Noah DeWitt

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California, the iconic Golden State, holds the infamous record for the largest population of people experiencing homelessness in the United States. These record-setting numbers have been steadily on the rise for decades and are due in large part to the state’s severe housing shortage, which is currently just under one million housing units. From those directly experiencing homelessness to those living in the country’s most expensive zip codes, the compounding economic and social impacts of the crisis touch every Californian. The extent of the crisis is not lost on California’s leaders, but despite countless initiatives on both the state and local levels to mitigate the shortage, no one can seem to build housing fast enough. One major roadblock to building more housing is the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Act was enacted in 1970 as a pioneering law to protect the environment from adverse developmental impacts. However, today, those opposing multifamily development have turned what was supposed to be a legislative tool for environmental protection into a convoluted tool to oppose multifamily housing development. CEQA has long been identified as a challenge to development, but after decades of seemingly miniscule reforms for a substantial problem, it is time for California to shift its perspective and seek solutions outside itself. This Comment will detail some of California’s greatest missteps in the history of CEQA. It will then consider what California could learn from three other states facing similar housing shortages and how these states have reformed their own environmental laws similar to CEQA. Lastly, this Comment will encourage California to shift its perspective on the types of development reforms that are subject to CEQA reform by including all types of housing in future reforms.