In consolidated litigation challenging on CEQA and Coastal Act grounds the Coastal Commission’s amendment of a coastal development permit (CDP) to (among other new use restrictions) completely phase out off-highway vehicle (OHV) use at the apparently inaptly-named Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (Oceano Dunes), the Second District Court of Appeal (Div. 6) affirmed the trial court’s order denying a motion to intervene filed by a number of interested nonparties (the Northern Chumash Tribal Council, Oceano Beach Community Association, and Center for Biological Diversity, or “Appellants”). Friends of Oceano Dunes, et al. v. California Coastal Commission, et al. (2023) 90 Cal.App.5th 836. In so doing, the Court applied and explained numerous principles governing both motions for intervention as of right and motions for permissive intervention.Continue Reading No Room At the Table:  Second District Upholds Denial of Intervention in CEQA/Coastal Act Litigation Where Nonparties Failed to Make “Compelling Showing of Inadequate Representation”.

On April 7, 2023, the Third District Court of Appeal filed a lengthy published opinion – the latest installment in one of the longer ongoing CEQA battles in recent memory – affirming a judgment finding an EIR for the Federal relicensing of Oroville Dam and related hydropower facilities legally adequate.  County of Butte and County of Plumas, et al v. Dept. of Water Resources  (2023) 90 Cal.App.5th 147.Continue Reading That Dam Case (Again):  Third District Upholds Oroville Hydropower Facilities Relicensing EIR Against Numerous CEQA Challenges

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 March 22, 2023, the California Supreme Court granted the City of San Francisco’s stand-alone depublication request in (and declined to review on its own motion) the First District Court of Appeal’s (Div. 4) decision in Saint Ignatius Neighborhood Association v. City and County of San Francisco.  The depublished opinion reversed a trial court decision that upheld the City’s use of CEQA Guidelines Class 1 (existing facilities) and 3 (small structures) categorical exemptions for a high school athletic stadium project involving the installation of four 90-foot tall light standards to significantly expand nighttime stadium use.  Officially, the Supreme Court’s depublication order is not to be construed as expressing any opinion on the merits, and the Court of Appeal’s decision remains fully binding on the parties but cannot be cited as precedent.  My 12/7/22 post on the case can be found here. Continue Reading CEQA Updates: Supreme Court Depublishes High School Stadium Light Standard Exemption Case; Second District Modifies Pacific Palisades Opinion With No Change In Judgment

In a published opinion filed February 6, 2023, the Fourth District Court of Appeal (Div. 3) affirmed a judgment setting aside an addendum to a 2010 program EIR (PEIR) and accompanying approvals for a 275,000-square foot office complex on a 4.95-acre parcel (the “Gemdale project” or “project”) within the 2,800-acre Irvine Business Complex (IBC).  IBC Business Owners for Sensible Development v. City of Irvine (Gemdale 2400 Barranca Holdings, LLC, Real Party in Interest) (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 100.  The Court held that the City’s approval of the Addendum was improper because substantial evidence did not support the conclusion that the project’s GHG emissions were within the scope of the PEIR and would have less than significant impacts; further, the project was unusually large and dense due to its utilization of transfers of development rights (TDRs) of over 220,000 square feet – by far the largest ever approved in the IBC’s history – and thus could not qualify for the Class 32 infill exemption due to the unusual circumstances exception.Continue Reading Fourth District Holds Addendum To 2010 Program EIR For Irvine Business Complex Vision Plan Violated CEQA Because Conclusion That Large Infill Project’s GHG Emissions Would Be Less Than Significant Lacked Substantial Evidence And Project Was Not Exempt

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

In a published opinion filed December 6, 2022, the Third District Court of Appeal reversed in part and affirmed in part the trial court’s judgment denying writ petitions in consolidated actions challenging the EIR for a major state government project affecting the Historic State Capitol Building and Annex in Sacramento.  Save Our Capitol! v. Department of General Services (Joint Committee On Rules of the California State Senate and Assembly, Real Party in Interest)/Save the Capitol, Save the Trees v. Department of General Services, et al. (2022) 85 Cal.App.5th 1101.  In the project’s final iteration, Defendant/Respondent Department of General Services and Real Party/Respondent Joint Committee, etc. (collectively, “DGS”) proposed to demolish the Historic Capitol’s 325,000 square-foot Annex, replace it with a larger 525,000 square-foot Annex building, construct a 40,000 square-foot underground visitor center attached to the Historic Capitol’s west side, and construct a 150-space underground parking garage east of the new Annex.  While rejecting many of plaintiffs’ CEQA challenges to the project’s final EIR (FEIR), the Court of Appeal found merit in claims that the EIR’s project description, analyses of impacts to historical resources and aesthetics, and alternatives analysis were deficient.  Accordingly, it directed issuance of a writ vacating the EIR certification and project approval and directing DGS to revise and recirculate the EIR’s deficient sections before again considering project approval. Continue Reading A “Capitol” Offense: Third District Holds State Capitol Building Annex/Visitor Center Project EIR Violated CEQA Due To Inadequate Project Description And Analyses Of Historical Cultural Impacts, Aesthetics, And Project Alternatives

In an opinion filed on November 14, and later certified for publication on December 13, 2022, the First District Court of Appeal (Div. 3) affirmed a Sonoma County Superior Court judgment upholding the EIR for a 180-unit apartment complex proposed on a 15.45-acre parcel of vacant land along the Petaluma River.  Save North Petaluma River and Wetlands v. City of Petaluma (J. Cyril Johnson Investment Company, Real Party in Interest) (2022) ___ Cal.App.5th ___.  The issues considered on appeal involved the adequacy of the EIR’s environmental “baseline” for its analysis of potential special status species impacts and the adequacy of its analysis of alleged public safety/emergency evacuation impacts.
Continue Reading First District Rejects CEQA Challenges To EIR For Petaluma River Apartment Project, Upholds Special Status Species Baseline And Public Safety/Emergency Access Impacts Analyses As Supported By Substantial Evidence

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” – Editorial by Francis Pharcellus Church first appearing in New York newspaper The Sun on September 21, 1897

In keeping with the spirit of the holiday season, it is entirely fitting that some cynical and unbelieving jurisdictions be gifted with a published judicial reminder that CEQA really does exist – and that its required procedures must be scrupulously followed.  In an opinion filed November 18, and later ordered published on December 5, 2002, the First District Court of Appeal (Div. 4) bestowed such a gift upon the City and County of San Francisco (“City”), although the “jury is out” on whether the latter lead agency will receive it in the proper spirit or view it as humbug and the proverbial lump of coal.  Saint Ignatius Neighborhood Association v. City and County of San Francisco (2022) ___ Cal.App.5th ___.Continue Reading “Yes, San Francisco, There Is A CEQA”: First District Reverses Judgment Upholding City’s Categorical Exemption Determinations For Project To Add Four 90-Foot Tall Light Standards To High School Stadium In Residential Neighborhood