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Lauren K. Chang is an associate in the Real Estate, Land Use and Environmental Practice Group in the firm's Los Angeles office and Leader of the Land Use Subgroup.

In March, the Southern California Association of Governments (“SCAG”)[1] will adopt final Regional Housing Needs Assessment (“RHNA”) allocations for cities and counties within the SCAG region.  This 6th RHNA cycle represents the first update to these targets since the passage of key housing legislation, including Senate Bill (“SB”) 35[2], which grants ministerial approval and streamlining of qualifying housing projects if the jurisdiction has failed to meet its RHNA targets.  Housing developers planning for potential investment can look to these production targets to assess regional and city-based needs.  Cities and counties also will update their Housing Element and other planning documents to address the need.
Continue Reading Southern California Counties To Adopt Major Housing Production Targets

In rejecting a California Environmental Quality Act challenge to a mitigated negative declaration for conversion of a vacant apartment building into a 24-room boutique hotel (the “Project”), the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed the City of Los Angeles’s use of an existing conditions baseline when assessing housing and population impacts. The decision in Hollywoodians Encouraging Rental Opportunities (HERO) v. City of Los Angeles et al. (2019) ___ Cal.App.5th ____ indicates that the time for courts to address population displacement, and more specifically affordable housing, as a CEQA-cognizable impact is fast approaching.
Continue Reading Court of Appeal Rules HERO Cannot Save Previously Vacated Rental Units

In Sierra Club v. County of Fresno (S219783), the California Supreme Court unanimously reaffirmed that the substantial evidence standard of review does not always apply when a lead agency prepares an environmental impact report (“EIR”) for a development project. Rather, the court determined that the less deferential de novo standard applies if the EIR’s discussion of a potentially significant impact has been omitted or is factually insufficient. In other words, while a lead agency has considerable discretion as to the methodology and analysis it employs to analyze a potentially significant impact, an EIR must reasonably describe the nature and magnitude of the impact (i.e., include a meaningful explanation of why an impact is significant or not) if it is to survive judicial scrutiny. In County of Fresno, the court employed the de novo standard and held that the EIR’s air quality analysis was inadequate because it did not explain the connection between the project pollutants and negative health effects or explain why it could not make such a connection.
Continue Reading California Supreme Court Clarifies Scope of De Novo and Substantial Evidence Standards Of Review In CEQA Cases

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (“OPR”) has spent five years drafting a comprehensive update to 30 sections of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) Guidelines.[1] The updated text[2] (“Final Text”) ensures the Guidelines are consistent with recent court decisions, implements legislative changes, clarifies rules governing the CEQA process, and eliminates duplicative analysis. Several changes to the Guidelines address two hot button topics: global climate change and statewide affordable housing shortages. During the deliberative process, the Agency also released its “Final Statement of Reasons for the Regulatory Action Amendment to the State Guidelines” to give more history and context to each change to the Final Text.[3]


Continue Reading Five Years in the Making: California is One Step Closer to a Comprehensive Update to the CEQA Guidelines

State lawmakers passed over 1,200 bills this year, the most in more than a decade according to sources. Governor Brown signed 1,016 into law as of September 30th. Below is a summary of the bills signed into law regulating the planning and development of housing. The majority will take effect on January 1, 2019.
Continue Reading California Housing Legislation (2017-2018)