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Oakland Mayor and Attorney General candidate Jerry Brown is adding his voice to a chorus of amici curiae crying for California Supreme Court review of a recent urban development decision. On Tuesday, the mayor sent a letter asking the justices to grant review to The Pocket Protectors v. City of Sacramento, 04 C.D.O.S. 10742, a Third District Court of Appeal ruling that he says would require an environmental impact report for every housing development that hits opposition. The December decision, he says, could lead to “analysis paralysis” for urban infill development. But the victorious attorney in that case says Brown and other “sky is falling” types petitioning for review are getting all worked up over nothing. “If you really look at the case, it’s very straightforward,” said Glen Ellen solo Susan Brandt-Hawley. She said cities and developers are pushing for review because they have “an agenda” to streamline environmental review. In the case, a Sacramento neighborhood group sued the city and the builders of a proposed housing development to force them to conduct environmental impact reports under the California Environmental Quality Act. The Pocket Protectors — named after Sacramento’s Pocket Road area — claimed that Regis Homes’ 20-acre, 139-home development would negatively affect the neighborhood due to smaller-than-normal setbacks and narrow streets. The Third District, led by Justice Richard Sims, found that the city had not conducted an adequate review and overturned the ruling of Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly. Since the appeal court ruling, developers and municipal groups have been crying foul. San Francisco’s city attorney submitted a request on behalf of the League of California Cities and the California State Association of Counties to have the ruling depublished. A builders group, backed by Elk Grove and Napa County, has also pushed for depublication. Other cities are fighting the ruling by sending in amicus requests for Supreme Court review. Brown, who has lobbied Sacramento for state legislation that would streamline the environmental reviews for downtown Oakland projects, came down emphatically against the ruling in his letter to the court. “It won’t matter how closely the project conforms to our local land use policies or how strongly the majority of our City Council supports it,” he wrote. “That’s bad law.” Brown said Wednesday that President Reagan, who signed the CEQA law providing the basis for the environmental impact review process when he was governor, “would be turning over in his grave if he saw this decision.” Brown said that EIRs required on projects in downtown Oakland and the Jack London Square area have delayed construction and have heaped millions of dollars in extra costs on developers. Regis Homes’ attorney, Sabrina Teller of Sacramento, likes the odds of her case winning review. The Remy, Thomas, Moose and Manley associate noted that debate seems to be growing over the meaning and fate of California’s environmental protection act. Last year, the First District ruled in Bowman v. City of Berkeley, 04 C.D.O.S. 8632, that an environmental review was not required in a project that would merely have an aesthetic impact on a neighborhood. The case involved a four-story senior center development next to a row of one-story single family homes. Also last year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced plans to suggest changes to CEQA to accommodate the state’s need for housing. “I think that with the level of controversy and the level of interest around the state, we’re hopeful that it has a good chance [for review],” said Teller. “I think the issue is kind of percolating out there.”

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