In Save Our Access v Watershed Conservation Authority, 68 Cal. App. 5th 8 (2021), plaintiff Save Our Access challenged the EIR certified by the Watershed Conservation Authority for a project to improve a recreation area within the Angeles National Forest. The project was designed to restore natural resources damaged by heavy recreational use, upgrade

A developer established a probability of prevailing on its claims for malicious prosecution where the evidence showed that the neighboring owner lacked probable cause for pursuing CEQA litigation and acted with malice. Dunning v. Johnson, 64 Cal. App. 5th 156 (2021).

Clews Horse Ranch sued to challenge a decision by the City of San

The State Lands Commission was not required to assume the role of lead agency and prepare a subsequent EIR for changes to a desalinization plant for which an EIR had already been certified by the City of Huntington Beach as lead agency.  California Coastkeeper Alliance v State Lands Commission, 64 Cal. App. 5th 36

Petitioner could not avoid the deferential standard of review under the Planning and Zoning Law regarding an agency’s interpretation of its own general plan by framing the challenge as an “inconsistency” between the project and the general plan that required further analysis in the EIR pursuant to the CEQA Guidelines. Stop Syar Expansion v County

The court of appeal affirmed the trial court judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s CEQA action on grounds that the plaintiff failed to join an indispensable real party in interest within thirty days after the city filed a revised notice of determination to correct an earlier notice of determination which misidentified the project applicant  — even though

Plaintiffs failed to exhaust administrative remedies because they did not appeal the challenged CEQA decision by the Historic Preservation Commission to the Board of Supervisors. Schmid v. City and County of San Francisco, 60 Cal. App. 5th 470 (2021).

The plaintiffs sued San Francisco asserting a “potpourri of claims” challenging removal of a bronze sculpture

On January 26, 2021, attorneys from Perkins Coie presented the 31st Annual Land Use and Development Law Briefing. Topics included:

    • Key Developments in Land Use Law
    • Legislative Changes Affecting Housing Development
    • CEQA: Key Cases and Trends
    • COVID 19 — Real Estate Impacts
    • Wetlands, Endangered Species and NEPA Update

A full set of the written materials,

In Santa Clara Valley Water District v. San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board, No. A157127, 2020 WL 7706795 (Cal. Ct. App. Dec. 29, 2020), the court ruled that CEQA does not constrain an agency’s authority to enforce the laws it administers, including those authorizing imposition of mitigation requirements.  The court held that, after an EIR for a project has been certified, a regional water quality control board, acting as a responsible agency, can impose  mitigation on the project through waste discharge requirements issued under the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act, even though those measures were not described in the lead agency’s EIR. The court’s decision raises significant questions about the limits on a responsible agency’s ability to depart from CEQA’s requirements when deciding whether and how to approve a project.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District brought this case to challenge the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board’s WDRs for a flood control project on Upper Berryessa Creek near Milpitas and San Jose. The Army Corps of Engineers was responsible for the design and construction of the flood control project, while the District was the project sponsor. In January 2016, the District certified a final EIR, which found that impacts on water resources would be less-than-significant with mitigation.

Pursuant to section 401 of the Clean Water Act, the Corps applied to the Regional Board for a certification that the project would not violate state water quality laws. Facing political pressure to issue the section 401 certification quickly (because the project was needed to protect a soon-to-open BART station and was at risk of losing federal funding if the certification was delayed), the Regional Board agreed to issue the certification in March 2016. The certification stated that the Regional Board, as a responsible agency under CEQA, found that water quality impacts during construction would be reduced to less-than-significant levels with the mitigation measures described in the final EIR. The Regional Board’s certification also stated that the EIR lacked the detail necessary to assess the long-term water quality impacts relating to the project’s design, operation, and maintenance, and that it would later issue WDRs to compensate for those impacts.

In April 2017, the Regional Board issued a WDR order requiring additional mitigation to compensate for the project’s water quality impacts. The WDR order required enhancing 15,000 linear feet or 15 acres of waters of the state, which could be satisfied by one of the District’s other planned projects. The Regional Board purported to comply with CEQA by making findings in the WDR order that it had considered the District’s EIR and determined that, with the addition of the WDR order’s mitigation requirements, the project’s impacts would be less than significant.

Waste Discharge Requirements

The court rejected the District’s claim that the Regional Board lacked authority to issue WDRs under the Porter-Cologne Act because the project would not cause a discharge of waste. The District argued that substances must be useless, unneeded, or discarded to constitute waste for purposes of the Porter-Cologne Act, and that the project’s sedimentation effects did not meet this test. The court ruled that even if the District’s interpretation of the law were correct, the project would result in a discharge of waste: The project’s widening of the creek bed would slow the flow of water and lead to increased sedimentation in the creek; this additional sediment would not be useful or necessary and would require periodic removal.
Continue Reading Can a Responsible Agency Impose Mitigation Measures Not Considered in the Lead Agency’s EIR?

In 2018, the CEQA Guideline which defines the term “mitigation” was amended to add “conservation easements” to the list of measures that can provide “compensatory” mitigation for an environmental impact. Guideline §15370(e). The amendment was intended to resolve a debate about whether conservation easements over off-site farmland can provide a means to mitigate not only