In an opinion filed June 28, 2023, and later ordered published on July 25, 2023, the Second District Court of Appeal (Div. 5) affirmed a judgment granting a writ of mandate setting aside (1) the City of Los Angeles’ (City) approval of a 10-story hotel project (with three levels of subterranean parking) to be located on a half-acre site in the Hollywood Community Plan area, and (2) the City’s accompanying determination that the hotel project was exempt under CEQA’s Class 32 categorical exemption for infill projects.  Because the hotel project would result in the demolition of 40 apartments subject to the City’s rent stabilization ordinance (RSO), and the City failed to consider whether it was consistent with “all applicable general plan policies” – including Housing Element policies to preserve affordable housing – the record failed to contain substantial evidence supporting City’s use of the exemption.  United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles v. City of Los Angeles (Fariborz Moshfegh, et al., Real Parties in Interest) (2023) 93 Cal.App.5th 1074.Continue Reading Second District Affirms Judgment Voiding CEQA Infill Exemption For Hollywood Hotel Project That Would Demolish Affordable Housing Units Because City Deemed Inapplicable And Never Considered Project’s Consistency With General Plan Housing Element Policies To Preserve Affordable Housing

In a published opinion filed June 13, 2023, the Second District Court of Appeal (Div. 8) affirmed the trial court’s judgment rejecting CEQA challenges to the City of Pomona’s (City) use of a statutory exemption – under Public Resources Code § 21083.3(a), (b) and CEQA Guidelines § 15183 – for its adoption of a zoning overlay district allowing commercial cannabis activities at specific locations within the City’s boundaries.  Gregory Lucas v. City of Pomona (2023) 92 Cal.App.5th 508.Continue Reading Second District Affirms Judgment Upholding City of Pomona’s Commercial Cannabis Permit Program Overlay District As CEQA-Exempt Under Statutory Exemption Provided In Guidelines Section 15183 For Projects Consistent With Development Density Established By Existing Zoning, General Plan, Or Community Plan for Which EIR Was Certified; Holds Substantial Evidence Standard of Review Applies To Lead Agency’s Finding of Exemption

In an opinion filed May 12, and later certified for publication on June 8, 2023, the Second District Court of Appeal (Div. 6) upheld the City of San Buenaventura’s decision to remove a bronze statue of Father Junipero Serra from its location in front of City Hall and relocate it to the San Buenaventura Mission; the Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment denying a writ petition challenging the City’s decision on various grounds, including alleged CEQA violations.  Coalition for Historical Integrity v. City of San Buenaventura (2023) 92 Cal.App.5th 430.Continue Reading Historical Correction? Second District Holds City’s Policy Decision To Remove And Relocate “Offensive” Statue That Was Replica of Earlier Historic Landmark Qualified For CEQA’s Common Sense Exemption Because Substantial Evidence Supported City’s Finding That, Despite Its Earlier Erroneous Listing, Replica Was Never Actually A Historically Significant Resource

In a March 27, 2023 post found here, we wrote about the Second District Court of Appeal’s (Div. 1) decision concerning the Water Code section 13389 CEQA exemption for Regional Water Quality Control Board (“RWQCB”) issuance of waste discharge permits, formerly published as Los Angeles Waterkeeper v. State Water Resources Control Board (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 874.  After the Regional Board and State Board filed a request for modification of that opinion to clarify certain issues, the Court of Appeal vacated it, ordered rehearing, considered supplemental briefing, and filed a new, superseding published opinion in the case on June 2, 2023.Continue Reading Second District “Waters Down” Los Angeles Waterkeeper Waste Discharge Permit CEQA Exemption Opinion After Rehearing At Request Of Water Boards, Narrows And Clarifies Holding With No Change In Judgment Or Result

On March 22, 2023, the California Supreme Court granted the City of San Francisco’s stand-alone depublication request in (and declined to review on its own motion) the First District Court of Appeal’s (Div. 4) decision in Saint Ignatius Neighborhood Association v. City and County of San Francisco.  The depublished opinion reversed a trial court decision that upheld the City’s use of CEQA Guidelines Class 1 (existing facilities) and 3 (small structures) categorical exemptions for a high school athletic stadium project involving the installation of four 90-foot tall light standards to significantly expand nighttime stadium use.  Officially, the Supreme Court’s depublication order is not to be construed as expressing any opinion on the merits, and the Court of Appeal’s decision remains fully binding on the parties but cannot be cited as precedent.  My 12/7/22 post on the case can be found here. Continue Reading CEQA Updates: Supreme Court Depublishes High School Stadium Light Standard Exemption Case; Second District Modifies Pacific Palisades Opinion With No Change In Judgment

