“People are Pollution”: It’s an excuse for NIMBYs to hurt college students.

1 min read
August 17, 2023
photo of the sphere within sphere by the entrance to the berkeley library
Photo by Jonathan Cooper on Pexels.com

Case in Focus: The Second District Court of Appeal recently rejected the City of Los Angeles’ bid to expedite a private housing project near the University of Southern California. The court agreed with neighborhood groups anticipating significant noise disruptions from the potential student residents, the same “People are Pollution” argument from the earlier UC Berkeley case.

The Backdrop: A California appellate court halted a proposed housing project for over 1,100 UC Berkeley students earlier this year. The reason? Under the state’s environmental protection law, the university must analyze and potentially offset “noise impacts from loud student parties.” This marked an unexpected or expected twist considering Reagan’s views on college students in interpreting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

This rationale has now been extended to a second housing proposal in Los Angeles, intensifying the debate between supporters of CEQA and those pushing for more housing solutions in the state, which already faces a significant housing crisis.

Comparing Cases: There are distinctions between the UC Berkeley and Los Angeles cases. While UC Berkeley was asked to reassess its environmental review to include noise considerations, Los Angeles sought a state regulation to bypass environmental scrutiny entirely.

The Future Landscape: There’s a growing sentiment in the Legislature to overturn the UC Berkeley decision. Assembly Members Wicks’ Assembly Bill 1307, currently in the pipeline, aims to exclude human noise from potential environmental concerns under state law. The bill also contains provisions supporting UC Berkeley’s housing project in other areas.

The bill, which would come into effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, seems poised to secure the necessary legislative support. To date, only a few votes against it have been recorded.

Central Concern: During the 1940s and 50s, Governor Earl Warren championed policies that aimed to make housing and education accessible and affordable for the residents of California and promoting migration to the state. It’s disheartening to see that some who directly benefited from these policies now seem intent on limiting opportunities for subsequent generations, including their descendants. Their resistance hints at the lengths they might go to oppose housing reforms. Suppose they can compromise students’ future at the state’s top university, a cornerstone of California’s economic progression. What else might they do?

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