It seems the battle over CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) reform to reduce wait time for development and discourage lawsuits is finding some success — that is if you have friends in high places with projects to champion.

Say you want a downtown basketball arena in Sacramento and the president pro tem of the senate sees this as a valuable project. He can help push legislation to speed up environmental reviews and undercut lawsuits.

Or say that you’re the governor of the state and your legacy project is a high-speed rail that could be stalled by CEQA rules. Support changes to lower those barriers.

How about billionaire businessmen who want to build football stadiums in or around Los Angeles to help lure a National Football League team. Both in 2009 and 2011 such plans found a friendly legislature willing to pass rules to prevent CEQA from becoming an obstacle to the building.

Wouldn’t it be better just to reform CEQA all at once instead of make piecemeal changes for favored projects?

In each case mentioned above, the big argument for the legislation was to quicken the pace of development and supply jobs to the community. When Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the legislation in support of a Los Angeles area football stadium, he said, “This is the best kind of action state government can create — action that cuts red tape, generates jobs, is environmentally friendly and brings a continued economic boost to California.”

The question is: why do specific plans get special privilege when similar arguments for boosting jobs and reducing nuisance lawsuits can apply to many proposed projects?

To be sure, both Governor Jerry Brown and Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg have argued that CEQA reform is overdue. Brown has complained about the obstacles CEQA throws up to worthwhile projects, while Steinberg is pushing a piece of CEQA reform legislation that molds to the goals of his SB 375, which promotes infill building and land use planning.

But if there is a message to be gained from the actions of officials who seek to reduce CEQA obstacles to their favored projects, it is that California development and the state’s economic health are carrying chains created by overregulation and lawsuit abuse.

The elected officials who seek to move along favorite projects should consider the benefit to all Californians if the CEQA law received a fair upgrade for all projects that would not lose sight of the law’s original goal while at the same time encouraging a boost to the economy and job growth.  Development is not a bad word, especially, if the word “job” comes before it.