January 11, 2012
By Rick Cole
“When it comes to environmental issues, emotions often trump reasoned argument or sensible reform, especially in California. In Sacramento at our state capitol, real world impacts are abstracted into barbed soundbites. It’s the dialogue of the deaf as environmental advocates rally around our landmark California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) — and economic interests decry it as “a job killer.” Perhaps the polarization can be put aside to ask about a specific example in the real world. Why does an old K-Mart sit vacant on Ventura’s busiest boulevard despite initial City approval for a Walmart store? All the thunder and lightning surrounding whether a Walmart belongs in Ventura is behind us. A vigorous and contentious debate (and a failed citizen initiative) have rendered the verdict that filling an empty discount retail space with a different discount retailer is a function of the market, not government regulation.
Nor can we directly blame the stalemate directly on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). What keeps the store empty is not the controversial law itself, but the way it has been twisted like a pretzel into a tool to stop urban developments opposed by well-funded interests. Recently, the Los Angeles Times exposed the ironic way it has even been adapted by developers and big corporations to fend off their competition.”