Category Archives: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

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High Court Upholds Long-Term GHG Emissions Analysis, But Warns Agencies to Keep Pace with Regulatory Advancements: Lessons from Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. SANDAG

Cleveland National Forest Foundation, et al. v. San Diego Association of Governments (2017) __ Cal. 5th __, Supreme Court Case No., S223603 Judicial deference to a lead agency’s determination regarding the proper greenhouse gas (“GHG”) threshold for a project California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) remains a swinging pendulum.  The California Supreme Court recently upheld the San Diego … Continue Reading

Challenge to Ordinance Prohibiting Mobile Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Goes Up in Smoke

Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of Upland (3/25/16, D069293) In 2007, the City of Upland banned both fixed and mobile medical marijuana dispensaries from any zone within the City’s limits. Presumably this ban applied to mobile dispensaries delivering marijuana into the City from locations outside the City.  However, in 2013, the City … Continue Reading

Changing Protected Status of Land Requires CEQA Compliance

Paulek v. Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority (Anheuser-Busch, LLC, Real Party in Interest) (6/19/2015, 4th Civil No. B253935) (opn. modified on denial of rehearing, http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E059133M.PDF.) In Paulek v. Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority, the California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, held that removal of the protected status from a parcel of land still needs to comply … Continue Reading

Abuse of Discretion Not Shown By Court’s Failure To “Show Its Arithmetic” in Significantly Reducing Claimed Attorney Fees in CEQA Litigation

In Save Our Uniquely Rural Community Environment v. County of San Bernardino, __  Cal.App.4th ___, 2015 WL 1259781 (4th Dist., Div. 2, 2015) (SOURCE) , the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision to significantly reduce plaintiff Save Our Rural Community Environment’s (SOURCE) claim for attorney fees[1] from $231,098 to $19,176.  The … Continue Reading

CEQA “Common Sense” Exemption Upheld; Environmental Baseline for Project Following Improvements Pursuant to an Emergency Exemption Clarified

CREED-21 v. City of San Diego (2/18/2015, 4th Civil No. D064186) The Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld a CEQA exemption related to the City of San Diego’s approval of a project comprising emergency storm drainage repair and site revegetation. The decision addressed various CEQA issues, including the environmental baseline determination, the “common sense” exemption, and the … Continue Reading

Sacramento Kings Win Again; Second CEQA Challenge Rejected

Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento (2/18/2015, 3d Civil No. C077772). For prior post on a related case, see here. The Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District of California has ruled in favor of the City of Sacramento with regard to a series of challenges brought under CEQA to certification of an EIR and approval of … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Announces New Test for CEQA “Unusual Circumstances” Exception

Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley (2015) ___ Cal.4th ___, Case No. S201116 This week the California Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in the Berkeley Hillside case, which considered whether the City of Berkeley properly exempted a large single-family home on a hillside lot from CEQA review. The court’s lengthy opinion announced a new … Continue Reading

Undisclosed Change in Building Height Requires Supplemental EIR

Ventura Foothill Neighbors v. County of Ventura (12/15/14, 2d Civil No. B254120) The Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District of California has ruled that (i) a 20% increase in the actual height of a building over the stated height in the certified EIR required Ventura County to prepare a supplemental EIR rather than an … Continue Reading

City of Los Angeles Outsources Defense of CEQA/Land Use Lawsuits To Private Law Firms – Developers To Foot The Bill

On December 16, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously authorized the City Attorney to establish a Land Use/CEQA Panel, which will consist of five municipal law firms, to defend the City in CEQA and land use lawsuits that challenge the entitlements for private development projects, and to require that the project applicant reimburse the City … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court to Review Denial of Homeowner’s Private Beach Access

In the case of Lynch v. California Coastal Commission (D064120; Cal.App.4th 658; San Diego Superior Court; 37-2011-00058666-CU-WM-NC), the California Supreme Court has granted a petition for review of the decision by the Fourth Appellate District (Division One) upholding a prior decision in which the California Coastal Commission denied bluff-top homeowners’ petition for a coastal development permit … Continue Reading

County of San Diego’s Adopted Climate Action Plan Violates CEQA: Fails to Include Enforceable GHG Reduction Measures

Sierra Club v. County of San Diego (10/29/14, D064243) On October 29, 2014, the Fourth District California Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed the trial court’s decision in favor of Sierra Club, agreeing that the County of San Diego’s adopted Climate Action Plan (CAP) violated CEQA. First, the court held the County’s adopted CAP failed to provide … Continue Reading

Fourth District’s Split Decision Further Complicates CEQA Requirements Surrounding GHG Impact Analysis and Mitigation Measures – Dissent Warns Majority Opinion Will Weaken and Confuse the Law

Cleveland National Forest Foundation v. San Diego Association of Governments (11/24/14, D063288) In a split decision on November 24, 2014, the Fourth District California Court of Appeal invalidated the program EIR for San Diego Association of Governments’ (SANDAG) 2050 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy (Regional Transportation Plan). The court found the EIR in violation of CEQA … Continue Reading

