Statute of Limitations

A few recent developments and upcoming events in the CEQA world bear quick mention:

  • The BART Housing Bill:

Under AB 2923, BART now has limited land use regulation authority on its own lands near its stations. BART is required to adopt Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) standards for its lands by July 1, 2020, and its action in this regard is subject to CEQA review, with BART acting as the lead agency.  The new law declares the minimum TOD standards for this purpose (setting minimum density and height limits, and maximum parking limits) are set forth in BART’s 2017 TOD Guidelines.  Development projects which meet TOD zoning requirements and provide 30% affordable housing will qualify for streamlined, “by-right,” ministerial approval with no additional CEQA review.  The law also requires cities and counties to adopt zoning standards for BART-owned lands, conforming to BART’s adoption of TOD standards for height, density, parking, and FAR for eligible TOD projects, within 2 years of BART’s action, or by July 1, 2022 if BART fails to act.  The new law is intended to increase California’s housing supply and provide some relief from its housing crisis, and could enable BART to develop up to 20,000 residential units and 4.5 million square feet of office/commercial uses on 250 acres of BART-owned lands by 2040.  My partner Bryan Wenter’s excellent post on this new law can be found here.

Continue Reading 2018 CEQA Fall Update: Recent Legislative, Judicial, And Other Developments

In an opinion filed November 29, and belatedly ordered published on December 22, 2016, the First District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of a writ petition challenging on CEQA grounds the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s (Muni) approval of a light rail construction contract.  The Committee For Re-evaluation of the T-Line Loop, et al v. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, et al (Mitchell Engineering, Real Party in Interest) (1st Dist., Div. 2, 2016) 6 Cal.App.5th 1237.  The contract was to install the final 900 feet of light rail line needed to complete a partially constructed “Loop” around a City block in the Dogpatch neighborhood, so that trains on the T-Third light rail line will be able to turn around and lay over to meet service needs for special events and peak travel periods.  In approving the contract, Muni relied on the 1998 EIS/EIR (FEIR) certified for the two-phase Third Street Light Rail Project to connect southeastern San Francisco by light rail to the rest of the City; it also relied on SF Planning Department statements in 2012 and 2014 that the FEIR analyzed the Loop and that no further CEQA analysis was needed because there had been no substantial changes in the project or the area.

Continue Reading Completing the Loop Without Reinventing the Wheel: First District Holds 1998 EIR Adequate Without Further CEQA Review to Analyze Impacts of SF Muni’s Delayed Completion of Dogpatch Area Light Rail Line Loop

In a short but significant published opinion filed July 19, 2016, the First District Court of Appeal affirmed the San Francisco County Superior Court’s judgment of dismissal following the sustaining of demurrers (without leave to amend) to a CEQA action as time-barred.  Communities for a Better Environment, et al. v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District (Kinder Morgan Material Services, LLC, et al., Real Parties In Interest) (1st Dist., Div. 1, 2016) 1 Cal.App.5th 715, Case No. A14364.  The Court of Appeal held there was no reasonable possibility that plaintiffs (CBE) could amend the mandamus petition to allege their CEQA action was timely filed by virtue of the discovery rule because that rule does not apply where one of the triggering events of CEQA’s statute of limitations has occurred.

Continue Reading Discovery Rule Does Not Postpone Accrual of CEQA Cause of Action; Events Specified In CEQA Statute of Limitations Provide Constructive Notice of Project Approval or Commencement

In a published opinion filed January 26, 2016, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District (Division 2) reversed a trial court’s order denying CEQA plaintiffs’ motion to amend judgments entered four (4) years earlier to add a previously unnamed corporate entity so that it would be liable on award of over $1 million in attorneys’ fees entered under CCP § 1021.5. Highland Springs Conference And Training Center v. City of Banning (SCC Acquisitions, Inc., et al., Real Parties in Interest) (4th Dist., Div. 2, 2016) 244 Cal.App.4th 267.

Continue Reading Motion to Amend CEQA Action Judgments to Make Additional Judgment Debtor Liable For Million Dollar Fee Award Not Barred By Plaintiffs’ Unreasonable Four-Year Delay Or Laches Absent New Party’s Showing Of Prejudice, Holds Fourth District

A new year often brings fresh perspective.  With 2016 still in its infancy, it is natural to reflect back on what has been and also to contemplate what is yet to come.  The California Supreme Court’s recent CEQA decisions, and its current docket of CEQA cases awaiting decision, provide ample opportunity for both of these basic human impulses.

Continue Reading Supreme Engagement: CEQA’s Continuing Saga In California’s High Court

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 opinion, the First District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s judgment granting a writ and held that a CEQA action filed by a citizens group against a community college district and its board of trustees was time-barred under either the 30- or 180-day statute of limitations contained in Public Resources Code § 21167.  Citizens for a Green San Mateo v. San Mateo County Community College District, et al. (1st Dist. 6/17/2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 1572.

