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Justin Mahramas is an associate in the Real Estate, Energy, Land Use & Environmental Practice Group in the firm's Los Angeles office.

The 2023 legislative cycle saw another mixed-bag of legislation dealing with CEQA “reform,” with a particular focus on streamlining affordable housing development.[1] While many bills died during the process, a few key laws were passed or extended over the past year. A brief recap of those bills and their impact on CEQA is provided below.[2] Continue Reading CEQA 2023 Legislative Update

On July 6, 2023, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass signed into law a provision to exempt certain affordable housing projects from the city’s Site Plan Review Process. The exemption was made as an amendment to Site Plan Review Ordinance, codifying part of Mayor Bass’ Executive Directive 1, which intends to address the city’s homelessness crisis by accelerating the pace and lowering the cost of building affordable housing.Continue Reading Los Angeles Mayor Signs New Legislation Exempting Affordable Housing Projects from Site Plan Review

In the City of Los Angeles, the “Homelessness and Housing Solutions Tax” (Measure ULA), commonly referred to as the “mansion tax,” went into effect on all qualifying real property transfers on April 1, 2023. Prior to Measure ULA, all real estate transfers in the City were subject to a City transfer tax of 0.45% and a County of Los Angeles transfer tax of 0.11%. Under Measure ULA, residential and commercial real property sales and transfers valued at or over $5 million, but less than $10 million, are subject to an additional tax of 4%. Sales and transfers valued at or over $10 million are subject to an additional tax of 5.5%. The Los Angeles Times noted that, based on the Multiple Listing Service, in March 2023 there were 126 homes and condominiums listed over $5 million in the City and in April, there were only two.[1] Understandably so, in anticipation of Measure ULA, owners and developers rushed to try to close escrow prior to the April 1st effective date.Continue Reading Measure ULA May Not Measure Up

Two significant changes to California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) noticing and filing requirements and procedures recently took effect.  First, on September 23, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom signed Executive Order N-80-20 (“Order“), which conditionally suspends certain requirements for filing, noticing, and posting of CEQA documents with county clerk offices.  The Order provides an alternate means of complying with those requirements during the current pandemic, and extends the prior suspension by Executive Order N-54-20.[1]  It will remain in effect until it is modified or rescinded, or until the COVID-related State of Emergency instituted on March 4, 2020 is terminated, whichever occurs sooner.
Continue Reading Significant Changes to State CEQA Filing and Noticing Requirements and Procedures

On July 30, 2019, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved an update to the “Transportation” section of the City’s California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) Threshold Guide.  City Council’s action has effectively updated the framework for evaluating traffic impact analysis to a vehicle miles traveled (“VMT”) metric in accordance with updated CEQA Guidelines section 15064.3 and Senate Bill 743.  Per the City’s Planning Department, by shifting to a VMT-centric analysis, the City will be better positioned to assess potential impacts on the City’s transportation system, as well as meet its climate change goals. Interestingly, while the City Council action is complete, there is still a bit of confusion at the City as to how the VMT metric will, in practice, be phased in for projects already in the planning process. 
Continue Reading Following Suit – City of Los Angeles Updates CEQA Guide to Include VMT Methodology Ahead of State-Imposed Deadline

In Sacramentans for Fair Planning v. City of Sacramento (2019) ___ Cal.App. 5th ___, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld the City of Sacramento’s use of a sustainable communities environmental assessment (“SCEA”) pursuant to the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (SB 375), rather than a more traditional CEQA document (i.e., an environmental impact report or mitigated negative declaration), when it approved the Yamanee development (the “Project”) as a transit priority project (“TPP”). The mixed-use Project comprised one floor of commercial space, three levels of parking, 134 residential condominiums and one floor of residential amenities, for a total of 177,032 square feet on a 0.44-acre site. The Project also included inconsistencies with the City’s general plan density and building intensity standards. The court rejected arguments that the City improperly utilized a regional transportation and greenhouse gas (“GHG”) reduction plan in approving the SCEA; or that the SCEA should have further analyzed the Project’s cumulative impacts, and not relied on tiering off past EIRs. The holding further affirms the innovative and beneficial use of SCEAs in streamlining environmental review for qualifying TPPs.
Continue Reading Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment Upheld Under CEQA