and it's all opposition. Mentioned so far: railroading things, worrying about trees, shadows casting over the entire city, etc.

4:22PM - Alex: One speaker says the changes will curtail the rights of citizens. And this is quickly turning into a Sup. Wiener hate-fest.

4:21PM - Sally: San Francisco Beautiful representative says the organization "is concerned with limiting the time frame when projects can be appealed."

4:26PM - Sally: Sierra Club rep opposes the legislation. Mentions the America's Cup (this is at least the 100th time the A Cup's been mentioned.

4:30PM - Alex: Appeal master Howard Wong and his architect glasses are here, and he's not happy. He of North Beach Library appeal fame says he's an architect and can't get behind the changes. In case the glasses didn't already make that clear.

4:32PM - Sally: In case you need a reference:

More here.

4:36PM - Alex: Digression: Young Corbusier was a fox.

4:37PM - Alex: So far, every speaker has been, uh, put it lightly.

4:40PM - Sally: DO NOT take a drink any time Park Merced is mentioned. Unless it's water and you're near a restroom.

4:41PM - Alex: Ahhh this speaker just threatened to take this legislation to court. Appealing an appeal process? This is too meta. We need a break.

4:48PM - Alex:Oh my god, a person in favor of the revisions! It's a holiday miracle! He says people who have no association with environmental concerns abuse appeals (labor unions, NIMBYs, and businesses).

4:52PM - Sally: Housing Action Coalition rep says "to us, CEQA is broken." That said, the rep doesn't know how strongly he agrees with the legislation, but then "it's a very sensible proposal and it deserves to move forward."

4:55PM - Alex: "Humans are the only people trying to control their environment. Maybe we should go live with the polar bears in Alaska and learn something." Amazing.

5:05PM - Alex: The Lafayette Park appeal lady is here! You can probably guess what side of the argument she falls on. Lots of rumbles and grumbles from the crowd.

5:10PM - Alex: Scott Wiener is a lawyer. Lawyers are evil. Transitive property says Scott Wiener is evil.

5:23PM - Sally: Golden Gate Park Preservation Alliance rep is here wearing an amazing wool pantsuit and letting us know that they do not approve of this legislation in the slightest. "We're very concerned about how this legislation affects our parks and open space." Also would like to know why the room isn't more packed. "NIMBYs are the people who make the city the wonderful place that it is." Rep says she's a "NIMBY and proud of it."

5:29PM - Alex: WTF?! Apparently there were a bunch of other people opposed to the Lafayette Park changes, but "only one name was signed on the appeal." This is news to us.

5:33PM - Alex: And the land use attorney sharks have arrived. You better sit down this for this one - they are supportive of the revisions. Shocking, we know.

5:35PM - Alex: Someone once filed a one-sentence appeal? And it required 100 hours of planning staff hours to respond? Ok, that's pretty messed up.

5:37PM - Alex: SUE HESTER! She's got some changes of her own she wants added. And she wants Scott Wiener's email history.

5:51PM - Sally: Everyone's saying the exact same thing so here's a gallery of kittens for your enjoyment:

5:54PM - Alex: 1 hour 45 minutes later, and public comment has wrapped.

6:00PM - Alex: Planners need to explain planning to the Planning Commissioners.

6:06PM - Sally: Planner needing to explain planning to the Planning Commissioners have reached the 15 minute mark. Lots of hand waving. Maybe even jazz hands if you read too much into it.

6:12PM - Alex:: "Maybe people could just hit a button on the Planning website to appeal something" - one sadistic commissioner

6:14PM - Sally: Commissioner Gwyneth Borden keeps informing everyone that she "isn't arguing about that," even though no one's accusing her of arguing. We wish she'd get to whatever point she's trying to make. This is Borden's world and we're just living in it, people.

6:18PM - Sally: AnMarie Rodgers looks like how we feel

6:22PM - Alex: "There's been a lot of issues before us tonight, but not many of them have to deal with the item at hand" - Commissioner Antonini

6:39PM - Alex: "Let's air dirty laundry. Staff is not reliable." Yikes!

6:44PM - Alex: Looks like the Supes' Land Use Committee won't hear the issue until after the new year, so the Planning Commission could continue this for later this year if they wanted. Oh great.

6:46PM - Alex: "If you don't understand it, vote no on it"

7:03PM - Alex: A motion on the floor: Draft a new resolution asking Supervisor Wiener to engage the public for additional input, and then create third draft that takes into consideration comments from the Commission and the public.

7:04PM - Alex: Motion passes unanimously! But nothing is really decided? Do more work and then get back to us? Sigh. Goodnight guys.