Golden Gate University Environmental Law Journal


Section I of this Comment surveys the brownfield problem and provides background. It notes the conflicting views of environmentalists and developers toward brownfield remediation and outlines the federal and California laws that govern cleanup of contaminated properties. Section II of this Comment examines the effect of uncertainty on liability risk and investment risk, proposing that brownfield developments be municipally led in partnership with redevelopment agencies. It also notes that municipal control of land use, eminent domain, and tax incentives make municipal public-sector leadership of brownfield projects effective. The section notes national concern over property rights, suggesting that condemnation of contaminated property provides an additional public-use justification for redevelopment. The section argues that planning and environmental justice concerns are best addressed at the municipal level early in the development process. It notes that notice and open-government laws, combined with the political pressure of electoral politics, are an existing if imperfect means of addressing planning and environmental justice concerns. The section posits that municipalities should lead brownfield projects only when the affected communities demand that they do so and the gains from redevelopment are great. Section III concludes that remediation is possible in the existing legal and policy framework, but advisable only when the gains are great and environmental justice concerns are addressed by the planning process and final development.

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