Category Archives: Recent Cases – Land Use and Entitlements

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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

Zoning Director Approval Triggers Section 65009 Statute of Limitations

Stockton Citizens for Sensible Planning v. City of Stockton, Super. Ct. No. CV024375 (Nov. 13, 2012) By James Rusk A letter of approval finding a project consistent with a City’s Master Development Plan triggers the running of the 90-day statute of limitations under Government Code subsection 65009(c)(1)(E), the Third District Court of Appeal has held. … Continue Reading

City May Adopt Housing Element Revisions Inconsistent With General Plan If City Also Adopts Timeline To Correct Inconsistencies

Friends of Aviara v. City of Carlsbad (November 1, 2012, Case No. D060167) Recently, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Friends of Aviara v. City of Carlsbad affirmed the trial court’s judgment directing the City of Carlsbad to adopt a timeline for proposed changes to its general plan that would correct inconsistencies created by … Continue Reading

Further Confirmation Notice of Exemption Filed Before Project Approval is Void

Coalition for Clean Air v. City of Visalia (Oct. 4, 2012, No. F062983M) By James Pugh The partially published opinion in Coalition for Clean Air v. City of Visalia brightened the line regarding when a California Environmental Quality Act Notice of Exemption (NOE) is valid. In a nutshell, the Fifth District Court of Appeal concluded … Continue Reading

The Amorphous “Unusual Circumstances” Exception to CEQA’s Categorical Exemption Strikes Again

Voices for Rural Living v. El Dorado Irrigation District, Super. Ct. No. PC20080398, (Oct. 4, 2012)  By James Pugh The recent Voices for Rural Living v. El Dorado Irrigation District case from the California Court of Appeal’s Third District applied the “unusual circumstances” exception to overturn a categorical exemption used to approve a water supply … Continue Reading

Appeals Court Reaffirms That Non-Prejudicial Planning And Zoning Code And CEQA Errors Cannot Serve As Basis For Overturning City Approval

Rialto Citizens for Responsible Growth v. City of Rialto ___ Cal.App. ___ (July 31, 2012, No. E052253) By Phillip Tate On July 31, 2012, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District held that the trial court erred in invalidating the City of Rialto’s (the “City”) approval of a 230,000 square foot commercial retail … Continue Reading

Federal Government’s Eminent Domain Power Trumps California’s Sovereign Public Trust Title

United States of America v. 32.42 Acres of Land, et al., Case No. 10-56568 (9th Cir. 2012). By Michael Wilmar and Nady Nikonova The United States condemned tide and submerged lands leased by the Port of San Diego to the U.S. Navy. The Port held the lands under a trust grant from the State of … Continue Reading

Impacts On Required Public Services Not An Environmental Impact; No Mitigation Required

City of Hayward et al. v. Board of Trustees of the California State University, A131412, A132424 (Cal. Ct. App., May 30, 2012) (certified for publication June 28, 2012). By Deborah Rosenthal and Nady Nikonova The Court of Appeal held that potential adverse impacts on required public services are not environmental impacts under CEQA requiring mitigation by … Continue Reading

Parties Must Exhaust Administrative Remedies Before Challenging Even A CEQA Exemption

Tomlinson v. County of Alameda et al., S188161 (Supreme Court, June 14, 2012) By Jeffrey Forrest and Whitney Hodges The California Supreme Court recently reinforced the CEQA requirement that a party must exhaust administrative remedies even where the public agency finds a project exempt from CEQA, if the agency (a) gave notice of the grounds for its exemption … Continue Reading

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

Vacated opinion at: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A131254.PDF; (modified on rehearing, no change in judgment) http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/A131254M.PDF 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

River Segment Must Be Navigable In Fact For Commercial Purposes At Statehood For State To Obtain Title To Riverbed Under The Equal Footing Doctrine

PPL Montana, LLC v. Montana, 565 U.S. ____ (2012) (decided Feb. 22, 2012) By Keith Garner, Michael Wilmar, and Alexander Merritt Two weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in PPL Montana v. Montana. The Court held that the Supreme Court of Montana had incorrectly determined that certain segments of the Upper … Continue Reading

Decision to Deny a Zoning Change Subject to 90-Day Statute of Limitation

General Development Co., L.P. v. City of Santa Maria, 2d Civil No. B228631 (Super. Ct. No. 1320579) (Cal. Ct. App. 2nd Dist., January 25, 2012) By Katharine J. Mueller An action challenging a legislative body’s decision to deny a zone change is subject to a 90-day limitation period set forth in section 65009(c) of the … 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

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
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