California YIMBY Statement on Passage of Student CEQA Exemption

March 14, 2022
Drawing of college housing being built

State Legislature Acts Fast to Protect Students

Students are not pollution” 

SACRAMENTO – California YIMBY issued the following statement in response to the State Legislature’s passage of SB 118, a budget trailer bill that exempts student enrollment at the University of California, California State University, and California Community College systems from the California Environmental Quality Act:

“Today is a great day for aspiring college students across California,” said Brian Hanlon, President and CEO of California YIMBY.  “We’re grateful to the state Legislature for acting quickly to legally affirm what should be common sense: That students are not pollution.”

Two weeks ago, the state university systems were rocked by a lawsuit filed by anti-housing activists in Berkeley that successfully categorized student population growth as an environmental impact – and forced the University of California at Berkeley to cap its student enrollment below projected numbers.   

The lawsuit was filed by part-time Berkeley resident Phil Bokovoy, who has a track record of also suing to block student housing in his neighborhood. Bokovoy argued that the university’s failure to build sufficient student housing (due in part to his lawsuits) was harming the residents of Berkeley. 

Because they are a part of the state budget, the emergency CEQA reforms passed by the legislature will take effect as soon as they are signed by the Governor. Hanlon also called for quick passage of the Student Housing Crisis Act to make it easier for the state’s universities to build urgently-needed housing.

“The Student Housing Crisis Act (SB 886) is the next step on a reform agenda. We can no longer allow our environmental laws to be abused by NIMBYs to undermine the country’s greatest university systems.” 

SB 886 was introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener and is co-sponsored by California YIMBY, the State Building and Construction Trade Council of California, and the UC Student Association. The bill would exempt student and faculty housing from CEQA in many cases, recognizing that student and faculty housing typically results in lower environmental impacts by allowing them to reside near their campuses. 

“The world has changed since 1970. While robust environmental protection remains as important as ever, we must reform laws like CEQA that characterize student housing as pollution,” Hanlon said. “I look forward to working with the Legislature to confirm that since students are not pollution, on-campus homes for students are not pollution either. We must further clarify in law that solutions to our housing and climate crises are environmental benefits.”