Continue Reading First District Holds CEQA Statute Of Limitations Bars Citizens Group’s Challenge To College Of San Mateo Tree Cutting

The EIR has long been the judicially-proclaimed “heart of CEQA” because it represents the culmination of the statute’s environmentally-protective purposes and objectives.   Yet the legal “expiration date” for the document embodying CEQA’s highest purposes is often subject to debate and confusion.  A public agency’s reliance on an “old” EIR is inherently fraught with the risk of legal challenge by project opponents.  But, as a recent First District decision reminds, such reliance may be perfectly proper under CEQA’s applicable rules, which focus in this context on not “reinventing the wheel” – the “wheel” being the EIR – without very good reason to do so; they also defer to the lead agency’s reasoned decision in this regard.

Continue Reading First District Rejects CEQA Challenge To City of Napa’s Reliance On Prior General Plan EIR For Housing Element Update Project

A recent Sixth District Court of Appeal decision serves as a pointed reminder to practitioners that CEQA exemptions and limitations periods are not always neatly grouped within those statutory provisions of the Public Resources Code known as the “California Environmental Quality Act” (“CEQA”; Pub. Resources Code, § 21000 et seq.).  Statutes other than CEQA, including provisions codified in the Education Code, Government Code, Health & Safety Code, Water Code, and non-CEQA portions of the Public Resources Code also provide statutory exemptions to CEQA’s requirements.  In May v. City of Milpitas (6th Dist., 7/16/13) 217 Cal.App.4th 1307, the Court applied one such “outlier” statute — Government Code § 65457 — to affirm a judgment dismissing a carpenters’ local union’s CEQA challenge to a residential development project as time-barred.

Continue Reading Sixth District Holds CEQA Action Barred By 30-Day Statute of Limitations of Government Code Section 65457 Despite City’s Filing of Notice of Exemption

In its terse, no-nonsense opinion in Alliance For the Protection of the Auburn Community v. County of Placer, et al. (2013) 215 Cal.App.4th 25, ordered published on April 2, 2013, the Third District Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment entered after sustaining a demurrer to a CEQA action without leave on statute of limitations grounds and denying plaintiffs’ Code of Civil Procedure § 473 motion seeking relief based on mistake or excusable neglect.  Plaintiffs’ action challenged the EIR for a development project, but was filed 3 calendar days and 1 business day after the 30-day statute of limitations of Public Resources Code § 21167 had expired because its attorney service failed to arrive at the courthouse in time to file on the deadline date.  Key takeaways include:

  • CCP § 473, despite its liberal construction, does not generally apply to failure to comply with limitations periods in actions instituted by either complaint or writ petition, since statutes of limitation are mandatory, and are “adamant rather than flexible in nature.”
  • “If the Legislature desires to allow some flexibility in a statute of limitations, it expressly provides for an extension of the limitations period or a showing of good cause [which] … is the equivalent to a showing under section 473.”
  • Absent an express legislative provision in the statute of limitations providing for a good cause extension, “the court infers that the Legislature did not intend such an extension on the grounds of good cause or under section 473.”
  • CEQA’s statute of limitations, Public Resources Code § 21167, “makes no provision for extending the limitations period on a showing of good cause.”
  • While CEQA is broadly interpreted to protect the environment, this liberal policy applies to the substantive merits of CEQA challenges, not to its procedural requirements, such as its filing and other procedural deadlines, which are designed to serve the public interest by ensuring CEQA challenges are promptly filed and diligently prosecuted.

In holding that relief under Code of Civil Procedure § 473 is unavailable for a litigant’s failure to file its CEQA challenge within Public Resources Code § 21167’s applicable limitations period, the Third District’s decision is not surprising and does not break new ground.  It does, however, provide straightforward and useful analysis of the application of § 473 in the CEQA context, as well as a cautionary tale for plaintiffs’ attorneys who wait until the last day to file a CEQA writ petition.

 

Questions?  Please contact Arthur F. Coon of Miller Starr Regalia.  Miller Starr Regalia has had a well-established reputation as a leading real estate law firm for over forty-five years.  For nearly all that time, the firm also has written Miller & Starr, California Real Estate 3d, a 12-volume treatise on California real estate law.  “The Book” is the most widely used and judicially recognized real estate treatise in California and is cited by practicing attorneys and courts throughout the state.  The firm has expertise in all real property matters, including full-service litigation and dispute resolution services, transactions, acquisitions, dispositions, leasing, construction, management, title insurance, environmental law, and redevelopment and land use.  For more information, visit www.msrlegal.com.