Category: Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

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DWR Certifies EIR for WaterFix, Triggering 30-Day Deadline for Opponents to File Suit

On July 21, 2017, the California Department of Water Resources (“DWR”) certified the final environmental document and issued its Notice of Determination for the California WaterFix, a significant new water infrastructure component proposed by DWR and United States Bureau of Reclamation. DWR’s action triggered a 30-day statute of limitations to raise CEQA challenges to the … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Again Considers Climate Change in the Context of CEQA, But Fails to Resolve Important Uncertainties for Future Environmental Review

Today, in an opinion authored by Justice Liu, the California Supreme Court ruled that the greenhouse gas analysis in an environmental impact report (“EIR”) prepared for the San Diego Association of Government’s (“SANDAG”) regional transportation plan (“RTP”) did not violate the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), but did little to resolve uncertainties in addressing climate … Continue Reading

The California Supreme Court Has a Banner Week, Hearing Argument in Three CEQA and Land Use Cases

On May 3–4, 2017, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in three cases with significant implications for California land use law. Below we summarize the main issue(s) argued in each matter and possible outcomes. Because many of these cases have been pending for years, the Court that originally voted to grant review has since … Continue Reading

Third District Finds that EIR for Residential Development Inadequately Assessed Traffic Impacts

Cities charged with preparing EIRs for proposed projects often look to their general plans and other adopted policies to set thresholds of significance for assessing environmental impacts. A lead agency’s discretion to select a particular significance threshold has long been afforded deference under CEQA’s “substantial evidence” standard of review. Potential impacts assessed under a general … Continue Reading

Limitations on Subsequent Review Under CEQA

Since the California Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo County Community College District, California appeals courts have issued a spate of decisions addressing subsequent review under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), including two in the last two months of 2016.  In both cases, the … Continue Reading

Fourth Appellate District Upholds EIR for 200-Acre Specific Plan Development in Riverside County

In its February 14 decision (certified for publication on March 15) in Residents Against Specific Plan 380 v. County of Riverside, the Fourth Appellate District upheld the County of Riverside’s (“County’s”) approval of a master-planned community.  The opinion provides helpful guidance for lead agencies and applicants in understanding when changes made to a project in … Continue Reading

Downey Brand Partners to Speak at AEP 2017 State Conference in San Francisco

I am pleased to announce that both Christian Marsh and I will be participating in panel discussions at the Association of Environmental Professionals’ 2017 State Conference, entitled “Bridging the Gap” and taking place in San Francisco from May 18 through May 21 (view schedule of events).  As stated by AEP, “the conference seeks to ‘bridge … Continue Reading

Fifth District Allows Real Party to Recover Costs of Record Preparation

On, September 12, 2015, the Fifth District Court of Appeal issued its opinion in Citizens for Ceres v. City of Ceres (2016) _Cal.App.5th_.  The opinion authorized real-parties-in-interest to recover costs of record preparation, as long as the record was prepared in a manner prescribed by Public Resources Code section 21167.6. The petitioners in this action … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Rejects “New Project Test” and Defers to Agencies on Whether Project Modifications Require Subsequent Environmental Review

On September 19, in a long-awaited and unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo County Community College District.  The opinion, authored by the Court’s newest justice, Leondra Kruger, resolves a split among the Courts of Appeal regarding the proper procedures for … Continue Reading

Air District CEQA Guidelines Partially Invalidated For Mandating “CEQA-In-Reverse” Analysis, Following Remand From California Supreme Court

On remand from the California Supreme Court, the First Appellate District has issued its second ruling in California Building Industry Assn. v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District. In this case, CBIA challenged BAAQMD’s 2010 “CEQA Air Quality Guidelines”—specifically, the Guidelines’ thresholds and methods for assessing the effects of siting new sensitive receptors (residences) near … Continue Reading

Appellate Court Upholds Bay Area’s SB 375 Sustainable Communities Strategy

Since the passage of AB 32 in 2006, the methods for climate change analysis under CEQA have taken a number of turns. Most recently, the California Supreme Court in Center for Biological Diversity v. Department of Fish & Wildlife (2015) 62 Cal.4th 204, concluded that an EIR for a major development project (Newhall Ranch) lacked … Continue Reading

Appellate District in Newhall Ranch Case Limits its Jurisdiction to Supervise Agency Compliance with Rulings in CEQA Cases

As we reported last year, the California Supreme Court in Center for Biological Diversity v. California Department of Fish and Wildlife invalidated the greenhouse gas analysis and mitigation for the fully-protected unarmored stickleback on review of an environmental impact report (“EIR”) prepared for the Newhall Ranch development in northern Los Angeles County. In its ruling, the … Continue Reading

Addendum Does Not Save Inadequate Energy Impacts Analysis in EIR, First Appellate District Rules

In 2014, the appellate decision in California Clean Energy Committee v. City of Woodland (“CCEC”) caught many lead agencies and CEQA consultants off-guard, by holding that the type of energy impacts analysis conducted in many EIRs actually fails to comply with CEQA. EIRs prepared post-CCEC have generally included a much more in-depth analysis of energy … Continue Reading

Appeals Court Finds Wal-Mart EIR Deficient and Overturns Development Approval Due to Inadequate Map Act Findings

Cities and counties across the state have revised their general plan policies to address the interrelated issues of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption by new commercial and residential development, often in proactive and innovative ways. However, the rubber only meets the road when those projects undergo CEQA review, and courts evaluate whether those … Continue Reading

Fifth Appellate District Rejects CEQA and General Plan Consistency Challenges to Modesto Commercial Development

The City of Modesto and Downey Brand client Berberian Holdings, L.P. (“Berberian”), have prevailed in a legal challenge to a commercial development project proposed by Berberian. On June 7, the Fifth District Court of Appeal issued a 45-page unpublished opinion in the action (Naraghi Lakes Neighborhood Preservation Association v. City of Modesto), affirming the Stanislaus … Continue Reading

Appeals Court Affirms Cadiz Valley Groundwater Project

In a series of sweeping opinions, the Fourth Appellate District on Tuesday, May 10, upheld the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project against six separate challenges brought by a host of environmental organizations and a salt mining operation. The Cadiz Project, initiated by the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) and Cadiz, Inc. in … Continue Reading

Another Busy Year for CEQA in the California Supreme Court: Arguments Set for May 4 in San Mateo Gardens Case; Four Other Cases Pending

2015 was a banner year for CEQA rulings by the California Supreme Court, with four decisions handed down, each of which addressed key issues in the application of the statute and its governing regulations: Berkeley Hillside clarified the application of the “unusual circumstances” exception to categorical exemptions; City of San Diego addressed the feasibility of … Continue Reading
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