In an unpublished decision, Kentfield-Union Neighborhood Ass’n v. Redwood City Council, 2012 Cal.App.Unpub.LEXIS 736, the First Appellate District upheld the trial court’s ruling that the Redwood City Council complied with CEQA in preparing an initial study and adopting a mitigated negative declaration for a 21-unit housing complex in Redwood City (Project). In reaching its holding, the Court first concluded that changes to the City’s Zoning Code rendered moot Petitioner’s arguments concerning the Project’s consistency with the Zoning Code. The Court, however, declined to hold that the entire challenge was rendered moot by the Zoning Code amendments.
Next, the Court concluded that the Petitioner failed to exhaust its administrative remedies with respect to each of the four substantive challenges not rendered moot by the Zoning Code amendments. First, the Court explained that while Petitioner opposed the density of the Project, it did not challenge the adequacy of the project description in the initial study’s discussion of Project density. Second, the Court rejected Petitioner’s argument that an EIR was required based on exhaustion grounds. The Court stated that while the Petitioner requested further environmental review, the Petitioner never alleged that an MND was insufficient and that an EIR was required to comply with CEQA. Third, the Court rejected Petitioner’s challenge regarding the height of the Project because, while the Petitioner raised these objections during initial public hearings, it did not raise them during the administrative appeal. Lastly, the Court rejected Petitioner’s challenges relating to the Project’s impacts on pedestrian travel because Petitioner could only point to one vague sentence to support the conclusion that it exhausted on this issue.
While courts have not always applied exhaustion of administrative remedies in a consistent manner, this decision serves as a reminder that petitioners must be careful to clearly articulate their concerns during the administrative proceeding in order to ensure CEQA challenges are not dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
Written By: Tina Thomas and Chris Butcher
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