Category Archives: Recent Cases – Land Use and Entitlements

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Tribe’s Gamble That Casino Land Transfer Approval Not Subject to CEQA Pays Off

Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians v. Brown, C074506 (9/24/2014) In a recent Third District Court of Appeal published opinion, the court in Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians v. Edmund G. Brown, Jr. (3rd. Dist. 2014) strictly interpreted the California Environmental Quality Act’s definition of “public agency,” holding that it only applies to governmental bodies or … Continue Reading

Level of Detail Adequate in High Speed Rail Authority’s Program EIR for Central Valley to Bay Area Rail Corridor

Town of Atherton v. California High‑Speed Rail Authority (7/24/14, C070877) The appellate court upheld the California High‑Speed Rail Authority’s Program EIR for the Central Valley to Bay Area portion of the route, concluding that (1) the Authority properly limited its environmental analysis to a program level when it deferred site-specific analysis of the vertical profile options … Continue Reading

No CEQA Review Required For Initiative Measures, Whether Adopted By City Council Or Voters

Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., et al. (8/7/14, S207173) The Supreme Court of California has held that CEQA review was not required before the Sonora City Council adopted an initiative measure approving a specific plan for expansion of a Wal-Mart store.  The court held that: (1) the Elections Code, which requires … Continue Reading

Collateral Estoppel Bars Copy-Cat Environmental Plaintiff in New Case After Judgment

Roberson v. City of Rialto (4th Dist., Div. 2, 5/21/2014, E058187) The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment denying a petition for writ of mandate to invalidate project approvals for the construction of a large commercial retail center in the City of Rialto (the “City”) to be anchored by a Wal-Mart Supercenter.  The court … Continue Reading

EIR Air Quality Analysis Insufficient: Lack of Specificity Regarding Human Health Impacts, Mitigation Measure Enforceability, and Evidence Supporting Measures’ Effectiveness in Substantially Reducing Air Quality Impacts Blamed

Sierra Club et al. v. County of Fresno et al., (Friant Ranch, L.P.) (5th Dist., 05/27/2014, F066798) Faced with an appeal of the Superior Court of Fresno’s approval of a controversial Environmental Impact Report, the Fifth District Court of Appeal reversed and found that the challenged EIR violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to … Continue Reading

CEQA Class 3 Categorical Exemptions Permitted for AT&T Installations

San Francisco Beautiful v. City & County of San Francisco (1st. Dist., Div. 4, 5/30/2014) The First District Court of Appeal held that AT&T’s proposed installation of new utility cabinets in the City of San Francisco fell within CEQA’s Class 3 categorical exemption for the “installation of small new equipment and facilities in small structures.”  The … Continue Reading

Developer-Prepared Cost Comparisons Can Show Economic Infeasibility Under CEQA

SPRAWLDEF et al. v. San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission et al., (Waste Connections, Inc.) (1st Dist., Div. 1, 05/28/2014, A137619) In a precedent-setting decision, the First District Court of Appeal approved the alternatives analysis used to support a massive 35-year landfill expansion in the Suisun Marsh.  Challengers argued that more evidence was required to … Continue Reading

Trails-to-Rails-to-?: The Brandt Case and its Potential Impact on the Nation’s Trails

A recent Supreme Court case may have a far-reaching impact on many of the United States’ “rails-to-trails” biking and jogging paths.  In March, the Supreme Court held in an 8-1 decision that rights of way granted to railroad companies during the nineteenth century were mere easements without reversionary interests to the United States government, triggering … Continue Reading

Preexisting Management Plan Not a “Mitigation Measure” for Purposes of CEQA Exemption

A preexisting management plan intended to minimize environmental effects of recurring facility operations and events is not a “proposed mitigation measure” for purposes of determining whether an event qualifies for a CEQA categorical exemption, a state Court of Appeal has held.  In Citizens for Environmental Responsibility v. California, the Court of Appeal upheld the exemption … Continue Reading

Bright Line Rule: Collateral Estoppel Precludes Attacks on Quasi-Judicial Permit Decisions (But Stay Tuned: Rehearing Granted on the Court’s Own Motion)

Simply stated: “[a] collateral attack is not a substitute for an appeal” reasoned the Second Appellate District Court in Bowman v. California Coastal Commission (2nd Dist., Div. 6, 03/18/2014, B243015) ___Cal.App.2nd___, 2014).[1]  This is a case where the Coastal Commission and environmental groups found common ground challenging a coastal development permit issued by the County … Continue Reading

CEQA Requires Separate Evaluation Of Mitigation Measures And Alternatives Even Where Mitigation Measures Are Incorporated Into Project Design

In Trisha Lee Lotus et al. v Department of Transportation et al. (1st Dist., Div. 4, 1/30/14 A137315) ___ Cal.App.___ ____, 2014, the court of appeal upheld a claim by the appellants that Caltrans failed to comply with CEQA because its EIR did not consider potential mitigation measures aimed at lessening the impact of the … Continue Reading

