In Robinson v. Superior Court (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 1144, the Fifth District Court of Appeal held that Southern California Edison (SCE), as an investor-owned public utility, was not required to comply with CEQA in an eminent domain action because SCE was neither a “public agency” under CEQA nor did SCE need approval from a public
In Arcadians for Environmental Preservation v. City of Arcadia (2023) 88 Cal.App.5th 418, the Second District Court of Appeal found no error in a trial court ruling that there had been a failure to exhaust administrative remedies where project opponents merely raised general environmental objections without identifying any reason why the agency could not…
On August 27, 2020, in Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources v. County of Stanislaus, Case No. S251709 (“Protecting Our Water”), the California Supreme Court held that the County in that instance could not categorically classify its issuance of groundwater well construction permits as ministerial decisions exempt from environmental review under the…
San Diegans for Open Government v. City of San Diego – filed Dec. 27, 2018, publication ordered Jan. 15, 2019, Fourth District, Div. One
The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court judgment upholding use of the “existing facilities” categorical exemption for a lease for a beachside amusement park, finding no unusual circumstances barring use of the exemption. The Petitioner, San Diegans for Open Government (SDOG), failed to demonstrate any causal connection between the “unusual circumstances” of a local measure limiting development and the alleged significant impacts of traffic and noise, which were also found to be speculative.
After a long drought, the California Supreme Court at its November 14, 2018 conference voted unanimously to grant review of three decisions involving the question of whether well permits issued pursuant to county ordinances and incorporating state groundwater well-drilling standards are ministerial and thus not subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). Although interpreting different county well ordinances enacted by San Luis Obispo and Stanislaus Counties, the ordinances each incorporated state well-drilling standards (Bulletin 74). Yet, the Second and Fifth Districts reached diametrically opposing conclusions regarding whether those ordinances require the exercise of discretion.
On July 27, the California Supreme Court released its long-awaited decision in Friends of the Eel River v. North Coast Railroad Authority (S222472), resolving a split among the State’s courts of appeal—but arguably conflicting with federal precedent—with respect to the scope of federal preemption of CEQA with respect to state-owned rail projects.
We discussed the oral arguments in this case in a prior blog post. In a 6-1 opinion authored by Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye (with Justice Corrigan dissenting), the Court has now held that application of CEQA to a railroad project undertaken by a state entity, North Coast Railroad Authority (“NCRA”), was not preempted by the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (“ICCTA”). The Court relied on a distinction between a state’s “regulation” of private railroad operations (which is clearly preempted) and a state’s “self-governance” with respect to a state-owned rail project (which, the Court held, is not preempted). As a result, the Court reversed the judgment of the First Appellate District and remanded the matter for further proceedings on petitioners’ CEQA claims.
In May 2017, the Fifth Appellate District published a decision addressing preclusion, which is rarely a topic in CEQA litigation. On demurrer, the Kern County Superior Court found that a CEQA petition was barred by res judicata in light of a prior judgment entered in Alameda County (the “Alameda Action”). In Association of Irritated Residents v. Department of Conservation (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 1202, the Fifth District reversed, and it also addressed the issue of collateral estoppel in the context of a motion to dismiss the appeal.
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 meaning of CEQA?
- Is the enactment of a zoning ordinance allowing the operation of medical marijuana cooperatives in certain areas the type of activity that may cause a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change to the environment?
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 (Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of Upland, decided on March 25), the appeals court held that the ordinance was not a “project” for purposes of CEQA.
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 effects of an operating business, such as noise, parking, and traffic, cannot serve as unusual circumstances in and of themselves.
Redondo Auto Spa filed an application with the City of Redondo Beach (City) to build a 4,080 square-foot, full-service car wash and small coffee shop on a property zoned for commercial uses. In approving the project, the City issued a conditional use permit (CUP), found that the project was categorically exempt from CEQA review under the Class 3 exemption for a “store, motel, office, restaurant or similar structure not involving the use of significant amounts of hazardous substances,” (CEQA Guidelines section 15303(c)), and imposed several conditions concerning noise, operating hours, and capacity (a vehicle limit of 10,000 cars per month).
Five neighboring homeowners filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the City’s CEQA exemption determination and issuance of the CUP. The trial court upheld the City’s actions and denied the writ petition, and the neighbors appealed.