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 May 12, 2022, the First District Court of Appeal filed a 108-page published opinion affirming a judgment denying a CEQA writ petition that challenged Marin County’s approval of a 43-lot single-family residential subdivision on a 110-acre parcel atop a mountain overlooking the Town of Tiburon and San Francisco Bay. Tiburon Open Space Committee v. County of Marin (The Martha Company, Real Party in Interest, and Town of Tiburon, Intervenor and Appellant) (2022) 78 Cal.App.5th 700. Apart from its factual background of nearly a half-century of intense legal battles over (and effectively blocking) the property’s development – which the Court described as “this woeful record before us” – the decision is notable for its legal analysis of how CEQA applies when a lead agency’s discretion in considering a project for approval is constrained by legal obligations. While in this case the legal obligations stemmed from stipulated federal court judgments mandating that the County approve a minimum level of development on the property, the Court’s reasoning and holdings that the scope of CEQA adjusts and is limited commensurate with legal limitations on an agency’s discretionary authority will clearly apply to other contexts. Most obviously, and topically, they plainly will apply to housing development projects when state housing laws impose legal obligations that limit local agencies’ legal authority to disapprove or reduce the density of those projects. (See, e.g., Gov. Code, § 65589.5 (the “Housing Accountability Act”).)
Continue Reading “This Woeful Record”: First District Affirms Judgment Rejecting CEQA Challenges To Marin County’s Approval of 43-Home Mountaintop Subdivision Opposed For Nearly Five Decades By Neighbors And Town of Tiburon
In a published opinion filed December 29, 2020, the First District Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment denying a petition for writ of mandate filed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District (District) challenging waste discharge requirements (WDRs) belatedly imposed by a responsible agency, the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (Board), on lead agency District’s flood control project. Santa Clara Valley Water District v. San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board (2020) 59 Cal.App.5th 199. The case involved highly unique facts, and a number of interesting legal issues concerning the Board’s authority under the Federal Clean Water Act (CWA), the state Porter-Cologne Act, and CEQA.
Continue Reading Can a Responsible Agency Get A Second Bite At The CEQA Apple? First District Says “Sometimes, Yes,” Upholds Regional Water Board’s Imposition of Additional Mitigation On Flood Control Project Through “Independent” Porter-Cologne Act Authority Exercised Subsequent To Grant Of CWA § 401 Water Quality Certification Based On Lead Agency’s Unchallenged Final EIR
“The life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience.” – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., The Common Law (1881)
“CEQA discourse has become increasingly abstract, almost medieval in its scholasticism.” – former California Governor Edmund G. (“Jerry”) Brown, Jr.
by Arthur F. Coon
On November 24, 2020, the Fifth District Court of Appeal filed its partially published opinion in the latest installment of the long-running CEQA litigation over Fresno County’s approval of the Friant Ranch project. Sierra Club v. County of Fresno (Friant Ranch, L.P., Real Party in Interest) (2020) 57 Cal.App.5th 979. The litigation involves a 942-acre mixed-use development project (2500 residential units, 250,000 square feet of commercial space, 460 acres of open space) for which the Notice of Preparation (NOP) of the EIR was issued in 2007; it has generated an earlier appellate opinion (see my 6/16/14 post here) and a Supreme Court opinion (see my 12/28/18 post here) addressing important standard of review issues centered on the adequacy of the project EIR’s air quality impacts discussion.Continue Reading Remedial Legal Logic: Fifth District Doubles Down On Split with Other Districts in Holding CEQA Doesn’t Allow Limited Writ Remedy of Partial EIR Decertification – But Does It Really Matter?
A little over a year ago, I posted about the filing of a federal RICO (the federal “Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act”; 18 U.S.C. § 1962 et seq.) lawsuit by developer Relevant Group, LLC and related entities (“Relevant”) alleging that defendants (Stephan “Saeed” Nourmand and Michael Nourmand and their business entities) filed and threatened frivolous CEQA suits solely to “shake down” and extort monetary settlements – without regard to environmental concerns – from economically vulnerable hotel project developers. (See “CEQA Meets RICO: True Stories Of Extortion and Litigation Abuse in Tinseltown,” posted July 12, 2019.) Since then, the litigation has progressed significantly. After surviving a robust motion to dismiss, the case has become “at issue” with defendants’ filing of an answer to plaintiffs’ Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) on June 24, 2020, and the District Court filing a Scheduling and Case Management Order on July 24, 2020.
Continue Reading CEQA Meets RICO: Round Two
“Birds of a feather flock together.” — Proverb
The Fourth District Court of Appeal (Div. 2) affirmed a judgment entered after the sustaining of a demurrer without leave, holding that a mandate action brought by The Inland Oversight Committee (IOC), CREED-21, and Highland Hills Homeowners Association (HOA) alleging CEQA and Water Code violations was barred by res judicata (based on the final judgment in the HOA’s prior related CEQA action), and failure to state a claim. The Inland Oversight Committee v. City of San Bernardino (First American Title Insurance Company) (2018) 27 Cal.App.5th 771. (The Court’s opinion, filed September 14 and later ordered published on September 27, 2018, denied the parties’ motions to dismiss and strike and related requests for judicial notice as moot in light of its disposition on the merits.)Continue Reading Fourth District Holds CEQA Challenge To Ministerial Approval Of Development Project Modifications Barred By Res Judicata, Water Supply Assessment Not Required