Legislature Can Amend CEQA to Expedite Construction of Sacramento Kings Arena

Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento (11/20/14, C077031) The NBA owns the right to acquire and relocate the Sacramento Kings if a new arena is not completed and open in downtown Sacramento by 2017.  The City and the Kings have targeted an October 2016 opening to avoid this outcome.  To facilitate construction, the California Legislature added Section … Continue Reading

UPDATE: Comment Period for OPR Rethink of CEQA Guidelines on Transportation Impacts Extended Until November 21, 2014

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) has extended the comment period for its draft of changes to the way that transportation impacts are analyzed under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  The new deadline for submission of comments is November 21, 2014.  OPR is proposing significant changes in the way transportation impacts should … Continue Reading

Tribe’s Gamble That Casino Land Transfer Approval Not Subject to CEQA Pays Off

Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians v. Brown, C074506 (9/24/2014) In a recent Third District Court of Appeal published opinion, the court in Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians v. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (3rd. Dist. 2014) strictly interpreted the California Environmental Quality Act’s definition of “public agency,” holding that it only applies to governmental bodies or … Continue Reading

Homeowners “Bluffed” Out Of Challenge To Coastal Permit To Rebuild Private Access Stairs

Barbara Lynch et al. v. California Coastal Commission (9/9/14, D064120) To read an updated posting on this case, please click here. The Court of Appeals for the Fourth Appellate District (Division One) has held that homeowners who accepted the benefit of a coastal development permit (“CDP”) for seawall reconstruction to protect  their bluff-top homes cannot subsequently challenge … Continue Reading

Level of Detail Adequate in High Speed Rail Authority’s Program EIR for Central Valley to Bay Area Rail Corridor

Town of Atherton v. California High‑Speed Rail Authority (7/24/14, C070877) The appellate court upheld the California High‑Speed Rail Authority’s Program EIR for the Central Valley to Bay Area portion of the route, concluding that (1) the Authority properly limited its environmental analysis to a program level when it deferred site-specific analysis of the vertical profile options … Continue Reading

No CEQA Review Required For Initiative Measures, Whether Adopted By City Council Or Voters

Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., et al. (8/7/14, S207173) The Supreme Court of California has held that CEQA review was not required before the Sonora City Council adopted an initiative measure approving a specific plan for expansion of a Wal-Mart store.  The court held that: (1) the Elections Code, which requires … Continue Reading

Collateral Estoppel Bars Copy-Cat Environmental Plaintiff in New Case After Judgment

Roberson v. City of Rialto (4th Dist., Div. 2, 5/21/2014, E058187) The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment denying a petition for writ of mandate to invalidate project approvals for the construction of a large commercial retail center in the City of Rialto (the “City”) to be anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter.  The court … Continue Reading

EIR Air Quality Analysis Insufficient: Lack of Specificity Regarding Human Health Impacts, Mitigation Measure Enforceability, and Evidence Supporting Measures’ Effectiveness in Substantially Reducing Air Quality Impacts Blamed

Sierra Club et al. v. County of Fresno et al., (Friant Ranch, L.P.) (5th Dist., 05/27/2014, F066798) Faced with an appeal of the Superior Court of Fresno’s approval of a controversial Environmental Impact Report, the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed and found that the challenged EIR violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to … Continue Reading

CEQA Class 3 Categorical Exemptions Permitted for AT&T Installations

San Francisco Beautiful v. City & County of San Francisco (1st. Dist., Div. 4, 5/30/2014) The First District Court of Appeal held that AT&T’s proposed installation of new utility cabinets in the City of San Francisco fell within CEQA’s Class 3 categorical exemption for the “installation of small new equipment and facilities in small structures.”  The … Continue Reading

Preexisting Management Plan Not a “Mitigation Measure” for Purposes of CEQA Exemption

A preexisting management plan intended to minimize environmental effects of recurring facility operations and events is not a “proposed mitigation measure” for purposes of determining whether an event qualifies for a CEQA categorical exemption, a state Court of Appeal has held.  In Citizens for Environmental Responsibility v. California, the Court of Appeal upheld the exemption … Continue Reading

CEQA Requires Separate Evaluation Of Mitigation Measures And Alternatives Even Where Mitigation Measures Are Incorporated Into Project Design

In Trisha Lee Lotus et al. v Department of Transportation et al. (1st Dist., Div. 4, 1/30/14 A137315) ___ Cal.App.___ ____, 2014, the court of appeal upheld a claim by the appellants that Caltrans failed to comply with CEQA because its EIR did not consider potential mitigation measures aimed at lessening the impact of the … Continue Reading

New “Potentially Feasible” Alternative Does Not Trigger Draft EIR Recirculation Unless Considered “Significant New Information”; No Findings Needed to Reject Alternative As Infeasible

In South County Citizens for Smart Growth v. County of Nevada (3d Dist., 10/8/13 C067764) ____Cal.App.4th _____, 2013, the court of appeal rejected a claim that Nevada County violated CEQA by failing to recirculate an EIR when a project was modified after circulation of the draft EIR and a similar but competing alternative proposed by staff … Continue Reading
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