In an opinion filed September 13, and modified and certified for publication on October 6, 2023, the Fourth District Court of Appeal (Div. 3) affirmed the trial court’s judgment denying a CEQA writ petition challenging the City of Laguna Beach’s determination that the Guidelines’ Class 31 categorical exemption applied to its approval of a project to remodel a historic single family home.  Historic Architecture Alliance, et al v. City of Laguna Beach, et al (Ian and Cherlin Kirby, Real Parties in Interest) (2023) 96 Cal.App.5th 186.    The decision refines the established CEQA principle that a project that may cause a change in the significance of a historical resource is also one that may have a significant environmental effect (and thus require an EIR or MND) in the unique context of CEQA’s categorical exemption for projects found to be consistent with the “Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties” (the “Secretary’s Standards”).  (CEQA Guidelines, § 15331.)  It also clarifies that the “fair argument” test does not apply to a project opponent’s attempt to establish the historical resource exception (Guidelines § 15300.2(f)) to this categorical exemption; because both the exemption and the exception require the lead agency to make the same factual determination – i.e., the project’s consistency with the Secretary’s Standards – applying the fair argument test to the exception would render the exemption meaningless.Continue Reading Fourth District Affirms Judgment Upholding City’s Use of CEQA Guidelines’ Historical Resource (Class 31) Exemption To Approve Historic Single Family Home Rehabilitation Project; Holds “Fair Argument” Test Doesn’t Apply To Exception Requiring Same Factual Determination As Exemption

In a partially published opinion filed September 20, 2023, the First District Court of Appeal (Div. 3) affirmed the Alameda County Superior Court’s judgments denying writ petitions in three partially consolidated CEQA actions challenging the 2021 project/program EIR for the Comprehensive Parnassus Heights Plan.  Yerba Buena Neighborhood Consortium, LLC, et al v. Regents of the University of California/San Franciscans for Balanced and Livable Communities v. Regents of the University of California (2023) 95 Cal.App.5th 779. Continue Reading First District Affirms Judgment Upholding UCSF’s EIR for Long-Range Development Plan Substantially Increasing Parnassus Heights Campus Development Against Numerous CEQA Challenges

In a partially published opinion filed on September 7, 2023, the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment denying a CEQA challenge to Sacramento County’s approval of a mixed-use development project known as the Mather South Community Master Plan (the “project“); if implemented, the project would result in, inter alia, up to 3,522 residential dwelling units; 225,000 square feet of retail space; 49 acres of environmental education campus and research and development park uses; two elementary schools; and about 200 acres of parkland and open space areas on an 848-acre site. The issues on appeal were limited to the adequacy of certain aspects of the project EIR’s analyses of GHGs and criteria air pollutants. Tsakopoulos Investments, LLC v. County of Sacramento, et al. (Mather South, LLC, et al, Real Parties) (2023) 95 Cal.App.5th 280. (The unpublished portion of the opinion: (1) upheld the EIR’s qualitative analysis concluding that, with compliance with the State’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard and other air quality mitigation measures, construction-related GHG impacts would not be significant; and (2) concluded the EIR adequately explained, in compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision in Sierra Club v. County of Fresno (2018) 6 Cal.8th 502, why it was not feasible to correlate the level of the project’s air emissions to specific human health impacts from the project. In keeping with this blog’s practice, this post will not further discuss these unpublished portions of the Court’s opinion, except to note that they appear worthy of publication, and that the Court’s docket reflects that a request to publish was filed by Remy Moose Manley LLP on September 18, 2023. So stay tuned on that front…)Continue Reading Third District Affirms Judgment Denying CEQA Writ Petition Challenging Sacramento County’s Approval of Mather South Community Master Plan, Issues Narrow Holding Rejecting Challenges to County’s GHG Thresholds Methodology In Partially Published Opinion

“I fought the law and the law won” – The Crickets

In an opinion filed July 19, and later ordered published on August 16, 2023, the Second District Court of Appeal (Div. 6) reversed the trial court’s grant of a preliminary injunction in a CEQA action enjoining the Santa Barbara County Road Commissioner from enforcing public laws by removing unpermitted encroachments from a public right-of-way.  Christopher Anderson, et al. v. County of Santa Barbara, et al. (2023) 94 Cal.App.5th 554. The public officer’s law enforcement actions were held to be exempt from CEQA; to have independent utility apart from any alleged larger, “piecemealed” project evading CEQA review; and not to be subject to the “unusual circumstances” exception to applicable categorical exemptions.  While the Court was careful to fully analyze all of petitioners’ CEQA arguments, its opinion also offered numerous other reasons why the trial court erred and exceeded its lawful authority under applicable legal principles in issuing the preliminary injunction.Continue Reading Second District Reverses Preliminary Injunction, Holds CEQA Cannot Trump Santa Barbara County’s Authority To Remove Unpermitted Encroachments Placed In Public Right-Of-Way By Adjacent Landowners

