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Whitney Hodges is a partner in the Real Estate, Energy, Land Use & Environmental Practice Group in the firm's San Diego office. She is the leader of the firm’s Cannabis Industry Team and serves on the firm's Pro Bono, Recruiting and Diversity & Inclusion committees, as well as numerous industry specific teams.

For many in the cannabis industry, April 1, 2022 is seen as a day of reckoning following the July 2021 passage of Assembly Bill 141 and Senate Bill 160 (collectively, the Cannabis Trailer Bill).  In an attempt to transition to an annual licensure program, April 1st marked the beginning of the end for provisional cannabis licensure.  It also ushered in significant changes to renewal process for previously granted provisional licenses.  These modifications now require applicants to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Res. Code §§ 21000 et seq.) (CEQA), a complex statewide policy of environmental protection fraught with potential traps for those unversed in the law, before an operator is eligible to be awarded a cannabis state license.  This requirement alone carries the potential to create a much higher barrier to entrance into the cannabis market.
Continue Reading No April Fools: Starting April 1st, Cannabis Operators Face CEQA Compliance Requirements for State Licenses

In Citizens’ Committee to Complete the Refuge et al. v. City of Newark et al., the First District Court of Appeal (Div. 4) found the California Environmental Quality Act did not require subsequent or supplemental environmental review for the City of Newark’s approval of a 469‑lot residential subdivision project.  Instead, the court affirmed the City’s use of Government Code section 65457’s CEQA exemption for projects consistent with a “specific plan” for which a environmental impact report (EIR) was previously certified.
Continue Reading Petitioners Failed to Show Subdivision Consistent With a Specific Plan EIR Was Outside the Scope of a Statutory Exemption

On September 16th, hot off the heels of surviving California’s latest recall effort, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation aimed at addressing the statewide housing crisis – a critical topic leading up to last week’s election.  The suite of bills, Senate Bills (SB) 8, 9 and 10 and Assembly Bill (AB) 1174, coupled with the recently announced California Comeback Plan, carry the potential to expand housing production, streamline permitting and promote density closer to major employment hubs.

Continue Reading California Enacts New Legislation to Combat Growing Housing Crisis, But Not Without Controversy

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