Category Archives: California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

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California Supreme Court Grants Hearing in Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley

Vacated opinion at:; (modified on rehearing, no change in judgment) According to the Court, the case presents the following issue: Did the City of Berkeley properly conclude that a proposed project was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code §§ 21000 et seq.) under the categorical exemptions set forth in … Continue Reading

Use of Projected Future Conditions Appropriate Baseline for Analyzing Impacts of Long-Term Infrastructure Projects

Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority, et al., B232655 (2nd Dist. Div. 8, April 17, 2012) By Daniel Bane In Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority, et al. (“Neighbors for Smart Rail”), the California Court of Appeal for the Second District considered plaintiff and appellant Neighbors for … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Denies Review of Case Holding that CEQA Does Not Require Analysis of Effects on a Project Caused by the Environment

By Michael Hansen The California Supreme Court unanimously declined to hear a challenge to the revised environmental impact report for the Playa Vista development in Los Angeles in Ballona Wetlands Land Trust v. City of Los Angeles, resulting in a published decision in the Second District Court of Appeal holding that CEQA does not require … Continue Reading

Tiered EIR Must Be Prepared Where Program EIR Provides Insufficient Guidance on Discretionary Choices

Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation et al. v. County of El Dorado, C064875 (Super. Ct. No. PC20080336) (Cal. Ct. App. 3rd Dist., January 20, 2012) By Katharine J. Mueller Plaintiffs and Appellants, led by the Center for Sierra Nevada Conservation (Sierra Nevada), challenged the County of El Dorado’s adoption of an oak woodland management plan … Continue Reading

Builders Charge New CEQA-Streamlining Laws, Guidelines Unhelpful

The building industry contends a 2011 law aiming to jump-start the economy by streamlining the state’s environmental review process for development projects is failing to attract much interest because strict eligibility criteria prevents most projects from qualifying. Most housing, transportation and land-use project proponents say their projects are unable to qualify for the streamlining due … Continue Reading

OPR Releases Proposed Guidelines for Streamlining CEQA Review of Infill Projects

By Alex Merritt Last week, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research released proposed guidelines for streamlining CEQA review of infill projects. The proposed guidelines will implement SB 226 (Simitian)—one of several bills passed in the 2011 legislative session that streamline the CEQA process for certain green projects. The proposed guidelines contain eligibility requirements that … Continue Reading

Neither CEQA nor the Public Trust Requires Exclusion of Current Conditions in Determining Baseline for Purposes of Lease Renewal on Tide and Submerged Lands

Citizens for East Shore Parks, et al. v. California State Lands Commission (Chevron U.S.A, et al., real party in interest), No. A129896 (Cal. Ct. App. 1st Dist., December 30, 2011, modified on denial of rehearing No. A129896M, Jan. 27, 2012.). By Michael Gibson The proper baseline for analyzing potential environmental impacts under the California Environmental … Continue Reading

CEQA Trumps Surplus Lands Act; Lead Agency Must Respond to All Comments Regardless of Merit

The Flanders Foundation v. City of Carmel-by-the-Sea et al., No. H035818 (Cal. Ct. App. 6th Dist., January 4, 2012) By Michael Gibson A lead agency must consider and respond to all comments that raise significant environmental issues prior to certifying a final environmental impact report (FEIR) even if the required mitigation measures might have rendered … Continue Reading

Court Clarifies CEQA Rules Regarding Infeasibility and Deferral of Mitigation

City of San Diego v. Board of Trustees of the California State University, No. D057446 (Cal. Ct. App. 4th Dist., December 13, 2011.) By Michael Hansen In 2005, the Board of Trustees of the California State University ("CSU") certified an environmental impact report ("EIR") and approved a project for the expansion of San Diego State … Continue Reading

CEQA Does Not Require Identification of Significant Effects of the Environment (Sea Level Rise) on a Project; Assertion of New Claims Barred in EIR Required to be Revised by Judgment in a Prior Case

Ballona Wetlands Land Trust v. City of Los Angeles and Ballona Ecosystem Education Project v. City of Los Angeles, No. B231965 (Cal. Ct. App. 2d Dist., November 9, 2011) By Michael Hansen The Second Appellate District recently held that CEQA does not require identification of significant effects of the environment on a project, only significant effects … Continue Reading

CEQA Amendments from the 2011 Legislative Session

By Judy V. Davdoff & Alex Merritt In the 2011 session, the California Legislature and the Governor passed several bills to amend CEQA. As summarized below, these bills streamline the review process for green projects, environmental leadership projects, and a proposed football stadium; relax water supply assessment requirements for photovoltaic and wind energy projects; and … Continue Reading

Court Upholds Medical Campus Expansion, Provides Guidance on Using Future Traffic Projections to Analyze Traffic Impacts

