Recent Cases - Land Use and Entitlements

Not your average game of patty-cake! Earlier this week, New York’s  First Department, Appellate Division issued its decision related to 200 Amsterdam,[1] overturning the lower court’s decision which would have required 200 Amsterdam to remove several floors of its building in order to comply with zoning.  The lower court determined that the NYC Zoning Resolution did not permit a developer to utilize a portion of a tax lot to merge with a neighboring zoning lot.
Continue Reading Build Me A Building As Fast As You Can

In follow up to the New York City Department of City Planning’s (DCP), January 22nd, public hearing on the Draft Scope of Work for the City’s proposed Hotel Special Permit text amendment, there were several speakers both in support of and in opposition to the proposed legislation.  Of note, were five elected officials who testified in support of the Hotel Special Permit, with a unified message, that the development of hotels takes away opportunities for affordable housing in this City, and therefore, hotels must be regulated at a higher level than other uses.  Generally, the opposition cited to the City’s failure to provide a land use rationale for the Draft Scope of Work, the lack of any defined issue or specific policy objective that this proposed Hotel Special Permit seeks to address and the potential impact of the proposed Hotel Special Permit on the City’s economic recovery.
Continue Reading City Planning Holds First Public Hearing for its Citywide Hotel Special Permit Text

This past week, in a 4 to 3 decision,  New York’s highest court – the Court of Appeals – decided an important New York City land use question regarding how “open space” is accessed by residents on a zoning lot with multiple buildings In the Matter of Randy Peyton, et al v. NYC Board of Standards and Appeals, et al.  This rollercoaster ride ended with the Court of Appeals overturning the First Department, Appellate Division’s decision, and ultimately agreeing with the NYC Department of Buildings original application of the law, which was affirmed by the quasi-judicial NYC Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA).  The Court of Appeals determined that open space available for use by residents of one building, such as a rooftop garden, does not need to be accessed by residents in other buildings when the buildings are part of a single zoning lot in order to satisfy zoning “open space” requirements, putting to rest this controversial question.
Continue Reading NY Court of Appeals Decides Who Gets Access to Required “Open Space”

When it comes to whether unions have a right to enter an employer’s premises over the employer’s objections, California’s law is the polar opposite of the National Labor Relations Act and the law in most other states.  In California, unions generally have special access rights that nonlabor parties do not have.  Unions are given preferential treatment because of the state’s union-friendly public policies.  However, this may soon change due to the Supreme Court’s recent order granting a hearing in Cedar Point Nursery et. al. v. Hassid where the issue presented is:
Continue Reading SCOTUS to Consider Whether California Unconstitutionally “Takes” Private Property When It Compels Employers to Grant Union Access to Private Property

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

At the end of June, in Hill RHF Housing Partners, L.P. v. City of Los Angeles, the Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s denial of a challenge to the City of Los Angeles’s June 2017 establishment of the Downtown Center Business Improvement District (DCBID) and the San Pedro Historic Waterfront Business Improvement District (SPBID) (collectively, the LA BIDs), on the ground that the petitioners failed to exhaust administrative remedies – a jurisdictional prerequisite before seeking judicial review.  While the requirement for petitioners to exhaust administrative remedies is not new, Hills RHF Housing Partners, L.P. applied this well-established doctrine to a more nuanced set of laws applicable to the establishment of a business improvement district (BID).
Continue Reading Court of Appeal Rejects Challenge to LA’s Business Improvement Districts on Procedural Ground

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 Anderson v. City of San Jose (2019), the Sixth District Court of Appeal held that California’s charter cities must comply with the Surplus Land Act (Govt. Code § 54220 et seq.).[1] This decision, essentially, ruled that the statewide housing crisis is of paramount importance, and that all cities – even charter cities – must yield to the state law processes governing surplus land disposition and give affordable housing preference when building on surplus city land.
Continue Reading Appellate Court Holds Charter Cities Are Bound By State Housing Objectives, Signaling Erosion of Local Discretion

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