Category: CEQA

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Tie vote that resulted in upholding permit approval was subject to challenge under CEQA

The court of appeal rejected a claim that a tie vote of the air quality management district’s hearing board resulted in “no action” and hence was not subject to judicial challenge. Grist Creek Aggregates. LLC v. Mendocino County Air Quality Management District (No. A149861, June 14, 2017). The Mendocino County Air Quality Management District approved … Continue Reading

Court of Appeal Rejects CEQA Piecemealing Challenge to County’s “Zoning Modernization” Ordinances

The court in Aptos Council v. County of Santa Cruz  (6th District, No. H042976, April 25, 2017) rejected a lawsuit claiming that three pro-development zoning ordinances the county adopted constituted a single project that that should have been reviewed together in an environmental impact report. The court of appeal found that the zoning ordinances could … Continue Reading

Court Finds CARB’s New Analysis of Biodiesel Low Carbon Fuel Regulations Still Doesn’t Comply With CEQA But Leaves Current Regulations In Place Pending Compliance

In 2013, the fifth district court of appeal ruled that the California Air Resources Board violated CEQA when it adopted its 2009 Low Carbon Fuel Standard regulations, and the court directed issuance of a writ of mandate requiring that CARB take corrective action.  The court allowed the LCFS regulations to remain in effect while CARB completed a new CEQA analysis, concluding that leaving … Continue Reading

Appellate court upholds approval of master-planned community against multiple CEQA challenges

The court of appeal upheld the County of Riverside’s decision to approve development of a master-planned community, rejecting claims that the County violated CEQA by (1) filing an inadequate notice of determination; (2) failing to recirculate the final EIR after the project was modified; and (3) failing to consider and adopt feasible air quality mitigation … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Holds City EIR Must Identify and Analyze Potential Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas Under the Coastal Act

A local agency’s environmental impact report must identify any areas on a project site that might qualify as “Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas” under the California Coastal Act, and must account for those areas in the EIR’s analysis of project alternatives and mitigation measures.  Banning Ranch Conservancy v. City of Newport Beach, California Supreme Court Case … Continue Reading

CEQA YEAR IN REVIEW 2016

A Summary Of Published Appellate Opinions Under The California Environmental Quality Act In 2016, the California appellate courts issued published opinions in 21 CEQA cases. In several of those opinions, including a ground-breaking decision by the California Supreme Court, the courts grappled with limits on the scope of required environmental review for a subsequent project … Continue Reading

MOU Allocating Responsibility for Development of Groundwater Management Plan Not a Project Under CEQA

The Fourth Appellate District has held that a memorandum of understanding between a water district, county, property owner, and water company outlining mutual responsibilities for preparing a groundwater management plan governing the installation and operation of groundwater extraction wells was not a “project” requiring review under CEQA. The court based its decision on its conclusion … Continue Reading

Uncertainty About an Agency’s Discretion to Determine Historical Significance for Purposes of CEQA Is Finally Put to Rest

Resolving a long-standing debate, the court in Friends Of The Willow Glen Trestle v. City Of San Jose (H041563), 6th Dist. Aug. 12, 2016,  ruled that San José’s determination that a railroad trestle bridge was not a historic resource was to be evaluated under the substantial evidence standard of review. It rejected the argument that the fair argument … Continue Reading

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

Court of Appeal Rejects Claim That Sustainable Communities Strategies May Rely on Statewide GHG Reduction Mandates

The First District Court of Appeal has upheld the San Francisco Bay Area’s Sustainable Communities Strategy.  The court rejected  the claim that such strategies  must account for the effects of statewide greenhouse gas reduction mandates. Bay Area Citizens v. Association of Bay Area Governments, 248 Cal. App. 4th 966 (2016). The Sustainable Communities and Climate … 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
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