California’s Weiner says bill will let colleges streamline housing projects
SB 886 would make certain projects exempt from being blocked due to unmet CEQA standards
A California state senator introduced a bill to streamline building student housing.
Scott Wiener said Senate Bill 886 would exempt some residential projects proposed by public colleges and universities from being blocked when they don’t meet environmental standards, the Mercury News reported. While projects would still have to meet state environmental standards, they wouldn’t be subject to lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Wiener, the chair of the Senate housing committee, said the housing crisis has left too many students and faculty without a place to live. “This is real,” Wiener said. “It’s affecting our young students’ ability to learn.”
UC Berkeley may be forced to cut admissions by a third and forgo $57 million in tuition because of a housing shortage. The school was ordered to cap its enrollment at the same level it had during the 2020-2021 school year, or 42,347 – 3,050 fewer than it had planned.
Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods, the local neighborhood group that called for UC Berkeley to cap its admissions, is skeptical about the new bill. “It’s not clear to me that this bill is solving the problem Berkeley has,” said Phil Bokovoy, president of Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods.
Wiener said the bill was on the table for discussion before the UC Berkeley issue came to the fore and that he expects it to curb use of state environmental law to stall new housing projects.
SB 886 would cover projects on campuses in the University of California, California State University and California Community College systems. It wouldn’t apply to projects on farmlands or wetlands, in fire zones or any redevelopments that would demolish affordable housing.
A 2021 state report found more than 1 million students experienced homelessness and housing insecurity while taking college classes, which some students say has led to more dropouts.
The bill will go before several public hearings and needs Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature to go into effect.
[MN] — Victoria Pruitt