“… like all things in life, project plans are subject to change.”
(Slip Opn. of Kruger, J., p. 4.)
The California Supreme Court provided needed clarification to some aspects of the operation of CEQA’s “subsequent review” rules (Pub. Resources Code, § 21166; CEQA Guidelines, § 15162) in its highly anticipated opinion, filed on September 9, 2016, in Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo County Community College District (2016) ___ Cal.5th ___, 2016 WL 4978435. CEQA’s subsequent review rules embody CEQA’s concerns for finality and efficiency, and implement a presumption against requiring a subsequent EIR for a modified project that has previously undergone CEQA review – i.e., they govern whether an EIR will be required, or another type of CEQA document (or no further documentation) will suffice, when changes are proposed in a project for which an initial CEQA review has been completed. (Slip Opn., p. 12.) I won’t reiterate this case’s facts and relevant background history (including oral argument and post-argument briefing in the Supreme Court) which can be found (in reverse chronological order) in my prior blog posts of July 8, May 12, May 4, April 26, 2016, and March 25, 2014. This post focuses on the legal rules and standards announced by the Court and their potentially significant implications for lead agencies and project proponents who consider approval of changes to a development project that has already undergone and survived a full CEQA review.