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Whitney Hodges is a partner in the Real Estate, Land Use and Natural Resources Practice Group in the firm's San Diego office and leader of the firm’s Cannabis Industry Team

In Alliance for Responsible Planning v. Taylor, the Third District Court of Appeal recently struck down a voter initiative requiring a developer to fund all cumulative traffic mitigation as a condition precedent to project approval as an unconstitutional taking.  More specifically, the Court found that El Dorado County’s Measure E, which was adopted in 2016 and amended the County of El Dorado general plan (General Plan) to require developers to fund traffic improvements prior to the issuance of discretionary approvals needed to develop the remainder of the project, would require a development pay more than its fair share.
Continue Reading Mandate to Provide Traffic Improvements Prior to Project Approval Struck Down

Effective February 1, 2021, the California Legislature and Governor Gavin Newsom approved  Senate Bill (“SB”) 91 – Eviction Protection and Relief Act in further response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  In essence, SB 91 extends core tenant protections established by August 2020’s Assembly Bill (“AB”) 3088,[1] but also establishes the State Rental Assistance Program, provides rental assistance for landlords and tenants, and closes existing loopholes in AB 3088.
Continue Reading California Legislature Extends Residential Eviction Moratorium and Implements Rental Assistance Program for Landlords and Tenants

Late last week, in an effort to control the increase of COVID-19 cases and stabilize the overwhelming hospital systems,[1] California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a new Regional Stay At Home Order (December Order) based on Intensive Care Unit (ICU) bed capacity.  Under the December Order, if the available ICU capacity dips below 15% in any of the 5 designated regions, said region will be placed into a stay-at-home order.  Such order will go into effect at 11:59 p.m. following the day the region hits the ICU threshold, and will continue until the region’s total available adult ICU bed capacity is greater than or equal to 15% projected over 4 weeks.  If the December Order is in effect in a region, it supersedes any conflicting terms in other California Department of Public Health order, directive or guidance.  Once the stay-at-home order lifts for any impacted region, the December Order will no longer apply and each county in said region will be assigned to a tier based on the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.
Continue Reading Regional Stay at Home Order Implemented in California

While the results are yet to be certified, it is clear, a week after Election Day, that Californians have rejected both Proposition 15 – The California Schools and Local Communities Act of 2020 (“Prop. 15”)[1] and Proposition 21 – Rental Affordability Act (“Prop. 21”).[2]  Despite this most recent response from the electorate, it is likely that real property tax “reform” and rent control will continue to be a topic of conversation during the next legislative cycle and appear on future ballots.
Continue Reading California Voters Reject Ballot Measures Related to Rent Control and Property Tax

During the eleventh hour of the 2020 legislative session, the California Legislature approved 2 significant bills in response to the COVID-19 pandemic with the potential to have far-reaching ramifications for mortgage servicers.
Continue Reading Residential Eviction Protections and California Consumer Financial Protections Pass Muster During 2020 Legislative Session

After a nearly two-year wait, in Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus (2020) __ Cal.5th ____ (POWER), the California Supreme Court unanimously rejected the County of Stanislaus’s (County) bright-line categorization that all groundwater well construction permits are ministerial, and therefore not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  In an interesting twist, the Supreme Court also rejected the petitioner’s alternative “all or nothing” position that, if the permits are not ministerial, they must be discretionary and conditioned on CEQA compliance.  Instead, the Supreme Court held the decision of whether each permit is ministerial or discretionary hinges on the specific language of the governing ordinance and regulatory controls.[1]
Continue Reading California Supreme Courts Holds Categorical Classification of Well Permits As Exclusively “Ministerial” Does Not Hold Water

This article originally appeared in the California Lawyers Association’s Real Property, Environmental and Public Law Journals Joint Issue.

As society responds to the COVID-19 pandemic, states and local governments across the United States, including the State of California, issued shelter-in place (“SIP”) orders[i] to prevent its spread. While intended to benefit Americans in the long run, these actions have resulted in massive and largely unprecedented disruptions in the economy, including record levels of unemployment and sharply limiting the ability of businesses to provide, and customers to purchase, goods and services.[ii] The effects of the pandemic are wide spread and have created financial hardships for individuals and families in every state and locality, as well as inexplicable shortages of toilet paper.[iii]


Continue Reading The Pandemic’s Impacts on Developers and Contractors May Call for Seldom-Used Relief: An Overview of the Principles of Force Majeure, Impracticability, and Frustration of Purpose

In Granny Purps v. County of Santa Cruz, the Sixth District Court of Appeal green-lit a medical cannabis cultivator’s ability to pursue damages – to the tune of potentially $3.5M – from the County of Santa Cruz when it determined the County cannot rely on zoning ordinance to seize the cultivator’s plants grown in violation of local regulation. Specifically, the Sixth District found that, while the County is not compelled to return seized property if the property is illegal, the local ordinance at issue “ultimately regulates land use within the County; it does not (nor could it) render illegal a substance that is legal under state law.”
Continue Reading County Zoning Ordinance Cannot be Used to Justify Property Seizure

The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) recently published a final rule (Rule) revising the implementing regulations for the National Environmental Quality Act (42 U.S.C. § 4321 et seq ) (NEPA).  Touted as the first comprehensive revision of CEQ’s NEPA regulations since their creation in 1978, the stated goal of the Rule includes facilitating more efficient, effective, and timely NEPA review by federal agencies.
Continue Reading Final Revisions to NEPA Regulations: Six Highlights from Major Rule Overhaul

On April 23, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order N-54-20 (EO) which, in part, addresses an outstanding question related to the California Environmental Quality Act’s (CEQA) “public review” requirements, which quickly became problematic upon closure of the locations typically used to house and post CEQA-related documents.  These closures, which impact government buildings like the County Recorder’s Office, are just one of the many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and resultant stay-at-home orders issued in an attempt to safeguard the public and flatten the curve.  Under this EO, while the time periods for public review remain the same, all requirements related to public filing, posting, notice, and public access to draft and final documents set forth in CEQA and the CEQA Guidelines, are exempted and suspended for the next 60 days (until June 22nd), including the Notice of Preparation, Notice of Comment Period, Notice of Intent to Adopt an EIR, Negative Declaration/Mitigated Negative Declaration, Notice of Determination and Notice of Exemption[1] so long as certain substitute procedures are followed.
Continue Reading Digital CEQA: New Executive Order Creates An Alternative Path For Complying With CEQA Notice, Posting And Public Review Requirements

In a continued effort to take aggressive steps to protect the health and welfare of its citizens from COVID-19, the City of San Diego (“City”) enacted a temporary moratorium on evictions to provide relief to residential and commercial tenants facing financial hardship related to the pandemic (the “Ordinance”) and established a Small Business Relief Fund (“SBRF”) to provide grants and forgivable or low-to zero-interest-rate loans to eligible small businesses for working capital.

Here is what you need to know about the Ordinance and the SBRF Program.


Continue Reading San Diego Responds to COVID-19 with Local Programs to Protect the Health of both Citizens and Businesses