On February 27, 2023, the Second District Court of Appeal (Division One) filed its published decision in Los Angeles Waterkeeper v. State Water Resources Control Board (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 874, a case mainly focused on water law but which also has some significant CEQA implications.  Briefly put, the petitioner in Los Angeles Waterkeeper attempted to bypass a statutory limitation on CEQA review through an action that would, if successful, have resulted in the imposition of additional substantive and procedural environmental review requirements on certain projects for which no EIR is required. As explained below, the Second District rejected this invitation to expand CEQA’s reach.Continue Reading Second District Affirms Judgment Upholding Water Code CEQA Exemption, Rejects Plaintiff’s Attempt To Extend CEQA Review And Findings Requirements To Regional Water Board’s Approval Of Waste Discharge Permits

In a published opinion filed March 8, 2023, the Second District Court of Appeal (Division 8) affirmed the trial court’s judgment denying writ relief in a lawsuit challenging approval of a CEQA-exempt eldercare facility project in Pacific Palisades, an oceanside area of the City of Los Angeles.  Pacific Palisades Residents Association, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles (Rony Shram, et al, Real Parties in Interest) (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 1338.   The decision capped almost six years of “vociferous” NIMBY opposition to a much-needed project – an opposition that failed on its merits at every governmental and judicial level of review to which it was taken, yet relentlessly continued nonetheless.Continue Reading Another Call for CEQA Litigation Reform?  Second District Rejects NIMBY Group’s CEQA, Coastal Act, and Land Use Challenges, Affirms Judgment Upholding Approval of Zoning-Compliant And CEQA-Exempt Eldercare Facility On Flat, Graded, Vacant One-Acre Infill Site Surrounded By Residential and Commercial Development

In a published decision filed February 16, 2023, the Second District Court of Appeal (Division 7) affirmed a judgment denying a CEQA writ petition challenging approval of a single-family home expansion project because the petitioner group failed to exhaust administrative remedies.  Arcadians for Environmental Preservation v. City of Arcadia (Julie Wu, et al., Real Parties in Interest) (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 418.  The Court held that the generalized and unelaborated objections, made by a member of petitioner in the City’s administrative proceedings, to the City’s Class 1 categorical exemption determination for the project failed to fairly apprise the City of petitioner’s specific objections so as to preserve them for litigation.Continue Reading Neighbor-Led Group Opposing Single-Family Home Expansion Project Failed To Exhaust Administrative Remedies By Making Sufficiently Specific Objections To City’s CEQA Class 1 Categorical Exemption Determination

In a published opinion filed on February 23, 2023, the Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed a judgment of dismissal after the sustaining of a demurrer and held that an amended writ petition challenging a city’s street closure project sufficiently stated claims against the city for Vehicle Code, local ordinance, and CEQA violations.  Committee to Relocate Marilyn v. City of Palm Springs (PS Resorts, Real Party in Interest) (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 607.  As relevant here, it held the operative petition was not time-barred despite its first alleging CEQA violations more than 35 days after the City’s filing of a Notice of Exemption (“NOE”) because the City subsequently changed its project from a street vacation to an allegedly temporary street closure and Petitioner (the “Committee” or “Petitioner”) filed its amended petition alleging a CEQA claim within 180 days of learning of the change.Continue Reading “Permanent Vacation” In Palm Springs? – Fourth District Holds CEQA’s Short 35-Day Statute of Limitations Does Not Apply Despite City’s Filing of NOE Due To Subsequent Material Change In Street Vacation Project Which Triggered Maximum 180-Day Limitations Period

In a published opinion filed February 6, 2023, the Fourth District Court of Appeal (Div. 3) affirmed a judgment setting aside an addendum to a 2010 program EIR (PEIR) and accompanying approvals for a 275,000-square foot office complex on a 4.95-acre parcel (the “Gemdale project” or “project”) within the 2,800-acre Irvine Business Complex (IBC).  IBC Business Owners for Sensible Development v. City of Irvine (Gemdale 2400 Barranca Holdings, LLC, Real Party in Interest) (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 100.  The Court held that the City’s approval of the Addendum was improper because substantial evidence did not support the conclusion that the project’s GHG emissions were within the scope of the PEIR and would have less than significant impacts; further, the project was unusually large and dense due to its utilization of transfers of development rights (TDRs) of over 220,000 square feet – by far the largest ever approved in the IBC’s history – and thus could not qualify for the Class 32 infill exemption due to the unusual circumstances exception.Continue Reading Fourth District Holds Addendum To 2010 Program EIR For Irvine Business Complex Vision Plan Violated CEQA Because Conclusion That Large Infill Project’s GHG Emissions Would Be Less Than Significant Lacked Substantial Evidence And Project Was Not Exempt