Now Playing

This Golden State Podcast: Gavin Newsom Vows to Fight the Border Wall with Hellish Bureaucracy

California will drown bigotry the best way it knows how: with endless CEQA appeals.

This Golden State is a podcast from veteran broadcast journalist Randy Shandobil. Click above to play.

San Francisco magazine and This Golden State podcast are collaborating on “The Resistance,” a portfolio devoted to the agitators, political leaders, and change agents who are fighting the incoming Trump administration on all fronts. San Francisco’s February issue will be devoted to the Resistance, with audio interviews conducted by veteran broadcast journalist Randy Shandobil, host of This Golden State. We’ll be posting Shandobil’s interviews online as they become available. 

In these last
days before the inauguration, legions of Democrats are trying to decide which Trump they must prepare to fight. Trump the demagogue, riding a wave of white supremacist backlash? Trump the dictator apologist? Trump the potential nuclear proliferator? “One thing that’s certain is the uncertainty of the moment,” lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom tells This Golden State’s Randy Shandobil.

But on at least one issue, Gavin sees Trump for what he is: a corner-cutting real estate developer with a probably illegal building project. When Shandobil asks how California can fight back against Trump’s “beautiful,” Mexico-funded border wall, Newsom gives perhaps the most California answer ever: CEQA, aka the California Environmental Quality Act, aka the litigation equivalent of death by a thousand cuts. “There’s something called CEQA in California—NEPA at the federal level,” says the former S.F. mayor. “There’s indigenous lands and autonomies relating to governance on those lands. There are all kinds of obstructions as it relates to just getting zoning approval and getting building permits. All those things could be made very, very challenging for the administration.” Spoken like a true San Franciscan!

As bureaucratic quagmires go, CEQA has proved itself effective at killing, or at least massively delaying and driving up costs on, everything from tall buildings to affordable housing to the Warriors arena, which finally exited the appeals process in November. And as a contributor to our godawful housing crunch, it’s a cudgel Californians beat ourselves with as much as the other guy.

So we gotta hand it to Gavin taking one of California’s biggest headaches and sicking it on something genuinely terrible: an expensive, fruitless, narcissistic scheme fueled by racism and a disregard for the realities of geography. We may not be able to house everyone affordably in this state, but if there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s wage CEQA war.


Have feedback? Email us at
Email Lamar Anderson at
Follow us on Twitter @sanfranmag
Follow Lamar Anderson on Twitter @srslynow