Chapman Law Review


This is the third study of all state court lawsuits filed under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”); this Study examined lawsuits filed statewide over three years, between 2019 and 2021. All three studies identified housing as the top target of CEQA lawsuits challenging agency approvals of private projects. California’s housing crisis has caused the state to have the worst housing-adjusted poverty rate in the United States; California also continues to have the highest rate, and highest number, of unsheltered homeless residents. Housing production has remained essentially flat (at about 110,000 housing units per year) notwithstanding the enactment of more than one hundred new housing laws since 2017; the state still needs about three million more homes. Although CEQA’s status quo defenders assert that CEQA is not a material factor in housing production, this Study confirms that, in 2020 alone, CEQA lawsuits sought to block approximately 48,000 approved housing units statewide—just under half of the state’s total housing production. Many housing laws also mandated that local and regional agencies adopt and implement plans to accommodate more housing. CEQA lawsuits filed during the study period challenged agency housing plans that allowed more than one million new housing units. Non-housing projects to accommodate housing and population growth, such as transportation and water infrastructure, are also a major target of CEQA lawsuits. CEQA lawsuits (and lawsuit claims) relating to climate change, including greenhouse gas emissions (“GHG”) and vehicle miles travelled, a top topic of CEQA lawsuits, even though California already has the lowest per capita GHG in the nation and has enacted scores of GHG and climate change laws and regulations. The study includes data, and examples, of all CEQA lawsuits filed during the study period, to explain how CEQA works today—not historically, and not rhetorically.



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