The advantage for developers is clear: Projects approved by ballot measures avoid legal challenges under the California Environmental Quality Act.
There is a twist, though: Residents often do not even get a chance to vote.
Once 15 percent of eligible voters have signed a petition, a project qualifies for the ballot, and local elected officials can either call a special election or accept the proposal without negotiating changes. Officials often approve the project to avoid paying for a special election that could further strain tight budgets.
“We’ve ended up with a warping of direct democracy to defeat strong environmental laws,” said Douglas Carstens, a lawyer specializing in land use and the environment. “It’s ramping up. Within a year or two, people will realize what a bad situation this is.”
I suppose there’s always the option of amending the constitution to explicitly forbid this sort of thing.