Environmental and Land Use Litigation

The California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District has determined that the actions of a homeowners association undertaken in accordance with its land use approval process are protected activities in furtherance of free speech under California’s anti-SLAPP statute. Golden Eagle Land Investment, L.P. v. Rancho Santa Fe Association, 19 Cal. App. 5th 399

Successful petitioners under CEQA who are motivated to file suit, in part, by their private financial interests are not necessarily ineligible for an award of attorneys’ fees under the public interest fee statute. Heron Bay Homeowners Association v. City of San Leandro, 19 Cal. App. 5th 376 (2018).

Halus Power Systems sought approval from

In Center for Biological Diversity et al. v. California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 17 Cal. App.5th 1245 (2017) the court of appeal held a court order that requires partial decertification of an Environmental Impact Report and leaves some project approvals in place is a legally permissible remedy when an EIR has been found

A CEQA case challenging the City of Wildomar’s approval of a Wal-Mart retail complex has been dismissed because the petitioner refused to comply with discovery requests regarding its standing to sue.  Creed-21 v. City of Wildomar, 4th Dist. Court of Appeal Case No.E066367 (pub. order 12/19/2017).

CEQA cases generally are decided on the administrative

The California Supreme Court has ruled that a landowner who accepts the benefits of a permit by constructing the project forfeits the right to challenge land-use conditions imposed on the project. Lynch v. California Coastal Commission (Calif. Supreme Court, No. S221980, July 6, 2017).

Factual Background

After storms damaged a seawall and stairway structure beneath their bluff-top homes, plaintiffs sought a permit from the California Coastal Commission to demolish and reconstruct the seawall. The Commission granted the permit subject to conditions that included a prohibition against reconstruction of the stairway and a 20-year limit on the authorization for the seawall, after which plaintiffs would need to apply for a new permit to extend the authorization period.


Plaintiffs filed a petition for writ of administrative mandamus challenging the 20-year expiration condition and the condition prohibiting reconstruction of the stairway. They argued that the 20-year expiration date was unconstitutional because it did not mitigate impacts of the project, and that the Commission could not prohibit reconstruction of the stairway because that activity did not require a permit.

While the litigation was pending, plaintiffs satisfied other permit conditions, secured the coastal development permit, and built the seawall. The Court of Appeal held that plaintiffs’ challenge could not proceed because they had waived their claims by constructing the project.

California Supreme Court Decision

Under the Pfieffer/McDougal line of cases, a landowner may not challenge a permit condition if he or she has acquiesced to it either by specific agreement or by failing to challenge the condition while accepting the benefits of the permit. Instead, the landowner must file a timely challenge to the conditions and await the outcome before proceeding with the project.
Continue Reading Property Owner Who Proceeds With Development Under a Permit Cannot Challenge Land-Use Conditions Attached to the Permit

In Citizens for Beach Rights v. City of San Diego, 10 Cal.App.5th 1301 (2017), the court of appeal held that a challenge to issuance of a building permit necessarily included a challenge to the validity of the underlying site development permit, which was barred by the 90-day statute of limitations in Government Code section

A party against whom summary judgment is entered as a result of attorney neglect may not seek relief under a statute that provides relief from a default judgment or dismissal resulting from attorney neglect. The Urban Wildlands Group, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 10 Cal. App. 5th 993 (2017).

The plaintiff challenged the

A project sponsor can successfully defend an action brought to challenge a permit for its project, and satisfy the standards in Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5 for an award of attorneys’ fees, but still have its fee claim rejected, if the court concludes the aim of the lawsuit was to protect, rather than curtail,