Category: Planning and Zoning

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CEQA Compliance Not Required For Council-Adopted Land Use Initiative Measure

Developers, project opponents, agencies and courts often lose the forest for the trees when considering CEQA issues.  A prime example is the conflicting appellate authority and public debate on the question whether a city council’s adoption of a voter-sponsored initiative measure is subject to CEQA. In Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Superior Court, … Continue Reading

New Proposed CEQA Guidelines on Traffic Impacts Issued: It’s How Far You Go, Not How Slow

By Stephen Kostka and Barbara Schussman Senate Bill 743, enacted in 2013, was designed to create a process for changing the way traffic impacts are examined under CEQA. The concept was to take the focus away from vehicle delay, measured by level of service, which has resulted in mitigation requirements to increase intersection and road … Continue Reading

Santa Cruz Becomes First County to Ban Fracking

Santa Cruz County has become the first California county to permanently ban the controversial oil and gas drilling technique known as fracking. By a 5-0 vote, the Board of Supervisors this week amended its General Plan to prohibit all facilities for oil and gas exploration and development within the unincorporated County. The ban replaces a … Continue Reading

Court Rejects Claim That New General Plan Housing Element Requires New EIR

Affordable housing advocates have lost a claim that Napa’s new General Plan Housing Element required a new environmental impact report.  Latinos Unidos de Napa v. City of Napa, No. A134959 (1st Dist., Oct. 10, 2013, publication ordered Nov. 5, 2013).  The court upheld the city’s decision that its 2009 Housing Element was not a new … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Clarifies Standards For Housing Discrimination Claims

Can a city protect itself from discriminatory zoning claims by adopting a facially neutral ordinance that treats similarly situated land uses the same? Apparently not, said the Ninth Circuit in Pacific Shores Properties v. City of Newport Beach (Case No. 11-55460), decided on September 20. In a challenge brought against a City of Newport Beach zoning … Continue Reading

Even After Winning Housing Accountability Act Suit, Developer Denied Attorney Fees

The California Housing Accountability Act — commonly known as the “Anti-NIMBY” statute — restricts a local agency’s ability to disapprove, or require reduced densities in, certain residential projects.  Although the statute provides for attorney fee awards, a recent court of appeal decision shows there is no guarantee a pot of attorney fees will always be … Continue Reading

City Council’s Interpretation of General Plan Prevails Despite Conflict With Plan’s Land Use Map

A city council has sweeping authority to interpret the city’s general plan.  That authority trumped a successful referendum campaign designed to block a residential development project, according to the court’s decision  in Orange Citizens for Parks and Recreation v. Superior Court, Case No. G047013 (4th App. Dist., July 10, 2013).  The court held that the city didn’t need … Continue Reading

Coastal Commission May Not Review City Nuisance Abatement Ordinance Passed In Good Faith

The California Coastal Commission lacks jurisdiction to review a city’s adoption of a nuisance ordinance because a municipality’s enactment of an ordinance is not an appealable action.  However, the city must demonstrate that it exercised its nuisance abatement power, pursuant to Coastal Act section 30005(b), in good faith, and not as a pretext for avoiding its … Continue Reading

County Could Not Make Density Bonus Conditional Upon Compliance With Local Affordable Housing Requirements

A local agency may not condition the availability of a density bonus upon provision of more affordable housing than the minimum required under the State Density Bonus Law.  Latinos Unidos Del Valle De Napa Y Solano v. County of Napa, No. A135094 (First District, July 11, 2013).  California’s Density Bonus Law, Government Code § 65915, … Continue Reading

CEQA Modernization? Not really.

Steve Kostka, Julie Jones and Barbara Schussman The eagerly-awaited amendments to SB 731, the “CEQA Modernization Bill” have surfaced.    The initial iteration of this bill was a placeholder which outlined topics that would be included in later amendments.   As amended on April 23, the bill addresses many of the issues presaged by the initial version, … Continue Reading

90-Day Limitations Period Under Government Code § 65009 Applies to Zoning Administrator Decisions.

Round two of a citizen group’s challenge to approval of a WalMart ended with a decisive knock-out by the City of Stockton.  The appellate court ruled that the petitioners’ planning and zoning law claims were barred by the 90-day statute of limitations in Government Code § 65009, rejecting petitioners’ argument that the statute did not … Continue Reading

City Has Time to Make General Plan Consistent with Housing Element Revisions

A court of appeal has confirmed that after a city updates its general plan housing element, the city has additional time to amend other general plan elements to restore the general plan’s internal consistency—as long as the city adopts a timeline for making the necessary amendments. Every five years, a city must update its general … Continue Reading

No Harm, No Foul—Petitioners Claiming Procedural Errors Must Prove Prejudice

It’s not enough that litigants challenging planning and zoning actions prove that the city or county committed a procedural error.  They also have to show the error was prejudicial, that it led to substantial injury, and that if the error had not occurred, a different result would have been likely. In Rialto Citizens for Responsible … Continue Reading

Island Annexations: Unanswered Questions

Those interested in the ins and outs of LAFCO law reacted excitedly to the news that the Attorney General was poised to issue an opinion on a perplexing question – when is an area of unincorporated land an “island” for purposes of annexation to a city under the Cortese-Knox-Hertzberg Local Government Act? The Attorney General … Continue Reading

Plan Bay Area: The Regional Plan for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions – The EIR is Underway

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the transportation planning agency for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area, and the Association of Bay Area Governments have announced that they are going to prepare an Environmental Impact Report to evaluate the agencies’ proposed plan to reduce regional greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light duty trucks.  On June 11, the … Continue Reading

Court Invalidates San Jose Affordable Housing Ordinance

The California Building Industry Association scored a major victory recently when a San Jose judge threw out the city’s requirement that residential developers sell or rent a specified portion of newly-built homes to lower-income households. The court ruled the city had not shown a reasonable linkage between the impact of new development and the need for affordable … Continue Reading

Sequential Lot Line Adjustments Get The Green Light.

Lot line adjustments offer a streamlined alternative to the complex process of subdividing land.  However, lot line adjustments have historically been  limited to four or fewer adjoining parcels.  In a decision that may significantly expand use of lot line adjustments, the court of appeal in Sierra Club v. Napa County Board of Supervisors upheld a local … Continue Reading

An Unnecessary Statutory Duel

Navigating the hazardous shoals of writ practice, attorneys often face the question whether a request for preparation of the record extends the very short, 90-day period to file a petition for writ of mandate. Both the Administrative Procedure Act and Code of Civil Procedure § 1094.6 state that a request for the record extends the … Continue Reading

Granted or Denied — It’s Still a 90-Day Limitations Period

Does a 90-day deadline for filing of suits challenging a decision “to adopt or amend a zoning ordinance” apply to a decision to deny a zoning amendment?  Of course, said the appellate court in General Development Co., L.P. v. City of Santa Maria, 202 Cal.App.4th 1391 (2012). Government Code section 65009(c)(1) establishes a 90-day statute … Continue Reading
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