The First Appellate District held that the Regents of the University of California failed to comply with CEQA in certifying the project EIR for its student housing project at People’s Park. Make UC a Good Neighbor v. Regents of University of Cal. (2023 WL 2205638, Feb. 24, 2023). Specifically, the court ruled that the Regents
CEQA Year in Review
The firm’s annual publication, CEQA Year in Review, a summary of 2022 published decisions involving the California Environmental Quality Act, is now available.
CEQA Challenges to EIR’s Biological and Emergency Evacuation Analyses Rejected
A court of appeal has denied CEQA challenges to the EIR for an apartment project, holding that analysis of biological impacts need not be based on surveys conducted in the same year the city issued its notice of preparation of the EIR. Save North Petaluma River and Wetlands v. City of Petaluma, 86 Cal.App.5th 207…
EIR Invalidated for Failure to Analyze Potential Public Acquisition of Residentially Zoned Land
The EIR for a residential project has been struck down because its discussion of project alternatives did not analyze the possibility that public funds might be used to acquire the land for open space. Save the Hill Group v. City of Livermore, 76 Cal. App. 5th 1092 (2022).
The project site was zoned residential…
CEQA YEAR IN REVIEW — 2022
A SUMMARY OF PUBLISHED APPELLATE OPINIONS UNDER THE
CALIFORNIA ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ACT
The courts issued 16 published CEQA decisions in 2022, continuing a trend of fewer published opinions than the pattern established in earlier years. The only California Supreme Court opinion, County of Butte v. Department of Water Resources, addressed federal preemption of CEQA, a rarely litigated issue.
The most important cases of the year centered on the adequacy of EIRs. The court in League to Save Lake Tahoe Mountain Area Preservation Foundation v. County of Placer addressed three hot CEQA topics, finding an EIR’s greenhouse gas mitigation measures and energy analysis inadequate, but upholding the EIR’s wildfire evacuation analysis.
Several important EIR cases focused on project alternatives. A decision that attracted significant notice – Save the Hill Group v. City of Livermore – held that an EIR’s discussion of project alternatives was inadequate because it did not explore the possibility of a public purchase of the project site for open space rather than its development for residential use.
In We Advocate Through Environmental Review v. County of Siskiyou, the court found the EIR’s list of project objectives so closely mirrored the proposed project that it foreclosed identification of a reasonable range of project alternatives. And in Tiburon Open Space Committee v. County of Marin, the county had settled federal litigation over a development site, promising to approve at least 43 residential units. In subsequent CEQA litigation, the court upheld the county’s rejection of an alternative allowing fewer than 43 units, concluding that the stipulated judgment in the federal litigation rendered the reduced alternative legally infeasible. Another EIR case answers the question whether an agency may approve a revised project that is a variation on the proposed project and alternatives considered in the EIR. The court held the city did not have to recirculate the EIR because the revised project was simply another permutation of the options that were fully covered by the EIR. Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters v. City of Los Angeles. .Finally, in an unusual case, a court held that a landowner could pursue a malicious prosecution action against counsel for unsuccessful CEQA plaintiffs. Jenkins v. Brandt-Hawley.
The following summaries identify the key issues in the cases decided in 2022.. Each of these case summaries links to a post on this site the provides a more detailed description of the court’s opinion.
Stephen Kostka and Julie Jones…
Third District Invalidates EIR for State Capitol Renovation Project
Update: On January 18, 2023, the Third District Court of Appeal issued a revised opinion on rehearing, ordering partial decertification of the EIR and allowing certain construction activities to proceed during remand (see “Partial Decertification & Severance” below.)
In a high-profile CEQA case involving renovation of the State Capitol grounds, the Third District Court…
Athletic Field Lighting Project Not Categorically Exempt from CEQA
The First District Court of Appeal overturned the City of San Francisco’s decision that Saint Ignatius High School’s project to install four permanent 90-foot-tall athletic field lights was exempt from CEQA. Saint Ignatius Neighborhood Association v. City and County of San Francisco, 85 Cal.App 5th (2022).
The City approved the lighting project without environmental review…
Meritless CEQA Suit Warranted Malicious Prosecution Claim Against Attorney
The court of appeal held that an attorney’s actions in filing and prosecuting a meritless challenge to construction of a single-family home supported a claim for malicious prosecution. Jenkins v. Brandt-Hawley, No A162852 (1st Dist., Dec 28, 2022).
The underlying lawsuit challenged permits issued by the Town of San Anselmo allowing the Jenkins family to…
CEQA Categorical Exemption Must Be Agendized under Brown Act
On February 15, 2023, the California Supreme Court issued an order depublishing this decision. While still binding on the parties to the case, the decision can no longer be cited or relied on as authority.
The City of Thousand Oaks violated the Ralph M. Brown Act by adopting a CEQA exemption without having listed the…
CEQA Review Not Required for Water Allocations That Were Part of Earlier Project
A CEQA challenge to water allocations by the City of Los Angeles and its Department of Water and Power was barred by the statute of limitations because the allocations were under leases approved years earlier. County of Mono v. City of Los Angeles, 81 Cal.App.5th 657 (2022).
In 2010, the City approved a set…