CEQA Opponents Incorrectly Point to Expo Lawsuit as Reason to Weaken CEQA

Progress continues on the Expo Phase II bridge over Venice Boulevard....or Does It? Photo: Gökhan Esirgen

Over the past week, I’ve been studying CEQA and the politics behind the various reform efforts to better report on what’s happening in Sacramento as Senator Darrell Steinberg’s SB 731 moves through the legislature. I’ve stumbled on some amazing arguments over that time, but none are quite as amazing as the one made by economist John Husing of Economics and Politics Inc. on behalf of the pro-business CEQA Working Group.

To make his case that CEQA lawsuits are bad for business and jobs, Husing goes through the brief history of Expo Phase II’s long environmental process, and the ultimately unsuccessful CEQA lawsuit brought by Neighbors for Smart Rail. Then Husing laments the job creation delayed while the lawsuit played out.

For this group of occupations, the  NIMBY lawsuit led to the equivalent of 679 prevailing wage workers not having jobs for 3½  years. The overall impact has been as follows (Exhibit 1):

  • $51.53 is the weighted average of the median hourly wage & benefit levels of the six  categories of prevailing wage jobs that were delayed.
  • Nearly all of the workers will earn from $50-$60 in wages & benefits except laborers  ($47.39).
  • The “other” category was the average of median hourly wages and benefits ($51.49) of  teamsters, sheet metal workers, plumbers and pipe fitters.
  • 1,358,335 hours of work will eventually be created at the prevailing wage & benefit rates  of the various occupations.
  • 679 full time equivalent jobs have been delayed. That is 1,358,335 hours of work spread = across 40 hours a day or 33,958 full time weeks of work. For a 50 week year, that means  679 full time equivalent jobs have been affected. The most were 281 laborers, 155  operating engineers, 66 carpenters and 62 iron workers The least was the equivalent of 55 
  • full time cement workers.
  • The weighted average wage & benefit earnings of the workers whose jobs were held up  will be $103,067 over the period of construction.

This is a completely compelling argument, or rather it would be if it were true. Somehow, Husing missed that no court ever issued a stay of construction on Expo Phase II and work has continued since design was completed. In other words, all the statistics presented above are completely wrong in every possible way.

While Husing’s mistake is lamentable, it gets even more outrageous when repeated by an editor for the Los Angeles Business Journal.

At the “news” website Fox and Hounds, Charles Crumpley, the Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal repeats Husing’s claim about job loss on the Westside . Apparently the Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal both had no idea that a major construction project was underway in the city he covers as Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal and doesn’t bother checking facts before publishing.

I’m not perfect. Anyone that reads Streetsblog L.A. knows I make my share of typos and I’ve missed a story or two over the years. However, I’ve never left a story unchanged a full day after someone has shown me I’m wrong on the facts. It’s just amazing to me that the Fox and Hounds story hasn’t been edited by now either by Crumpley or the editors.

If you read through the Fox and Hounds story, you’ll note there’s a comment from me at the bottom pointing out this rather egregious factual error. I’ve also emailed Crumpley and asked him to edit the story.

After the Reason Foundation’s laughable “report” on Desert XPress convinced several faux Libertarian Members of Congress to oppose a loan to the project, I’ve become painfully aware that it doesn’t always matter if someone is completely incorrect. If they have the right title, people will believe them. In the case of XPress, Reason was guilty of some rather far-fetched conclusions. In this case, Crumpley and Husing are guilty of gross incompetence.