Category: CEQA

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Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s CEQA Guidelines on Pollution Impacts to Project Occupants and Users Are Invalid

The significance thresholds for exposure of receptors to harmful air pollution in the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s CEQA Guidelines cannot provide the basis for requiring an EIR or mitigation measures, when used to measure the impact of existing air pollution on future occupants or users of a project. As a result, the District’s … Continue Reading

EIR’s Energy Impacts Analysis Fails To Satisfy CEQA’s Requirements 

Background In Ukiah Citizens for Safety First v. City of Ukiah, 248 Cal.App.4th 256 (2016) the First District Court of Appeal concluded that the City of Ukiah’s EIR for a proposed Costco failed to satisfy CEQA’s requirements for evaluating energy impacts. The project involved the construction of a new Costco store and gas station. The … Continue Reading

Failure to Discover An Agency’s Approval Of An Exempt Project Does Not Extend The Time To File CEQA Lawsuit

The First District Court of Appeal has ruled that the accrual of a claim that a public agency exemption determination violated CEQA is not postponed by the plaintiff’s failure to discover the violation. Communities for a Better Environment et al. v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District, No. A143634 (1st Dist., July 19, 2016; modified … Continue Reading

General Plan Sustainability Requirements Doom Wal-Mart Project

Finding a variety of legal errors, including failure to comply with a city policy requiring on-site electricity generation “to the maximum extent feasible,” a court of appeal has overturned the City of Victorville’s approvals for a Wal-Mart project.  Spring Valley Lake Ass’n v. City of Victorville, No. D069442 (4th Dist., June 15, 2016).  The court … Continue Reading

Public/Private Partnerships: New Guidance on Designating the CEQA Lead Agency

With public/private partnerships becoming more common, a California appellate court has outlined – with a new test – how to determine the CEQA lead agency for a project in which a private entity partners with multiple public agencies. Center for Biological Diversity v. County of San Bernardino (G051058) 4th Dist., May 10, 2016. Cadiz, Inc. … Continue Reading

Ordinance Prohibiting Mobile Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Was Not a “Project” Under CEQA

A California Court of Appeal has held that a city ordinance prohibiting mobile medical marijuana dispensaries within city boundaries did not constitute a “project” under the California Environmental Quality Act.  Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of Upland, 245 Cal.App.4th 1265 (2016). In 2007, the City of Upland adopted a zoning ordinance prohibiting … Continue Reading

Assessing traffic impacts under CEQA

In enacting CEQA, the Legislature established a policy to “provide the people of this state with clean air and water, enjoyment of aesthetic, natural, scenic and historical environmental qualities, and freedom from excessive noise.” The Legislature did not mention freedom from intersection congestion. Yet detailed analyses of roadway levels of service and intersection delay have … Continue Reading

Governor’s Office Moves One Step Closer to Eliminating Automobile Delay as a Significant CEQA Impact

On January 20, 2016, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research released a revised draft of proposed new CEQA Guidelines to replace automobile congestion-based thresholds for evaluating transportation impacts with thresholds that emphasize proximity to transit and a reduction in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on a per capita or per employee basis. SB 743, passed … Continue Reading

Agency’s CEQA Analysis Must Consider the Project’s Long-Term Impacts

The Third Appellate District’s opinion in North Coast Rivers Alliance v. A.G. Kawamura (January 4, 2016) has left some practitioners scratching their heads trying to decipher the court’s holdings regarding CEQA requirements for projects that might continue operating past their initial termination date, project objectives, alternatives and cumulative impacts. The California Department of Food and … Continue Reading

CEQA YEAR IN REVIEW 2015

A Summary of Published Appellate Opinions Under the California Environmental Quality Act In 2015, the California appellate courts continued to chart new ground as they grappled with some of CEQA’s most difficult and controversial questions. The  Supreme Court of California led the way, issuing four opinions on hotly contested issues. For the first time, the … Continue Reading

CEQA Requires An Analysis Of The Project’s Impacts On The Environment, Not The Environment’s Impacts On The Project; California Supreme Court Sets Clear Limits On CEQA’s Reach

