While CEQA actions are statutorily designed as special proceedings with priority over other civil actions, and thus mandated to be heard and resolved expeditiously, when complex or controversial projects with dedicated opposition are involved this salutary statutory scheme sometimes goes off track.  A prominent example is the ongoing CEQA challenge to the environmental review for the Central Valley to San Francisco route of the High-Speed Rail Project, which involves lawsuits that have stretched over parts of 7 years and are not yet concluded — although a recent appellate decision appears to have brought them a step closer to the driving of the final CEQA litigation spike.
Continue Reading Of High Speed Rails and Litigation Snails: The Train Rolls On As Third District Rejects Additional CEQA Challenges To High-Speed Rail Authority’s Revised Final Program EIR Analyzing Central Valley To San Francisco Bay Area Track Route

On July 7, 2014, the First District Court of Appeal filed its published opinion affirming the trial court’s judgment upholding the EIR for the Treasure Island/Yerba Buena Island Project.  Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island v. City and County of San Francisco, et al. (Treasure Island Community Development LLC, RPI), 227 Cal.App. 4th 1036 (1st Dist. 2014).
Continue Reading Whatever the EIR’s Name, CEQA’s Rules For Substantive Content and Subsequent Review Remain The Same: First District Upholds EIR for Treasure Island Redevelopment Project

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