In a partially published opinion filed June 21, 2016, the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District reversed in part the Mendocino County Superior Court’s judgment denying a writ petition challenging the City of Ukiah’s approvals of a Costco warehouse/gas station project on CEQA and zoning law grounds. Ukiah Citizens for Safety First v. City of Ukiah (1st Dist., Div. 3, 2016) _____ Cal.App.4th _____, 2016 WL ____________. The 10-page published portion of the Court’s 27-page opinion held the City’s EIR and project approvals must be set aside and the EIR’s energy analysis brought into compliance with CEQA; the remaining unpublished portion of the opinion (not discussed in detail in this post) agreed with and affirmed the trial court’s rulings that the EIR’s transportation/traffic and noise analyses were adequate and that the project was not inconsistent with applicable zoning requirements.
In a decision filed May 25, and belatedly ordered published June 15, 2016, the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed and reversed in part a judgment of the San Bernardino County Superior Court. It affirmed the judgment to the extent it held the Wal-Mart Tamarisk Marketplace Project (Project) EIR inadequately analyzed the Project’s GHG emissions and that the Project was inconsistent with the City of Victorville’s (City) General Plan; it reversed to the extent the judgment failed to also find that City violated CEQA by not recirculating the EIR and violated the Subdivision Map Act (Map Act) by failing to make all findings required by Government Code § 66474. (Spring Valley Lake Association v. City of Victorville (Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Real Party in Interest) (4th Dist., Div. 1) ___ Cal.App.4th ___, 2016 WL 3098915.)
As summer rapidly approaches, and we continue to experience a (from my perspective welcome) “mini-drought” of published CEQA cases, I’ll briefly report on some recent legislative developments of possible interest.
In a brief – and somewhat odd – opinion filed April 22, and belatedly ordered partially published on May 20, 2016, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court judgment denying a petition for writ of mandate challenging a General Plan Amendment (GPA) adopted by the City of Palm Springs as categorically exempt from CEQA. People for Proper Planning v. City of Palm Springs (4th Dist., Div. 2, 2016) ____ Cal.App.4th _______, 2016 WL 1633062, Case No. E062725. The Court held the trial court erred in upholding the City’s positions that the GPA, which eliminated minimum density requirements for all residential land use categories, was exempt from CEQA review under the Class 5 categorical exemption and because it allegedly did not change the environmental “baseline,” i.e., the City’s alleged preexisting practice of ignoring the General Plan’s minimum density provisions (and, hence, its allowable density ranges) when acting on residential development applications. In light of its CEQA ruling requiring reversal and further environmental (and necessarily General Plan consistency) analyses by the City, the Court held that it need not reach appellant PFPP’s other arguments that the GPA rendered the General Plan internally inconsistent, and violated statutory requirements that City accommodate its fair share of regional housing needs for all income levels.
Almost five years ago, in September 2011, Miller Starr Regalia launched its first blog, CEQA Developments (www.ceqadevelopments.com), to highlight the firm’s experience and provide an up-to-date resource in the area of CEQA law. As readers and CEQA practitioners can attest, there has been no shortage of “CEQA developments” to analyze and report on over the years, and I fully expect that trend to continue.
At the same time, and while CEQA and land use law go together like “hand and glove,” there have always been and continue to be a great many interesting and important non-CEQA land use developments under distinct laws and legal schemes – including, but not limited to, the Planning and Zoning Law, the Subdivision Map Act, the Brown Act, the Public Records Act, the Elections Code, the Mitigation Fee Act, and the Eminent Domain Law, as well as the Federal and State constitutional provisions prohibiting the taking or damaging of property without payment of just compensation. The firm’s Land Use Practice Group has deep experience and expertise entitling and defending a wide range of development projects, implicating numerous areas of land use law, throughout the state.
In the second of two published opinions filed May 10, 2016, the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment upholding the lead agency designation and EIR for a controversial project proposing to pump 50,000 acre-feet annually for a 50-year period from an aquifer underlying Cadiz, Inc.’s Mojave Desert property in San Bernardino County. Center For Biological Diversity, et al. v. County of San Bernardino, et al., (4th Dist., Div. 3, 2016) ____ Cal.App.4th ___, 2016 WL ________ (Case No. G051058). (For my post covering the Court’s related published opinion, see “Fourth District Rejects CEQA Challenges To Large Mojave Desert Groundwater Pumping Project In Separate Published Opinions,” by Arthur F. Coon, posted May 11, 2016.) Continue Reading
In orders issued May 11, 2016, one week after the May 4 oral argument and submission of the cause for decision, the California Supreme Court vacated the submission and ordered supplemental briefing in Friends of the Collage at San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo County Community College District, Case No. S214061. Continue Reading
In two opinions filed May 10, 2016 (one partially and the other fully published), the Fourth District Court of Appeal rejected a number of CEQA and other challenges to a project proposing to pump 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year for a 50-year period from a Mojave Desert aquifer in the County of San Bernardino (“Project”). The Project – proposed by a “public-private partnership” between lead agency Santa Margarita Water District (“SMWG”) and the overlying landowner, Cadiz, Inc. (“Cadiz”) – seeks to beneficially use and prevent the loss of groundwater, some portion of which would otherwise drain to two dry lakes where it would evaporate or become unpotable brine. The fresh water pumped from the aquifer would be conveyed through 43 miles of underground pipeline to the Colorado River Aqueduct, which would then transport it to supply a number of Southern California Water agencies and users.
The California Supreme Court held a lively oral argument session this morning (May 4, 2016), at 9:00 a.m. in its San Francisco courtroom in the case of Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo Community College District (Case No. S214061), which was live streamed for “real time” viewing on the Court’s website. This post attempts to convey a general sense of the Court’s questioning and counsel’s argument in the hour-long session; any mistakes in “translation” are mine, and I apologize for any such errors in advance. (For my prior post briefly describing the case’s facts, legal issues and significance, see “Supreme Court Set to Hear Important CEQA Subsequent Review Case,” by Arthur F. Coon, posted April 26, 2016.) Continue Reading
On May 4, 2016, at 9 a.m. in its San Francisco courtroom, the California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in yet another of the many significant CEQA cases it has tackled in recent years, this one presenting critically important issues involving the application of CEQA’s “subsequent review” rules. The case – Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo Community College District (Case No. S214061) – raises issues regarding the appropriate standard of judicial review and degree of deference CEQA requires to be accorded to a lead agency’s environmental determinations when it approves changes to an already approved project that underwent full (and presumptively adequate) CEQA review in its original form.