Highway 101 EIR Felled by Redwoods

Caltrans’s analysis of impacts to redwoods from  realignment of a one-mile stretch of Highway 101 has been rejected.  The court of appeal ruled that the project EIR both failed to identify any significance threshold for impacts to redwoods and impermissibly labeled mitigation measures as project features.  Lotus v. Department of Transportation, No. A137315 (First Dist., … Continue Reading

Faulty Greenhouse Gas Analysis Sinks EIR

An environmental impact report must not only identify a proper significance threshold for a project’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; it must then correctly apply that threshold.  The EIR for a Wal-Mart Supercenter failed this test in Friends of Oroville v. City of Oroville, No. 070448 (3rd Dist., Aug. 19, 2013).  Wal-Mart proposed to replace an … Continue Reading

No CEQA Review Required For Adoption of CEQA Thresholds of Significance

A court of appeal today rejected a CEQA challenge to an air pollution control district’s published thresholds of significance for air pollution impacts.  California Building Industry Association v Bay Area Air Quality Management District, No. 135335 (First District, July 13, 2013).   The thresholds, contained in the District’s “CEQA Air Quality Guidelines,” were first adopted … Continue Reading

Specific Limitations Period In Government Code Prevails Over Statute of Limitations In CEQA

A 30-day limitations period for a challenge to a project that is exempted from CEQA by Government Code section 65457 applies rather than the 35-day limitations period that ordinarily applies after a notice of exemption is filed, according to the court in May v. City of Milpitas, No. H038338 (Sixth District, July 16, 2013). The statutes of … Continue Reading

Large Solar Energy Project Survives Williamson Act And CEQA Challenge

The Sixth District Court of Appeal has given a boost to utility-scale solar projects by rejecting the types of Williamson Act and CEQA challenges that are often brought against those projects.  Save Panoche Valley v. San Benito County, No. HO37599 (6th Dist. June 25, 2013). The case concerns the Panoche Valley Solar Farm, a solar photovoltaic facility in … Continue Reading

Judicial Review of Environmental Impact Reports: Is There Really A Need for CEQA Reform?

Every few years, with El Nino-like regularity, a wave of interest in CEQA reform sweeps through the business community, accompanied by pleas to the legislature to overhaul the statute.  In the end, few substantive changes are made.  This year is no exception. (See June 14th post). Many of the recurring concerns involve the unpredictability of … Continue Reading

CEQA and Land Use Bills — An Update

SB 731 (Steinberg)  CEQA Modernization Act of 2013.  (Last amended May 24, 2013.  Passed to Assembly May 30, 2013)  Aesthetic Impacts in Transit Priority Areas Not Significant. Bill would provide that aesthetic impacts of a residential, mixed-use residential, or employment center project, as defined, within a “transit priority area,” shall not be considered significant impacts … Continue Reading

Stadium Expansion Project Required EIR Based on Traffic and Parking Impacts

Perhaps reflecting a north-south division over the importance of a parking space, the Fourth District has held that impacts of a stadium project on parking, together with traffic, necessitated preparation of an EIR.  Taxpayers for Accountable School Bond Spending v. San Diego Unified School District, No. D060999 (Fourth Dist. April 25, 2013).  The court expressly … Continue Reading

New CEQA Bill – Cure or Band-Aid?

In response to a business community campaign calling for broad CEQA reform, California State Senator Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg released his highly anticipated CEQA “modernization” bill,  SB 731.  So far, the bill is more remarkable for what it lacks, than for what it contains:  A Co-author.  2012’s chief CEQA reform champion, Senator Michael … Continue Reading

Water Supply Uncertainty Sinks Another EIR

After wading through a detailed discussion relating to biological impacts (see Perkins Coie Update), the court in Preserve Wild Santee v. City of Santee dove into issues surrounding an EIR’s analysis of water supplies.  The court found the EIR invalid in part because it failed to consider the uncertainty of State Water Project water supplies. … Continue Reading

Under CEQA Non-Prejudicial Errors Do Not Invalidate an EIR.

The County of Siskiyou certified an Environmental Impact Report for a project to expand an existing manufacturing facility to accommodate a cogeneration power plant housed on one acre of a 300-acre site.  Environmental groups claimed the EIR violated CEQA by failing to include adequate project alternatives and failing to fully disclose, analyze, and mitigate the … Continue Reading

No Exception to the Exemption — Installation of Small Wireless Telecom Equipment on Existing Utility Poles Throughout City is Exempt from CEQA

After obtaining the necessary permit, T-Mobile installed wireless equipment on an existing utility pole in a residential neighborhood in San Francisco.  The installation was part of a larger project to install similar equipment on existing utility poles scattered throughout the city.  Residents living nearby sought to have the city’s decision to issue the permit overturned, … Continue Reading

EIR Required for Oak Woodland Management Plan

Public agencies generally prefer not to prepare EIRs – at least for their own plans and projects – unless they have to.  And CEQA attempts to avoid redundancy by encouraging reliance, to the extent possible, on a previously certified EIR to support the approval of a subsequent action.  So, in 2008, when El Dorado County … Continue Reading

CEQA and EIR Adequacy: The Latest Words on Public Services Impacts and Adaptive Mitigation Programs

Two important, recurring CEQA questions are answered by a recent court of appeal decision in a case involving the EIR for a California State University campus master plan: whether CEQA requires funding of mitigation for a project’s effects on public services; and whether an adaptive mitigation program for traffic and parking impacts improperly defers decisions about mitigation. … 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

Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace — Issue Exhaustion Applies to CEQA Exemptions.

The California Supreme Court has issued a landmark decision holding that the exhaustion doctrine – which requires parties to raise their claims at the administrative level before litigating them in court — applies to challenges to an agency decision that a project is exempt from CEQA.  Overturning a 15-year-old precedent, the court ruled that if the decision-making … Continue Reading

The 2012 Edition Curtin’s California Land Use and Planning Law Available Soon!

For over three decades, Curtin’s California Land Use & Planning Law has provided a succinct and definitive summary of the major provisions of California’s land use and planning laws. Curtin’s has been cited by the California Supreme Court and numerous appellate courts as an authoritative source. Co‐authored by Cecily Talbert Barclay, Matthew Gray and other … Continue Reading

Agreements Tolling CEQA Statute of Limitations Upheld

Agreements to toll the statute of limitations for filing suit are generally favored under the law because they enable parties to negotiate and resolve issues without the distraction of litigation.  But in land use and CEQA cases, there are countervailing public policy reasons favoring prompt filing and disposition of such matters. The tension between those … Continue Reading