In an opinion filed July 19, and ordered published on August 9, 2023, the Fourth District Court of Appeal (Div. 1) reversed a trial court order denying the City of San Diego’s (City) request to discharge a peremptory writ of mandate issued under CEQA that ordered the City to set aside three resolutions approving a set of neighborhood utility wire undergrounding projects.  Because the writ did nothing more than order the approvals set aside, and the City’s return demonstrated full compliance with that CEQA mandate, the trial court exceeded its jurisdiction and abused its discretion in retaining continuing jurisdiction and failing to discharge the writ.  McCann v. City of San Diego (2023) 94 Cal.App.5th 284 (“McCann II”). Continue Reading CEQA Writ Simple: Fourth District Holds Trial Court Erred In Retaining Continuing Jurisdiction And Not Discharging Peremptory Writ That Ordered Only Set Aside Remedy Where Lead Agency’s Return Demonstrated Full Compliance

On July 7, 2023, following a request for publication made on behalf of the California Building Industry Association, the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area, and the California Business Properties Association, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ordered published its decision originally filed on June 8, 2023, affirming the trial court’s judgment upholding a Newport Beach multifamily project approval against various CEQA challenges.  Olen Properties Corp. v. City of Newport Beach (2023) 93 Cal.App.5th 270.Continue Reading Fourth District Belatedly Publishes CEQA Opinion Upholding City of Newport Beach’s Approval of Multifamily-Housing Development Pursuant To Addendum To 2006 EIR For Larger Mixed-Use Development

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 23, 2023, the Fourth District Court of Appeal (Div. 1) affirmed a judgment granting a writ of mandate directing the City of San Diego (City) to set aside its approvals of an ordinance submitting to the voters a ballot measure that would exclude the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan Area from the City’s 30-foot height limit on construction of buildings in the Coastal Zone.  The Court held the City could not rely on a 2018 program EIR (PEIR) certified for an update of the area’s community plan as CEQA compliance because the PEIR did not contemplate or analyze the environmental impacts of removing the height limit and substantial evidence supported a fair argument that its removal may have significant unexamined impacts on views.  Save Our Access v. City of San Diego (2023) 92 Cal.App.5th 819.Continue Reading Ocean Views Matter: Fourth District Holds Program EIR For Community Plan Update Didn’t Consider Potentially Significant View Impacts of City of San Diego’s Subsequent Approval of Ballot Measure Excluding Entire Area From City’s 30-Foot Coastal Zone Height Limit

In a published opinion filed June 9, 2023, the First District Court of Appeal (Div. 3) reversed the trial court’s judgment granting a writ of mandate in consolidated CEQA actions and upheld the adequacy of the UC Regents’ EIR for vegetation removal actions planned to occur within about 800 acres of hilly, forested and fire-prone land on UC Berkeley’s Hill Campus.  The Claremont Canyon Conservancy v. The Regents of the University of California/Hills Conservation Network v. Carol T. Christ (2023) 92 Cal.App.5th 474. Continue Reading Missing the Forest For the Trees: First District Reverses Trial Court, Upholds Project Description And Impact Analysis In Regents’ EIR For Vegetation Removal Projects To Reduce Wildfire Risk At UC Berkeley Hills Campus

In a published opinion filed June 7, 2023, the Fifth District Court of Appeal held the trial court erred in applying California’s interrelated factors test to deny a preliminary injunction in a CEQA case.  The error consisted of failing to consider harm to the public interests in informed decisionmaking and public disclosure as relevant informational harm to be weighed in evaluating the relative balance of harms likely to result from the erroneous granting or denial of the preliminary injunction.  Tulare Lake Canal Company v. Stratford Public Utility District (Sandridge Partners, L.P., et al, Real Parties in Interest) (2023) 92 Cal.App.5th 380. Accordingly, the Court of Appeal reversed the order denying the preliminary injunction and remanded the matter to the trial court for reconsideration, while keeping in effect its writ of supersedeas continuing the trial court’s TRO in full force and effect.Continue Reading Fifth District Holds Harm To Public Interest In Informed Decisionmaking Must Be Considered By Court In Deciding Whether To Grant Preliminary Injunction In CEQA Case