Category: Planning and Zoning

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Sixth District Upholds County Zoning Updates Against Piecemealing Claim, Rejects Challenge to Negative Declaration Based on “Wholly Speculative” Impacts

In March 2017, the Sixth Appellate District issued its decision in Aptos Council v. County of Santa Cruz, which rejected a two-pronged challenge to the County of Santa Cruz’s adoption of three zoning ordinances revising existing sections of the County zoning code, including an ordinance altering height, density, and parking requirements for hotels.  In affirming … 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

California Supreme Court Grants Review in Medical Marijuana CEQA Case

On January 11, the California Supreme Court granted review of the Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of San Diego (2016) 4 Cal.App.5th 103.  The two issues to be decided by the Court are as follows: Is the enactment of a zoning ordinance categorically a “project” within the … Continue Reading

Local Ordinance Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries is Not a “Project” Subject to CEQA Review, Fourth Appellate District Rules (Again)

In its October 14 decision in Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of San Diego, the Fourth Appellate District weighed in for the second time this year on whether a city ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries is subject to CEQA review. As in the first case, which was brought by the same petitioner … Continue Reading

Surface Transportation Board Discusses Boundaries of Federal Preemption of CEQA and Local Land Use Requirements, Denies Petition by Refinery Over Crude-By-Rail Facility

The extent to which the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA) preempts CEQA has been a topic of much scrutiny recently. Currently pending before the California Supreme Court is Friends of the Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority (Case No. S222472), which will address whether the ICCTA preempts CEQA review of a state … Continue Reading

First Appellate District Upholds Use of Subsequent Mitigated Negative Declaration for Revisions to Use Permit for Religious Facility, Rejects Claim of General Plan Inconsistency

On August 31, the First Appellate District issued its decision in Coastal Hills Rural Preservation v. County of Sonoma, which centered on the applicable standards and appropriateness of proceeding on a subsequent mitigated negative declaration (SMND), rather than an environmental impact report (EIR) under CEQA, where changes had been incorporated in a religious facility use … Continue Reading

Second Appellate District Upholds Use of Class 3 Exemption and Rejects Claim That “General Effects” of Operating a Business Constitute Unusual Circumstances

In its July 21 decision in Walters v. City of Redondo Beach, the Second Appellate District rejected a challenge to the use of a Class 3 categorical exemption for a proposed car wash and coffee shop in the City of Redondo Beach. The decision is helpful for lead agencies, as it clarifies that the general … Continue Reading

Appellate Court Rejects Urban Decay Claim Based on Lay Witness Opinion, Upholds Mitigated Negative Declaration

Pejman Moshfegh, a Downey Brand associate, co-authors today’s post with Donald Sobelman. When cities and counties conduct CEQA review of a large-scale commercial development project including a major national chain like Wal-Mart or Costco, a common objection is that the project will displace existing, locally owned retail establishments, resulting in a significant impact on the … Continue Reading

Fifth Appellate District Publishes Opinion Confirming Broad Discretion of Local Agencies to Determine General Plan Consistency

As discussed in a prior post, Downey Brand recently prevailed on appeal and successfully defended one of its clients against a challenge to its proposed commercial development project in Modesto. The Fifth District Court of Appeal originally issued an unpublished opinion in Naraghi Lakes Neighborhood Preservation Association v. City of Modesto, but on July 1 … Continue Reading

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

Guest author Pejman Moshfegh, a Downey Brand associate, co-authored today’s post with Donald Sobelman. 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 … 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

Court of Appeal Rejects Use of Categorical Exemption, Muddies the Waters on Standard of Review for Exceptions

The Fourth District has waded into the world of CEQA exemptions, holding that the City of Palm Springs improperly relied upon the Class 5 categorical exemption for “minor alterations in land use limitations.” However, in a confusing discussion of whether an exception to that exemption might apply, the Court seemed to ignore the Supreme Court’s … Continue Reading

Appellate Court Upholds Local Restrictions on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Against CEQA Challenge

Local regulation of the medical marijuana industry has become a hot-button area of controversy. New ordinances are routinely being proposed and adopted – and then challenged in court. In a March 25 opinion filed in Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of Upland, the Fourth Appellate District weighed in on one such local dispute, … 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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