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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 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

In the belatedly-published Environmental Council of Sacramento, et al. v. County of Sacramento (Cordova Hills, LLC, et al. – Real Parties-in-Interest) (2020) ____ Cal.App.5th ____,[1] the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed judgment against a slew of California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) claims centered on Environmental Council’s and Sierra Club’s (collectively, “Environmental Council” or “petitioners”) contention that the project at issue included a component – a university – that is ultimately not likely to be built.  More specifically, petitioners contended that because the university was not likely to be built, the environmental impact report (“EIR”) prepared pursuant to CEQA was therefore insufficient for failing to analyze the project without the university and thereby understated project impacts to things such as air quality, climate change and transportation.
Continue Reading Failure to Include A No-Build Analysis in Project Description Does Not Violate CEQA

In the fourth quarter of 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a package of housing-related legislation that included 18 individual bills. Within this package, there were a significant number of important changes aimed at addressing the statewide housing crisis through a variety of measures, including, among others mechanisms, upzoning, approval streamlining and tenant protections.[1]
Continue Reading Tenant Protection Act (AB 1482) – COMPLIANCE GUIDE

This article originally appeared in the California Lawyers Association’s “Real Property Law Journal.”

Like many other sectors in the “sharing economy,”[i] short-term rentals of residential property[ii] (“STRs”) have become a ubiquitous part of the national economy. Often labeled as one of the biggest disrupters in the travel industry, STRs are particularly impactful on the United States tourist sector, with one estimate putting the size of the domestic vacation rental market at $100 billion.[iii] The STR industry is young and, while not yet fully crystallized, flush with growing demand.[iv] The number of consumers utilizing STR options has burgeoned exponentially since 2011,[v] with a reported seven in ten millennial business travelers preferring to stay in local host rentals over more traditional lodging options.[vi]
Continue Reading Is the Popularity of Short-Term Rentals Sustainable, or Will Regulations Weaken Their Current Stronghold?

This Fall, the California Coastal Commission (“Commission”) was handed down two significant victories, further cementing its authority and jurisdiction within California coastal zones. These cases demonstrate that, in certain instances, compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Res. Code §§ 21000 et seq.) (“CEQA”) and local regulations may not be enough to secure development rights for either private developers or local governments.
Continue Reading Fall Season Results in California Coastal Commission Victories

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 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

In Fudge v. City of Laguna (G055711), published on February 13, 2019, the Fourth District Court of Appeal joined the First and Sixth Districts by reaffirming the need for a litigant to wait for the California Coastal Commission’s (“Commission”) determination on the appeal of a coastal development permit (“CDP”) prior to initiating litigation.

The key takeaway here is that a local agency’s California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) determination in cases where a CDP has been appealed is not final for purposes of adjudication if the Commission has not ruled on the appeal. While the exhaustion of administrative remedies doctrine is well established, this decision is unique in that it applies the doctrine even where a judicial challenge alleges only CEQA violations, providing insight into the relationship between CEQA and the Coastal Act. Moreover, this decision also addresses the extent to which the Commission’s standard of review is de novo.
Continue Reading CDP Applicant May Not Challenge Local Agency’s CEQA Decision on Coastal Development Permit While CDP Appeal to Coastal Commission Is Pending

California has positioned itself as a leader on emerging cannabis policy. While federal law still prohibits cannabis-related activities within the State’s borders, several largely progressive laws in California permit the possession, cultivation, transportation, and distribution of cannabis. The effects of the burgeoning cannabis industry are far-reaching, and have already proven to significantly impact the real estate industry. This Article addresses the history of cannabis regulation within California, the legality of various land use approaches employed by jurisdictions throughout the state and some of the nuances a property owner should consider when negotiating a commercial lease with a tenant who intends to use the premises for a cannabis-related use.
Continue Reading Cannabis Regulation is the New Frontier in Real Estate and Land Use Control

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