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In a case involving a mixed-use development project on a university campus, the Fifth District Court of Appeal held the trial court acted in error by failing to issue a writ following the entry of judgment. If a trial court finds that a decision of a public agency has been made without complying with CEQA, the court is required to enter a mandate that the public agency decision be set aside. The Court also held that because the trial court ruled that part of the Board’s EIR was inadequate under CEQA, the trial court was compelled to require the Board decertify the EIR in its entirety. The Court explained that “an EIR is either complete or not.” The Court, however, noted that CEQA permits a court in limited circumstances to fashion a remedy in which a portion of a project or activity is severed from the remainder of the project where only a portion of the project is in noncompliance with CEQA and severance does not prejudice full compliance with CEQA.

Key Point:

The trial court in this case reached its final ruling, but declined to require the Board rescind the project approval. If the trial court ordered an interlocutory remand rather than entering a final ruling, the trial court would not have been required to issue a peremptory writ of mandate or to direct the Board to rescind the project approval. However, while Voices of the Wetlands v. State Water Resources Control Bd. (2011) 52 Cal. 4th 499 authorized use of interlocutory remand in a non-CEQA challenge, it remains unclear whether the Supreme Court would sanction use of interlocutory remand in CEQA litigation.

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