Pfeiffer v. City of Sunnyvale, No. H036310 (Cal. Ct. App. 6th Dist; October 28, 2011) By Maria Pracher and Alex Merritt The 6th District Court of Appeal recently denied a challenge to the proposed expansion of a medical complex in the City of Sunnyvale. The decision reaffirms the standard for evaluating general plan consistency and, … Continue Reading

ARB Passes Final Regulations for Cap-And-Trade Program

By Whitney Hodges & Olivier Theard After months of CEQA litigation and political lobbying, including an appeal to the California Supreme Court (previous article can be found here), California’s landmark climate change bill, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (“AB 32”), has been modified and appears ready to be implemented starting in January 2012.… Continue Reading

Court Clarifies Mitigation Requirements for Impacts to Historical Resources, Reaffirms Use of Existing Conditions as Analytical Baseline

By James Rusk The Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District of California held this month that the Environmental Impact Report for the Tesoro Viejo mixed use development project in southeastern Madera County failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act. The court’s opinion articulates a new standard for analysis and mitigation of … Continue Reading

California Legislature Passes Bills to Expedite Judicial Review of CEQA Challenges for Selected Projects

By James Rusk The California Legislature last week passed two bills that would expedite judicial review of challenges to certain large development projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The first, SB 292 (Simitian), applies only to the proposed development of a new NFL football stadium and convention center in Los Angeles. The second, … Continue Reading

A Case Where CEQA Worked

Clover Valley Foundation et al. v. City of Rocklin et al., C061808, 2011 WL 2671250 (Cal. Ct. App. July 8, 2011) By James Pugh, Alexis Pelosi and Kira Teshima In this case, the Third District Court of Appeal rejected claims raised by Clover Valley Foundation, the Sierra Club and the Town of Loomis that the … Continue Reading

Statutory Exemption Not Waived by Conducting EIR; Can be Invoked Even After Litigation Commences

Del Cerro Mobile Estates v. City of Placentia (July 7, 2011, G043709) By James Pugh & Shoshana Zimmerman In this case, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth District held that a city may defend itself against a California Environmental Quality Act challenge by invoking a statutory exemption even if the city has prepared an … Continue Reading

We’re People Too: Corporations Have Standing To File CEQA Citizen Suits

Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach (July 14, 2011, S180720) By James Pugh & Shoshana Zimmerman Corporations now have the ability to file citizen suits to assert public interests without facing heightened scrutiny by the courts. The California Supreme Court ruled that a coalition of plastic bag manufacturers and distributors (“Plaintiff”) … Continue Reading

City’s “Business‑As‑Usual” Threshold OK For Evaluating Greenhouse Gas Emissions Under CEQA

Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development ("CREED") v. City of Chula Vista, Docket No. D05779 By Jeff Forrest and Ashley Hirano   In this clean-tech era, Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development ("CREED") v. City of Chula Vista marks only the third time that a court has published a case addressing greenhouse gases in California. In … Continue Reading

Government Code Does not Require Analysis of Environmental Impacts Directly Related to School Facilities

Chawanakee Unified School District v. County of Madera (June 21, 2011, F059382) __ Cal.App.4th __ (certified for partial publication) By Robyn Christo In a partially published opinion, the Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District, interpreted Government Code Section 65596(a) (as revised by the Leroy F. Greene School Facilities Act of 1998 [“Senate Bill … Continue Reading

Reliance on Statutory Requirements to Mitigate Environmental Impacts Proper Under CEQA

Oakland Heritage Alliance v. City of Oakland (May 19, 2011, A126558) __ Cal.App.4th __ By Maria Pracher & Robyn Christo In this case, the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District rejected all of petitioner’s arguments regarding the adequacy of the seismic impact analysis and mitigation measures in a revised Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) prepared … Continue Reading

Global Warming and Droughts Not New Information; Project Opponents Must Fairly Present Claims Before Filing CEQA Lawsuit

Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development v. City of San Diego (May 19, 2011, D057524) __ Cal.App.4th __ By Jeffrey Forrest & Robyn Christo On May 19, 2011, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District upheld an Addendum to an Environmental Impact Report (“EIR Addendum”) over claims that the lead agency failed … Continue Reading

Court Affirms CEQA Does Not Require Cumulative Impact Analysis Where Project Makes No Contribution to Groundwater Impacts

By Jeffrey Forrest In Santa Monica Baykeeper v. City of Malibu, the Court of Appeal considered Santa Monica Baykeeper’s (“Plaintiff”) claim that the City of Malibu (“City”) abused its discretion in certifying the environmental impact report (“EIR”) for the City’s Legacy Park project (“Project”) because it failed to adequately analyze (1) construction-related water quality impacts; … Continue Reading

Final Decision Suspends California’s AB 32 GHG Regulations: What Now?

By Whitney Hodges On March 18, 2011, Judge Ernest Goldsmith of the San Francisco County Superior Court suspended implementation of AB 32, California’s landmark law to reduce greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions. In Association of Irritated Residents v. California Air Resource Board, [Statement of Decision] the Court found the California Air Resource Board (the “ARB”)’s adoption of … Continue Reading

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