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Wild West on the Waterfront
WILD WEST ON THE WATERFRONT
As developers challenge state environmental rules, local leaders push to build more projects
In summer 2015, the Public Press first reported on how rising seas could inundate coastal land in the Bay Area. Since then, we have discovered that state regulation of waterfront development has loosened, while local governments have been slow to respond.
The landmark California Environmental Quality Act, which cities have used compel adaptation to climate change, has been weakened by legal challenges from the powerful building industry. In San Francisco, as elsewhere, officials continue to promote large developments on the bay despite scientists' increasingly dire scenarios as greenhouse-gas emissions melt the world's glaciers and spawn powerful storms.
To gauge how interpretation of state law is changing, we searched public databases of construction projects, reviewed dozens of lawsuits and court cases, and analyzed thousands of pages of environmental records filed with planning agencies. A public records request also revealed efforts by developers and builders to lobby Gov. Jerry Brown's administration to dissuade cities from invoking the state's environmental law to address climate change. We also used public records requests to determine why a major city-commissioned report on flood risk in Mission Bay was not published before officials and voters signed off on the San Francisco Giants' Mission Rock development and the Golden State Warriors new arena.
The spring 2017 print issue of the Public Press is now available at select locations. Here's a preview of what you'll find online the week of April 17.
See part 1 of this series: Sea Level Rise Threatens Waterfront Development, from the summer 2015 edition.
ABOUT THIS REPORTING PROJECT
REPORTING: Kevin Stark, Mary Catherine O'Connor, Ellyn Beale, Noah Arroyo and Lulu Orozco
EDITING: Michael Winter and Michael Stoll
DESIGN: HyunJu Chappell / MagnaCitizen Studio
CARTOGRAPHY: Marcea Ennamorato
DATA EDITING: Subramaniam Vincent
COPY EDITING: Michele Anderson, Zachary Benjamin, Richard Knee and Dean Takehara
PHOTOGRAPHY: Anna Vignet
ONLINE: John Angelico
AUDIO EXTRAS: Audrey Dilling
This project was made possible by donations from Public Press members, the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the Strong Foundation for Environmental Values, and by a challenge grant from the San Francisco Foundation