Contaminated but Remediated Soil and Cortese Listing Does Not Compel Preparation of EIR

As 2013 came to a close, the California court of appeal in Parker Shattuck Neighbors v. Berkeley City Council (1st Dist., Div. 4, 12/30/13, A136873) ___Cal.App.1st___, 2013, upheld the City of Berkeley’s decision not to require an EIR in connection with a mixed use development project for two reasons: (1) appellants Parker Shattuck failed to … Continue Reading

No Private Attorney General Fees for Homeowner

In Donald A. Norberg v. California Coastal Commission (4th Dist., Div. 3, 10/25/13, G047522) ___Cal.App.4th___, 2013, the court of appeal reversed the trial court’s award of private attorney general fees because the homeowner’s successful challenge of certain conditions imposed by the California Coastal Commission with respect to proposed improvements to his home did not confer … Continue Reading

New “Potentially Feasible” Alternative Does Not Trigger Draft EIR Recirculation Unless Considered “Significant New Information”; No Findings Needed to Reject Alternative As Infeasible

In South County Citizens for Smart Growth v. County of Nevada (3d Dist., 10/8/13 C067764) ____Cal.App.4th _____, 2013, the court of appeal rejected a claim that Nevada County violated CEQA by failing to recirculate an EIR when a project was modified after circulation of the draft EIR and a similar but competing alternative proposed by staff … Continue Reading

Substantial Evidence Test Applies to Decision Not to Require Additional EIR

In Latinos Unidos de Napa v. City of Napa (1st Dist., Div. 1, 10/10/13, A134959), ___ Cal.App.4th ___, 2013, the court of appeal found no abuse of discretion in the City of Napa’s approval of revisions to the housing element of its general plan, and related general plan and zoning amendments, despite plaintiff’s argument that … Continue Reading

Adopting Thresholds of Significance Under CEQA Not Subject to CEQA Review

[Petition for review granted by the Supreme Court.  The court limited review to the following issue: Under what circumstances, if any, does the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, § 21000 et seq.) require an analysis of how existing environmental conditions will impact future residents or users (receptors) of a proposed project? ] In … Continue Reading

Unusual Circumstances: California Supreme Court Upholds Limited Use of Future Conditions Baseline Under CEQA

Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority, et al. (August 5, 2013, S202828) ____ Cal.4th ____ On August 5, 2013, the California Supreme Court issued a split decision in Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority, et al. The court held that a lead agency may choose to avoid … Continue Reading

Farming Solar Rays: County Decision to Approve Industrial-Scale Solar on Williamson Act Lands OK’d

In Save Panoche Valley et al. v. San Benito County, the Sixth District Court of Appeal held that San Benito County had not violated the Williamson Act or the California Environmental Quality Act when it approved construction of a 420-megawatt solar project on land designated as “agricultural rangeland.” The court sided with the County on … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Hands Major Win To Landowners

California already in line with decision; major impact expected in other states By a 5-4 vote, the conservative wing of the United State Supreme Court answered two big questions in favor of the landowner, changing the way local government can condition development permits across the country. In the Koontz case, a Florida water management district … Continue Reading

Failure To Separately Notice Consideration Of CEQA Document Violates Brown Act

San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center v. County of Merced, No. F064930 (5th Dist., May 31, 2013) By Eric DiIulio In San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center v. County of Merced, the California Court of Appeal for the Fifth District held that the Merced County Planning Commission violated the Brown Act by adopting a CEQA mitigated negative … Continue Reading

Bright Lights Not a Significant Impact; Lack of Parking May Be

Taxpayers for Accountable School Bond Spending v. San Diego Unified School District, No. D060999 (4th Dist. Div. 1, April 25, 2013)  By Claudia Gutierrez  In Taxpayers for Accountable School Bond Spending v. San Diego Unified School District (2013) __ Cal.App.4th __ (Case No. D060999) the Court of Appeal for the 4th District held that the San … Continue Reading

EIR Not Needed Before Starting Eminent Domain Proceeding

By Claudia Gutierrez In Golden Gate Land Holdings, LLC v. East Bay Regional Park District, the California Court of Appeals considered whether an Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”) must be prepared where the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) and eminent domain law intersect. Golden Gate Land Holdings, LLC, the owner of the property in question, argued that … Continue Reading

Déjà Vu All Over Again: Ninth Circuit Rejects Yet Another Challenge To Rent Control, Including “Private Takings” Argument

By Claudia Gutierrez In MHC Limited Financing v. City of San Rafael, the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit considered, among other things, whether the City of San Rafael’s mobilehome rent control ordinance (the “Ordinance”) constituted either a regulatory taking under Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City or an impermissible “private” taking … Continue Reading

No Relief Under CCP Section 473 For Missed Filing Deadline In CEQA Challenge

By Daniel Bane  Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community Environment, et al. v. County of Placer, SCV0028200 (3rd Dist., February 18, 2013) In Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community Environment v. County of Placer, the California Court of Appeal for the Third District considered plaintiff and appellant Alliance for the Protection … Continue Reading
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