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The belatedly published South of Market Community Action Network v. City and County of San Francisco (2019) ___ Cal.App.5th ___ (“South of Market”), is the first published decision in which the court applies the principles articulated by the California Supreme Court in the recent Sierra Club v. County of Fresno decision (commonly referred to as “Friant Ranch”) regarding the standard of review for the adequacy of an EIR (discussed in detail here).

The challenged EIR in South of Market set forth two proposed schemes for a mixed‑use development (the “5M Project”) on a 4-acre site in downtown San Francisco: an “Office Scheme” and a “Residential Scheme.” Under both schemes, the overall gross square footage was substantially the same, with varying mixes of office and residential uses. Additionally, each scheme would result in new active ground floor space, office use, residential dwellings, and open space. Both schemes would also preserve and rehabilitate the Chronicle and Dempster Printing Buildings, demolish other buildings on site and construct new buildings ranging from 195 to 470 feet in height.

Petitioners alleged a litany of CEQA violations in their petition, including claims regarding traffic and circulation, open space, inconsistencies with area plans and policies, and the adequacy of the statement of overriding considerations. Applying existing law and specifically relying on Friant Ranch, the South of Market court looked to whether the EIR at issue contained the details necessary for informed decision-making and public participation. The court emphasized that when assessing the legal sufficiency of an EIR, perfection is not required as long as a good faith effort at full disclosure has been made. Contrary to the petitioners’ allegations, the court held this standard was met here, demonstrating that, in this case at least, Friant Ranch does not appear to have led to a significantly different approach to resolving the various CEQA challenges alleged in the petition for writ of mandate.

To avoid redundancy and for the sake of brevity, the remainder of this post will address in detail only the more novel and/or nuanced holdings of the court.
Continue Reading EIR for Downtown San Francisco Mixed-Use Project Upheld Under Supreme Court’s Newly Articulated Standard of Review

Pacific Shores Property Owners Association v. Department of Fish and Wildlife (1/20/16, C070201)

On January 20, 2016, the Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District of California ruled that where a state agency assumes control of a local flood control process, and it determines to provide less flood protection than historically provided by a local agency in order to protect environmental resources, the state agency is liable in inverse condemnation for a physical taking of plaintiffs’ property, and not liable for a regulatory one. However, the agency also acquires a flowage easement as a result of the taking and the compensation provided to the property‑owners.
Continue Reading State Agency’s Intentional Flooding for Environmental Protection Results in Physical Taking of Private Property – Strict Liability Applies

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 sufficiently detailed deadlines and enforceable measures to ensure specified greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions by 2020 or to put the County on a trajectory to achieve 2050 GHG emission reductions identified in Executive Order S-3-05 as required by the County’s General Plan Update.  Second, it held the County failed to analyze the environmental impacts of the CAP itself or to incorporate mitigation measures directly into the CAP as required by CEQA Guidelines 15183.5(b)(1)(D) and Public Resources Code 21081.6(b).  Accordingly, the court granted the Sierra Club’s petition to require enforceable mitigation and ordered the County to prepare a supplemental EIR.

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

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 for failing to adequately analyze and mitigate GHG emissions in light of the standards set forth in Executive Order S-03-05.  Despite the EIR’s analysis of the Regional Transportation Plan’s GHG emissions against specific regional reduction targets for 2020 and 2035, the majority determined the EIR did not amount to a reasonable, good faith effort to disclose and evaluate GHG emissions due to its lack of analysis surrounding the plan’s potential conflict with the Executive Order.

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

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 for alignment, (2) the Town’s experts could not show the Authority’s revenue and ridership model was inadequate or unsupported, and (3) the Authority’s Program EIR considered an adequate range of alternatives despite rejecting an alternative proposed by one expert consulting company.

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