Approval/Pre-Commitment

In a published opinion filed February 18, 2015, the Third District Court of Appeal rejected all legal challenges to the City of Sacramento’s EIR and CEQA compliance for approval of its new downtown entertainment and sports center (ESC) which will serve as the Sacramento King’s new home arena. Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento (3d Dist. 2015) 234 Cal.App.4th 549. Key points of the Court’s decision, which affirmed the trial court’s judgment denying the writ sought by project opponents, include:
Continue Reading CEQA Review of Sacramento Kings Downtown Arena Project Held Legally Adequate In Published Third District Opinion

In a decision recently ordered published, the Fourth District Court of Appeal added to the growing progeny of Save Tara, and affirmed the trial court’s judgment denying the City of Irvine’s writ petition seeking to compel Orange County to prepare an EIR for its submittal of an application for state funding to expand a jail facility.  City of Irvine v. County of Orange (4th Dist., Div. 3, 2013) 221 Cal.App.4th 846.  County’s funding application under the State’s AB 900 process did not commit it to a definite course of action regarding the jail expansion, however, and was merely a preliminary funding step; it was therefore not the “approval” of a project requiring CEQA review.
Continue Reading All About “Commitment”: CEQA Review is Not Triggered By Orange County’s AB 900 Application For State Funding To Expand Existing Jail Facility, Which Was Not A Project Approval

One of the most vexing issues arising under CEQA, particularly in cases of projects involving public-private partnerships or projects requiring public agency financial assistance, is the question of when project approval occurs.  Like pregnancy, project approval is an all-or-nothing condition with profound consequences – yet the law provides no “bright line” test for when project approval, and the concomitant requirement of completed CEQA review, occurs.
Continue Reading Navigating Between CEQA’s Scylla and Charybdis: First District Applies Save Tara Analysis and Rejects Claims of Improper Project “Preapproval” in Neighbors For Fair Planning v. City and County of San Francisco

Harmonizing CEQA’s rules and principles is, to say the least, not always easy, and is often quite challenging.  The relevant concepts are often in tension, or are so malleable that they can be argued or construed to conflict.  For example, environmental review must commence at the earliest “practicable” time, in order to make fully informed decisions at a project’s formative stages and avoid undue project “momentum” or “post-hoc rationalizations”; yet it should not occur so early that it would be “speculative” or not “meaningful” due to lack of sufficient data from a crystallized development project proposal.  To cite another example, a “project” refers to the “activity being approved,” but also to the “whole of an action” and not just individual discretionary permits that trigger CEQA review.  And, a “project approval” occurs at the lead agency’s earliest commitment to a “definite course of action” regarding a proposed project.  Fuzzy concepts like these can be difficult to apply, and supply ample fodder for CEQA litigation.  They tend to produce heavily fact-specific decisions offering unclear guidance to lead agencies and project proponents.
Continue Reading Fourth District Applies CEQA’s “Murky” Piecemealing Tests To Reject “Project Definition” Challenge To Park Development in Banning Ranch Conservancy

Governor Jerry Brown was recently quoted in a Capitol Alert piece as calling legislative reform of CEQA “the Lord’s work” – hopefully he didn’t mean the quest for the Holy Grail – although he admitted in the same article he hadn’t yet read the latest bills proposing to limit its scope.  In the short time since then, SB 317 (the most significant effort at CEQA reform this year) appears to have died in the waning days of this Legislative session.  While “hope springs eternal,” meaningful legislative reform of CEQA thus continues to prove elusive.
Continue Reading Are Courts Actively Limiting CEQA’s Scope In The Absence of Meaningful Legislative Reform?