In a 65-page opinion certified for publication and filed October 22, 2015, the Second Appellate District Court of Appeal affirmed the Los Angeles County Superior Court’s judgment denying writ petitions by the City of Beverly Hills (“City”) and the Beverly Hills Unified School District (“District”). Petitioners and Appellants’ actions challenged respondent Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (“LA Metro”) EIS/EIR and related approval of the Westside Subway Extension Project (the “Project”). The Project involves the extension of Metro’s Purple Line heavy rail transit (HRT) subway system to the Westside of Los Angeles through the addition of 7 stations and 9 miles of subway line, and includes a new Century City station (the “Constellation station”) to be reached through a tunnel to be constructed underneath Beverly Hills High School. The City of Beverly Hills v. Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Case No. B256753) (2d Dist., Div. 4, 2015) 241 Cal.App.4th 627.

Continue Reading Second District Rejects CEQA And Fair Transit Hearing Challenges To LA Metro’s Westside Subway Extension Project In Lengthy Published Opinion

On August 11, 2015, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released a 145-page “Preliminary Discussion Draft” of “Proposed Updates to the CEQA Guidelines” (the “Discussion Draft”). The Discussion Draft “contains [OPR’s] initial thoughts on possible amendments to the CEQA Guidelines” and proposes revisions to nearly thirty (30) sections that OPR classifies into three categories: (1) efficiency improvements; (2) substance improvements; and (3) technical improvements. If ultimately adopted in some form, the Discussion Draft’s proposals would constitute the most comprehensive update to the Guidelines since the late 1990s. The Discussion Draft’s Executive Summary describes it as “a balanced package that is intended to make the [CEQA] process easier and quicker to implement, and better protect natural and fiscal resources consistent with other state environmental policies.” Continue Reading Proposed CEQA Guidelines Amendments: A Critique Of OPR’s “Preliminary Discussion Draft” (Part I – Proposed “Efficiency Improvements”)

California Senate Bill No. 122 (SB 122), introduced by Senators Jackson, Hill and Roth on January 15, 2015, appears to be the newest stab at legislative CEQA “reform.”  But numerous of SB 122’s embryonic provisions raise questions as to whether this proposed curative measure might have some deleterious side effects.

Continue Reading Latest Proposed CEQA Legislation (SB 122) Seeks To Reform Administrative Record Process – At A Price

In a decision filed December 2, and later ordered published on December 30, 2014, the First District Court of Appeal affirmed the Mendocino County Superior Court’s judgment denying a petition for writ of mandate challenging a Nonindustrial Timber Management Plan (NTMP) for 615 acres adjacent to Gualala.  Center for Biological Diversity v. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (North Gualala Water Company, John and Margaret Bower, Bower Limited Partnership, Real Parties In Interest) (1st Dist., Div. 5, 2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 931, Case No. A138914.  The NTMP – which functions as the equivalent of an EIR for purposes of CEQA under the certified regulatory program of the Forest Practice Act (Pub. Resources Code, § 4511 et seq.; “FPA”) and Forest Practice Rules (14 Cal. Code Regs., § 895 et seq.; “FPR”) – was approved by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) on application of the above-named real parties in interest (Bower).

Continue Reading First District Publishes Decision Rejecting CEQA Challenges To Cal Fire’s Approval of Gualala Area Nonindustrial Timber Management Plan And Related Attempt To Challenge Department of Fish And Wildlife’s Discretionary Decision Not To Oppose Plan

On December 15, 2014, the Second District Court of Appeal (Division 6) issued a pithy published opinion affirming the Ventura County Superior Court’s judgment.  The judgment granted a peremptory writ of mandate requiring Ventura County to prepare a supplemental EIR for a completed medical clinic building on the Ventura County Medical Center Campus (campus).  Ventura Foothill Neighbors v. County of Ventura (2d Dist., Div. 6, 2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 429.

Continue Reading Second District Holds Short CEQA Statute Of Limitations Not Triggered By NOD That Fails To Provide Public Notice Of Material Changes In Project As Actually Constructed From That Described In EIR

In a published decision filed October 31, 2014 (Paulek v. California Department of Water Resources (4th Dist., Div. 2, 2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 35, Case No. E060038), the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the Riverside County Superior Court’s judgment denying a petition for a writ of mandate challenging an EIR for the Perris Dam Remediation Project.  The Department of Water Resources’ (“DWR”) DEIR proposed three activities:  (1) remediating the dam’s structural seismic deficiencies; (2) replacing its outlet tower; and (3) creating a new “Emergency Outlet Extension.”  The FEIR addressed a modified project including only the first two components and splitting the emergency outlet extension into a separate project and environmental review process.

Continue Reading Fourth District Addresses CEQA Issues Concerning Standing, Mitigation,Baseline, Piecemealing, And Responses To Comments In Affirming Judgment Upholding Perris Dam Remediation Program EIR

On October 1, 2014, the California Supreme Court  granted the Real Party in Interest developer’s petition for review in Sierra Club v. County of Fresno (5th Dist. 2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 704, now unciteable and pending review as Supreme Court Case No. S219783.  The significant portions of the Court of Appeal’s decision were previously summarized in detail several months ago in this blog.  (SeeFifth District Decides Significant CEQA Air Quality/Health Impact Analysis and Mitigation Issues in the Sierra Club v. County of Fresno” by Arthur F. Coon, posted June 16, 2014.)

Continue Reading Supreme Court Adds Another CEQA Case To Its Docket, Will Review Fifth District’s Sierra Club v. County of Fresno (“Friant Ranch”) Decision

In a lengthy, mostly-unpublished opinion filed on August 14, 2014, the First District Court of Appeal affirmed the superior court’s judgment denying a writ petition challenging the Parkmerced Development Project.  San Francisco Tomorrow, et al. v. City and County of San Francisco, et al. (Parkmerced Investors Properties, LLC, Real Parties in Interest) (1st Dist., Div. 2, 2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 498.  A 50-page portion of the 75-page opinion, which contained the court’s detailed analysis and rejection of appellant San Francisco Tomorrow’s (“SFT”) numerous general plan inconsistency and CEQA claims, was not certified for publication.  The court did certify for publication those portions of its decision:  (1) analyzing and rejecting SFT’s direct challenges to the legal adequacy of City’s general plan; (2) holding the trial court did not err in sustaining a demurrer to SFT’s procedural due process cause of action challenging the project’s development agreement; and (3) holding the trial court did not err in including in the administrative record hearing transcripts of public meetings of the Board’s Land Use and Economic Development Committee (“LUEDC”) at which the project was considered and discussed. Continue Reading Parkmerced Project Upheld Against CEQA and General Plan Inconsistency Challenges In San Francisco Tomorrow v. City and County of San Francisco

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