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On February 18, 2015, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District granted the City of San Diego’s (City) request to publish the recent case CREED-21 v. City of San Diego, 2015 Cal. App. LEXIS 17. In the decision, the appellate court reversed the trial court in large part and denied an injunction stopping the restoration of native plants on a hillside near a storm drain in La Jolla.

The key point in the decision involved the baseline environmental conditions to be used in determining whether the project qualified for an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The storm drain and hillside at issue in the case were previously damaged in a storm requiring immediate repair and an emergency exemption from CEQA. The court held the relevant baseline conditions for the subsequent revegetation project to stabilize and improve the hillside were the conditions existing after the emergency repair, not at the time prior to the emergency repair. This was true even though the City was considering a comprehensive storm drain repair project before the emergency repair became necessary. As the court stated, the key baseline for lead agencies to consider are the physical conditions that “will be affected by the proposed project.” In this case, the barren hillside was the existing condition, and that baseline allowed the project to qualify for the common sense CEQA exemption because there was no chance improving the condition of the hillside would have a significant adverse effect on the environment.

A complete summary of the case is available here: /.

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