Land Use & Entitlement

In its recent decision in Hilltop Group Inc. v. County of San Diego, California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal issued a number of holdings that resulted in a strong ruling in support of streamlined environmental review for projects that are consistent with and within the scope of a program environmental impact report (EIR) for a general plan. The Court clarified that CEQA Guidelines section 15183 (“Section 15183”) does not permit additional environmental review for such projects except as necessary to determine whether a project will have significant effects that are peculiar to the project or the site that were not analyzed in the prior EIR and cannot be substantially mitigated by uniformly applied development policies or standards. The Court went on to hold that public controversy and lay testimony about “peculiar” impacts that might arise from a project do not constitute substantial evidence sufficient to require further environmental review under Section 15183. Perhaps the most important lesson of Hilltop Group Inc. is that decisionmakers cannot err on the side of requiring environmental review simply because a project is controversial, particularly when streamlining is in play. If substantial evidence demonstrates a project’s environmental effects were studied in the prior general plan EIR or can be addressed through uniform policies and procedures, the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) does not permit the lead agency to require an EIR, mitigated negative declaration or other additional environmental review.Continue Reading A Win for Consistency Evaluations Under CEQA Guidelines 15183: Court Rules that Public Controversy is not a Basis for Additional Environmental Review

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, a non-profit, non-partisan think tank, California is facing a jaw-dropping 3.5 million unit housing deficient for the current population. This despite several legislative sessions enacting a large number of bills aimed at boosting housing production. 2023 was no different. During its first year of the current 2-year legislative cycle, Governor Newsom signed an unprecedented 56 housing bills into law, reflecting the California Legislature’s continued effort to respond to the housing crisis, and the multi-dimensional approach to developing, retaining, and permitting housing options for Californians. In sum, the housing bills intend to incentivize and reduce barriers to housing production, especially “affordable” or below-market rate housing by addressing previously-identified hurdles in the market. To do so, some bills include further expansion of State Density Bonus Law, including Senate Bill (SB) 423’s extension of the sunset date in 2017’s SB 35. The package also includes bills aimed to keep tenants in their existing homes and reflects the state’s desire to limit local governments’ ability to deny housing projects.Continue Reading California Continues Trend of Pushing Housing Legislation to Address Ongoing Housing Shortage

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 City and State of New York have made a handful of announcements regarding plans to roll out imminent changes to the real estate development process to help encourage development and tackle the City’s affordable housing crisis. Given the current obstacles facing development, this change warrants quoting Lizzo: “It’s about damn time.”Continue Reading It’s About Damn Time