CEQA generally does not require that public agencies analyze the impact existing environmental conditions might have on a project’s future users or residents, according to the California Supreme Court’s decision in California Building Industry Association v Bay Area Air Quality Management District (S213478, December 17, 2015).  An agency must analyze how environmental conditions might adversely … Continue Reading

Court Rebuffs CEQA Challenge to Subway Tunnel Under Beverly Hills High

Beverly Hills and its school district have failed to persuade the court of appeal to block construction of a subway line beneath Beverly Hills High School. Beverly Hills Unified School District v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, 241 Cal. App. 4th 627 (2015). The court upheld the CEQA analysis for the project against claims … Continue Reading

Complex New Requirements for CEQA Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Set by Supreme Court

Newhall Ranch, a proposed mega-development in Los Angeles County, can’t seem to catch a break: besieged by setbacks since Newhall Land first filed an application to develop the land in 1994, the project has been the subject of over twenty-one public hearings and several law suits over its more than twenty year history. In Center … Continue Reading

OPR Issues Discussion Draft of Proposed Changes to Appendix G of the CEQA Guidelines to Incorporate Tribal Cultural Resources

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) has announced the availability of a discussion draft of proposed changes to Appendix G of the CEQA Guidelines incorporating tribal cultural resources, pursuant to Assembly Bill 52. (For more on AB 52, see our web report here). The discussion draft, available here, provides background on AB 52 … Continue Reading

Historical Level Of Use May Serve As CEQA Baseline For Replacement Of Vacant Building

The California Court of Appeal’s Fourth Appellate District’s recent decision, North County Advocates v. City of Carlsbad is a potentially major decision on the issue of using historical levels of operations as the baseline for gauging the environmental impacts of a proposed project under CEQA. In this case, which concerned renovation of a large Westfield … Continue Reading

Losing Plaintiff Cannot Recover Legal Fees

Commenting that “we have not found a threat of victory in this record,” the court of appeal ruled against a citizens’ group that brought a motion for attorneys’ fees after losing a CEQA challenge in the trial court. Coalition for a Sustainable Future in Yucaipa v. City of Yucaipa, 238 Cal. App. 4th 513 (2015). … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Sets Oral Argument in Key CEQA Case

The California Supreme Court has announced that the oral argument in California Building Industry Association v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District will take place on October 7, 2015, in San Francisco.  The CBIA case squarely presents an issue of critical importance under CEQA: is environmental impact analysis under CEQA limited to the effects of … Continue Reading

A State Agency’s Duty To Mitigate Significant Environmental Impacts Does Not Depend On A Legislative Appropriation Of Funds For Mitigation

The California State University system may not condition its funding of mitigation for off-site impacts of a campus expansion project on receipt of a legislative appropriation earmarked for that purpose, according to a decision issued yesterday by the California Supreme Court. City of San Diego v Board of Trustees of the California State University, No. … Continue Reading

EIR Comments Should Improve The Environmental Review Process, Not Derail It

CEQA guidelines require only that a lead agency give detailed responses to comments that identify an important new matter not discussed in the draft environmental impact report or raise questions about a significant environmental issue, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled, allowing Orange County to proceed with a long-considered expansion of a county jail. City … Continue Reading

Court Rejects Another Attempt to Stop New Kings Arena

Opponents of the Sacramento Arena project took another shot at halting the new Kings arena project, challenging the city’s certification of the project EIR on a variety of grounds. But the Court of Appeal upheld the city’s certification of the EIR, rejecting every one of the opponents’ arguments.  Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento, 234 Cal. … Continue Reading

California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s EIR for Fish-Stocking and Hatchery Program Upheld

A court of appeal has held that the first-ever environmental impact report for the state’s fish hatchery and stocking programs complies with CEQA, but also found that three of the EIR’s mitigation measures constituted “underground regulations” in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. Center for Biological Diversity v. California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Third … Continue Reading

Appellate Court Reaffirms Broad Discretion of Trial Courts to Determine Appropriate Attorneys’ Fees

The Fourth Appellate District upheld the trial court’s award of less than 10% of the fees requested by the prevailing petitioner in a CEQA case, finding no abuse of the broad discretion accorded trial courts in awarding fees. Save Our Uniquely Rural Community v. County of San Bernardino, No. E059524 (4th Dist., March 18, 2015) … Continue Reading
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