In it’s recent decision in United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles v. City of Los Angeles (2023) ___ Cal.App.5th ___, the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment voiding the City of Los Angeles’s reliance on the CEQA Class 32 Infill Exemption for a hotel project in Hollywood that would demolish 40 rent-stabilized units (RSO). In upholding the trial court decision, the appellate court emphasized the City’s failure to adequately assess the Project’s consistency with all applicable general plan policies, as required by CEQA Guidelines section 15332(a).Continue Reading Second District Addresses CEQA’s Class 32 Infill Exemption Criteria
In late June, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld a Superior Court decision in Save Our Access v. City of San Diego, providing clarity for determining when a “later activity” is beyond the scope of an existing Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Specifically, the Court held that a proposed ballot measure initiated by the City of San Diego to exclude the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area from a voter-enacted height limit did not qualify as a “later activity” within the scope of the existing PEIR for the Community Plan Update because the PEIR relied on the height limit in its analysis of the potential environmental impacts. The Court held that the proper remedy is for the City to conduct further analysis of the potential impact of taller buildings in the Community Plan area in order to comply with CEQA before proceeding with the ballot measure.Continue Reading California Court Holds Proposed Ballot Measure Excluding Community Plan Area from Height Limit Is Not a “Later Activity” For Purposes of a Within-the-Scope Analysis
On July 6, 2023, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass signed into law a provision to exempt certain affordable housing projects from the city’s Site Plan Review Process. The exemption was made as an amendment to Site Plan Review Ordinance, codifying part of Mayor Bass’ Executive Directive 1, which intends to address the city’s homelessness crisis by accelerating the pace and lowering the cost of building affordable housing.Continue Reading Los Angeles Mayor Signs New Legislation Exempting Affordable Housing Projects from Site Plan Review
On July 10, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a package of bills intended to accelerate critical infrastructure projects across the State aimed at achieving monumental climate and clean energy goals while also creating up to 400,000 jobs. With the goal of “building more, faster,” this infrastructure streamlining package will take effect immediately, and includes portions of Newsom’s previously proposed infrastructure package reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).Continue Reading Build More, Faster? Newsom Signs Infrastructure and Budget Legislation
On June 13, 2023, the Second Appellate District affirmed the City of Pomona’s use of a statutory exemption for its Commercial Cannabis Overlay Permit Program under California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines section 15183, finding that the program required no additional environmental review. The decision in Lucas v. City of Pomona is noteworthy for the appellate court’s broad interpretation of the statutory exemption, holding that (i) the City’s zoning ordinance, General Plan Update, and environmental impact report (EIR) that do not address “density” may be exempt under CEQA Guidelines section 15183, and (ii) uses, including cannabis-related uses, that are not literally included in land use plan documents, may be determined to be sufficiently similar to existing and defined land uses allowed by underlying zoning.Continue Reading Commercial Cannabis Permit Program and Overlay District Statutorily Exempt Under CEQA Guideline Section 15183
On May 19, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a legislative package of 10 bills reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) intended to speed up construction of clean energy projects by streamlining regulations for solar, wind, and battery storage projects, transit and regional rail infrastructure projects, water storage projects, and the Delta Tunnel plan. The proposed measures were designed as mechanisms to accelerate such projects to completion in order to maximize California’s share of federal infrastructure dollars available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and expedite the implementation of projects that meet the state’s ambitious economic, climate, and social goals.Continue Reading CEQA Reforms for Clean Energy Projects: Still Possible Despite Senate Budget Committee Rejection?
In response to developers’ continued cry for meaningful reform, changes to or exemptions from the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Res. Code §§ 21000 et seq.) (CEQA) are often included in numerous bills during any California legislative session. 2022 proved to be no exception. While many bills suffered slow deaths in committee, a handful successfully made it to the Governor’s desk and were signed into law. Continue Reading 2022 CEQA Legislative Recap
In Save the Hill Group v. City of Livermore et al., the First District Court of Appeal (Div. 5) reversed and remanded the superior court’s decision to uphold the reissued final environmental impact report (RFEIR) for a development project with 44 single-family homes located in a residentially-zoned grassland area, called Garavanta Hills, near the Garaventa Wetlands Preserve. In doing so, the Court held that the analysis for the “no project” alternative was inadequate because it failed to disclose and evaluate the possibility of using existing mitigation funding to make the no-project alternative feasible. While the superior court agreed that the analysis of the no-project alternative was insufficient, the superior court found that petitioner Save the Hill Group (Petitioner) had failed to exhaust its administrative remedies on this issue, upholding the RFEIR on this jurisdictional prerequisite. While the Court of Appeal reversed this particular decision, it did rejected the Petitioner’s remaining claims.
Continue Reading Court of Appeal Holds No-Project Alternative Analysis May Mean More When Conservation is an Option and Reinforces Low Barrier to Entry Under the Exhaustion Doctrine
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 a case potentially overshadowed by the California Supreme Court’s same-day denial to hear a request to stay a cap on student admissions at UC Berkeley, the Second Appellate District Court (Div. 2) issued its opinion in Crenshaw Subway Coalition v. City of Los Angeles. This decision found, in effect, that the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and its State law counterpart, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), do not protect established minority-majority communities against displacement due to gentrification.
Continue Reading Challenge to Housing and Revitalization Project Found Not Cognizable under the Fair Housing Act and California Fair Employment and Housing Act
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