The Chawanakee Unified School District (Petitioner) filed a petition for writ of mandate against the County of Madera’s (County) approval of an EIR for a development project, arguing that the approval did not comply with CEQA. The trial court denied the petition. Petitioner appealed the ruling to the Fifth District Court of Appeal, which reversed the lower court’s decision. In determining that the County’s EIR was sufficient, the Court examined SB 50, which amended Government Code section 65996, subdivision (a). The Court found that SB 50, in providing a cap on the amount of fees that can be imposed on new developments to fund construction of school facilities, capped the amount of fees required to mitigate school facility impacts under CEQA. However, the Court explained that this was a relatively narrow limitation and only “direct” impacts on school facilities were excused by SB 50. The Court concluded that other impacts of the project on school facilities, such as traffic, noise, and dust impacts, are “indirect” impacts and thus not excused by SB 50. Therefore, the Court held that the County must analyze and mitigate those impacts in an EIR. The Court remanded the case to the trial court to grant a petition for writ of mandate.
SB 50 does not eliminate the need for an EIR to analyze and mitigate a project’s environmental impacts on the physical environment surrounding a school.