Election 2014: Kuehl, Shriver differ on landmark environmental law

Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver after a debate in Studio City sponsored by the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils.
Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver after a debate in Studio City sponsored by the Valley Alliance of Neighborhood Councils.
Maya Sugarman & Benjamin Brayfield/ KPCC

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Although both declared they strongly support the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, Sheila Kuehl and Bobby Shriver said Thursday night they would apply it differently to one high profile project.

Shriver said he supported Governor Brown’s decision to sign a law that will fast-track CEQA court challenges to a proposed $1.2 billion football stadium in downtown Los Angeles. If the stadium is ever built, the 2011 law will send challenges directly to an appeals court.

“They felt that was an important enough job creator for the whole community that it should be expedited,” Shriver said. “I favor that.”

“I did not think that was a good idea at all,” Kuehl said. She argued the law allows stadium developers to bypass an important “fact-finding” process by lower trial courts.

Kuehl, a former state legislator, accused Brown of “cherry picking” the stadium for special treatment under CEQA, which requires an analysis of how projects affect everything from traffic to air pollution.

At the same time, she has supported deadlines to speed CEQA court challenges, Kuehl told an audience of about 100 at a debate sponsored by the Valley Alliance for Neighborhood Councils. It was held inside Carla’s Café at the CBS Studios in Studio City. 

Business groups including the LA Area Chamber of Commerce see Shriver, a former Santa Monica City Councilman, as more friendly to their interests on issues like CEQA, and have endorsed him. Labor unions back Kuehl. Thursday, the Los Angeles Time also endorsed her.

Kuehl, 73, and Shriver, 60, are seeking to represent the Third District on the county board, which stretches from Malibu to Hollywood and includes most of the San Fernando Valley. Incumbent Zev Yaroslavsky is termed out of office. The election is November 4.

The two also expressed slightly different views of a decision by the county board this week to continue a partnership between the Sheriff’s Department and federal immigration authorities. The controversial program is intended to identify undocumented immigrants in the jails who have been convicted of serious crimes so they can be deported.

Shriver said he would have voted to end the program. “I think it traps too many misdemeanor people,” he said, referring to people who commit less serious crimes.

Kuehl also expressed concerns that the program sweeps up too many people, but said she wasn’t prepared to end it. She said she would have asked county lawyers to provide a better assessment of which inmates are being detained for immigration authorities. "I don't think it was clearly delineated" by the board, she said.

The two Democrats agreed on many issues during friendly exchanges that have characterized their debates. Both support an increase in the minimum wage. Both support a rail line through the Sepulveda Pass. Both support the creation of a citizen’s commission to oversee the Sheriff’s Department.

Voters like Krista Michaels are struggling to decide between the two candidates. The Cahuenga Pass resident came to the event hoping to figure out how to cast her ballot.

“I wish I could tell you I was strongly swayed in one direction or the other,” said Michaels, who owns an architectural signage company. “But I wasn’t.”

“I think they would both be great,” she added.

Michaels also said she will not be influenced by Shriver’s lineage. He is the nephew of President John F. Kennedy.

“I’m voting on who these people are.”