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John E. Ponder is Of Counsel in the Real Estate, Energy, Land Use & Environmental Practice Group in the firm's San Diego office.

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

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 offices, and not officials or individuals.  Under this holding, Governor Brown did not need to comply with CEQA requirements (see Pub. Res. Code §§ 21000 et seq.) as a prerequisite to concurring with the Secretary of the Interior’s determination that the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians’ (the “North Fork Tribe”) development of a new Indian gaming establishment would benefit the North Fork Tribe and not be detrimental to the surrounding community.

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