In an opinion filed April 18, and belatedly ordered published on May 10, 2023, the Sixth District Court of Appeal upheld the City of San Jose’s (City) certification of a final Supplemental EIR (FSEIR) for development of three high-rise office towers (the “Project”) on an eight-acre downtown site containing several historic structures which the Project required to be demolished. Preservation Action Council of San Jose v. City of San Jose (SJ Cityview, LLC, Real Party in Interest) (2023) 91 Cal.App.5th 517. In affirming the trial court’s judgment denying Preservation Action Council of San Jose’s (Appellant) petition for writ of mandate, the Court rejected Appellant’s arguments that the FSEIR failed to adequately analyze and provide compensatory mitigation for the historic buildings and failed to adequately respond to comments on those issues.Continue Reading Sixth District Holds Downtown San Jose Office Project FSEIR’s Brief Discussion And Rejection of “Compensatory” Mitigation for Historic Buildings Razed By Project Was Informationally Adequate Under CEQA Based On City’s Unchallenged Factual Finding That No Similar Historic Buildings Existed Elsewhere In City’s Downtown

On May 17, 2020, the California Supreme Court granted review of the First District Court of Appeal’s controversial and much criticized published decision in Make UC a Good Neighbor v. Regents of University of California (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 656, which held the University’s long-range campus development plan (LRDP) EIR inadequate, throwing a monkey wrench into its efforts to redevelop and build much-needed student and homeless housing at the historic People’s Park site. (My March 3, 2023 post on the Court of Appeal’s decision can be found here.)Continue Reading California Supreme Court Grants Review In Controversial “People’s Park”/Student Housing CEQA Case

In a published opinion filed March 2, 2023, the Fifth District Court of Appeal held that where no governmental approvals were required, an investor-owned public utility was not required to comply with CEQA prior to exercising its eminent domain power by filing an action to condemn a maintenance/access easement in connection with its existing electrical power transmission facilities located on and traversing private property.  Robinson v. Superior Court of Kern County (5th Dist. 2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 1144.  While most of the opinion involved eminent domain issues irrelevant to this blog, the pertinent issue here is a simple definitional one:  CEQA applies only to “discretionary projects proposed to be carried out or approved by public agencies” (Pub. Resources Code, § 21080(a)), and CEQA’s definition of “public agency” includes only state agencies, boards and commissions, and local and regional agencies.  (Pub. Resources Code, § 21063; CEQA Guidelines, § 15379.)Continue Reading CEQA Does Not Apply To Investor-Owned Public Utility’s Exercise Of Power Of Eminent Domain To Acquire Electric Facilities Maintenance Easement

In a 72-page published opinion filed March 30, 2023, the First District Court of Appeal (Div. 4) affirmed in full the trial court’s judgment, which upheld the EIR for the Oakland Waterfront Ballpark District Project (project) with the sole exception of its wind mitigation measure.  East Oakland Stadium Alliance, et al v. City of Oakland, et al (Athletics Investment Group, et al, Real Parties in Interest) (2023) 89 Cal.App.5th 1226.  In doing so, the Court’s lengthy opinion touched on and analyzed numerous interesting and important CEQA topics.Continue Reading First District Affirms Judgment Rejecting All CEQA Challenges To Oakland A’s Ballpark Development EIR Except Improper Deferral of Wind Impacts Mitigation

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 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 24, 2023, the First District Court of Appeal (Div. 5) reversed a judgment upholding the adequacy of the EIR for the University of California, Berkeley’s long range campus development plan (“LRDP”) and a controversial housing development project at the historic People’s Park.  Make UC a Good Neighbor v. Regents of University of California (Resources for Community Development, Real Party in Interest) (2023 88 Cal.App.5th 656.  The opinion comes in a case that has been much publicized in popular news media as involving both development of an iconic historic site, currently plagued with crime and homelessness, and treatment of housed college students as presumptive purveyors of “party noise” environmental impacts; it has also (justifiably) resulted in renewed calls for CEQA reform, including from Governor Newsom.Continue Reading First District Reverses Judgment In Controversial “People’s Park” CEQA Case, Holds UC Regents’ Program/Project EIR For Long Range Development Plan And Site-Specific Student Housing Project At The Park Failed To Adequately Analyze Alternative Housing Sites, And Student Noise Impacts

On February 15, 2023, the California Supreme Court denied the petitions for review and issued an order decertifying the Second District Court of Appeal’s controversial (and previously published) opinion in G.I. Industries v. City of Thousand Oaks (2022) 84 Cal.App.5th 814, rev. den. and depub’d. 2/15/23 (Supreme Ct. Case No. S277439).  (My prior posts on this decision and its subsequent procedural history can be accessed by clicking on their following dates:  10/31/22; 12/5/22; and 1/30/23.Continue Reading Supreme Court Denies Review And Depublishes Troublesome Brown Act/CEQA Exemption Decision

In an opinion in a much-publicized case, filed December 28, 2022, and later ordered published on January 26, 2023, the First District Court of Appeal (Div. 3), upheld the City of Livermore’s (“City”) approval of a 130-unit affordable housing project on a downtown infill site and its accompanying determination that the project was CEQA-exempt under Government Code section 65457 (“Section 65457”).  (Save Livermore Downtown v. City of Livermore (2023) 87 Cal.App.5th 1116 (“SLD”).)  The important opinion was ordered published based on requests submitted by City, Attorney General Rob Bonta, YIMBY, and the California Building Industry Association.Continue Reading First District Upholds Use of Government Code Section 65457 CEQA Exemption For Downtown Livermore Affordable Housing Project, Roundly Rejects Meritless Arguments of NIMBY Opposition

The 2021-2022 Legislative Session was light on CEQA amendments, and once again did not produce any significant reform.  We saw a continued focus on incentivizing affordable and infill developments on the condition that the project pay prevailing wages (AB 2011), reducing barriers for specified sustainable transit projects (SB 922), and amendments akin to “pet project exemptions” that are targeted to solving a narrower set of concerns (SB 118 and SB 886).  None of the amendments, however, more broadly limit CEQA’s reach.Continue Reading Recap of 2023 CEQA Amendments Now In Effect