Statute of Limitations

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

In a partially published opinion filed September 14, 2012, the Fifth District Court of Appeal revived a CEQA lawsuit the trial court had dismissed as time-barred on demurrer because it was filed 55 days after the City of Visaliafiled a notice of exemption (“NOE”).  The case – Coalition for Clean Air v. City of Visalia (VWR International, LLC) ) (Sept. 14, 2012) 209 Cal.App.4th 408, Case No. F062983 – may be viewed as “blurring” a “bright line” rule stated by the Supreme Court just two years ago, but it provides a valuable reminder to CEQA action respondents and real parties of the “t”’s that must be crossed and the “i”’s that must be dotted to ensure they can take advantage of CEQA’s short statute of limitations period (35 days) when relying on an exemption.  The  decision’s key points on this important issue include:
Continue Reading Timing Is Everything: CEQA Notice of Exemption Must Be Both Facially Valid And Properly Filed To Trigger Short Limitations Period

Governor Jerry Brown was recently quoted in a Capitol Alert piece as calling legislative reform of CEQA “the Lord’s work” – hopefully he didn’t mean the quest for the Holy Grail – although he admitted in the same article he hadn’t yet read the latest bills proposing to limit its scope.  In the short time since then, SB 317 (the most significant effort at CEQA reform this year) appears to have died in the waning days of this Legislative session.  While “hope springs eternal,” meaningful legislative reform of CEQA thus continues to prove elusive.
Continue Reading Are Courts Actively Limiting CEQA’s Scope In The Absence of Meaningful Legislative Reform?