Despite repeated attempts at reform by the Legislature, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) continues to be a minefield for those assigned with the herculean task of complying with the law’s myriad of directives. Add to the already inherent complexity of CEQA, judicial interpretation of its provisions has wide-reaching implications that can create even more potential pitfalls for those required to abide by its mandates, including decisionmakers and project proponents. Below are the summaries of the most notable CEQA cases from 2023, broken down by category.Continue Reading 2023 Year-in-Review CEQA Litigation

Following California Supreme Court and its own case law precedent, the Second District, Division Five, has ruled in Guerrero et al. v. City of Los Angeles (Jan. 17, 2024) (Guerrero), certified for publication, that a CEQA challenge to approval of a vesting tentative subdivision map conditioned on subsequent discretionary rezoning was untimely when not filed until after the rezoning was finally approved.Continue Reading Conditional Approval is Project Approval: Appellate Court Confirms CEQA Statute of Limitations Triggered by Tentative Map Approval Conditioned on Subsequent Rezoning

Near the end of 2023, the United States Supreme Court declined to consider the City of Costa Mesa’s appeal of a January Ninth Circuit ruling in SoCal Recovery, LLC v. City of Costa Mesa (2023) 56 F.4th 802. The decision held that sober living home operators can prove “actual disability” – as required by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA), and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) – without an individualized assessment of each resident. Instead, the Ninth Circuit held that admissions criteria, house rules, and testimony are sufficient to show on a collective basis that a sober living home serves or intends to serve individuals with actual disabilities.Continue Reading U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Consider Appeal of Ninth Circuit Ruling that Sober Living Homes Do Not Have to Prove Each Resident Is Disabled to Survive Summary Judgment in Challenge to Allegedly Discriminatory Zoning Laws

The 2023 legislative cycle saw another mixed-bag of legislation dealing with CEQA “reform,” with a particular focus on streamlining affordable housing development.[1] While many bills died during the process, a few key laws were passed or extended over the past year. A brief recap of those bills and their impact on CEQA is provided below.[2] Continue Reading CEQA 2023 Legislative Update

Pamela Westhoff and Meigan Everett’s article “A Landlord’s Guide to Assistive Animals” was recently featured in the Daily Journal. The article broaches the topic of pets in the workplace, including: the difference between service animals and emotional support animals (in the context of commercial tenants and landlords); legal definitions of the two categories of assistive animals; related contractual, verification, and disclosure issues to consider; leasing industry guidance on this topic; and additional tips on preventing or resolving disputes.Continue Reading A Landlord’s Guide to Assistive Animals

With the recent Gulf Auction falling short of expectations and projects on the East Coast faltering, many have adopted a bearish stance on the U.S. offshore wind sector. However, California recently passed two new bills to support the state’s burgeoning offshore wind industry: the Offshore Wind Advancement Act (AB 3) and the California Offshore Wind Expediting Act (SB 286). These bills, which take effect January 1, 2024, have the potential to significantly impact offshore wind development in California.Continue Reading New Bills Advance California’s Offshore Wind Strategy

Local ordinances prohibiting camping or sleeping outdoors have created widespread controversy. Affected cities and states contend that the two Ninth Circuit rulings on the issue are confusing and preclude them from implementing effective strategies to address homelessness, while homeless advocates argue that these decisions are necessary to prevent criminalization of involuntary homelessness. However, there is potential clarity on the horizon as the Supreme Court is poised to decide whether to hear the case next term.Continue Reading Supreme Court Weighs Whether to Clarify Camping Bans and Homelessness Policies

Under California’s Proposition 65 (“Prop 65”), businesses are required to give “clear and reasonable warnings” to consumers regarding potential chemical exposure if their product contains a chemical “known to the state to cause cancer.” In the recent decision Nat’l Association of Wheat Growers, et al. v. Bonta, et al., the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal explored businesses’ First Amendment rights and the government’s ability to compel commercial speech. The Ninth Circuit found that the State of California cannot compel businesses to provide a Prop 65 warning for glyphosate, the most commonly used herbicide in the world. Continue Reading The Intersection of Prop 65 and Free Speech: A Recent Win for Businesses

On October 7, 2023, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law two sweeping climate disclosure bills, Senate Bill 253 (“SB 253”), the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act, and Senate Bill

Continue Reading Change is in the Air: Everything You Need to Know About California’s Sweeping New Climate Disclosure Laws

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