Category: Exemptions

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Petitioner Required To Post Bond For Costs Incurred As A Result Of Delay In Carrying Out Affordable Housing Project In Livermore

In Save Livermore Downtown v. City of Livermore (Dec. 28, 2022, Case No. A164987) __ Cal.App.1st __, the First District Court of Appeal held that the City of Livermore (City) did not violate planning and zoning laws when it approved a 130-unit affordable housing project (Project) in the downtown area. The Project was found to … Continue Reading

First District Affirms Denial of Anti-SLAPP Motion in a Malicious Prosecution Action Filed Against CEQA Petitioner’s Attorney   

In Jenkins et al. v. Brandt-Hawley et al. (1st Dist., Div. 2, 2022) ___ Cal.App.5th ___, the First District Court of Appeal found that CEQA suits can be subject to malicious prosecution actions.  The Court of Appeal upheld an order denying an anti-SLAPP motion, allowing a malicious prosecution action to proceed against an attorney who … Continue Reading

Construction of 90-Foot-Tall Lights at Athletic Field Not Categorically Exempt as either an Existing Facility or Construction of a Small Structure

Effective January 1, 2023, Thomas Law Group (TLG) will merge with Downey Brand. We are thrilled to welcome the TLG team to CEQA Chronicles and look forward to sharing their updates on important CEQA developments, new case law, legislation, and guidance. In St. Ignatius Neighborhood Assn. v. City & County of San Francisco (Nov. 18, 2022, A164629) … Continue Reading

2022’s New State Housing Laws

This week Governor Newsom signed a series of bills intended to accelerate housing development in California. Two bills – AB 2011 and SB 6 – seek to facilitate residential redevelopment of commercially zoned areas, though they contain stringent requirements that may put their benefits out of reach for many developers. AB 2097 largely eliminates local … Continue Reading

Small, Domestic Water Permit Deemed Ministerial, Exempt From CEQA

In Mission Peak Conservancy v. State Water Resources Control Bd. (2021) 72 Cal.App.5th 873, the First District Court of Appeal held that the State Water Resources Control Board’s (SWRCB) streamlined permitting process for small, domestic water appropriations was ministerial, reiterating that “CEQA does not regulate ministerial decisions—full stop.” Mission Peak Conservancy and an individual (collectively, MPC) … Continue Reading

Fourth District Court of Appeal finds Class 32 Exemption’s Massing Criterion Based on Project Size, not Site Size; Rejects Applicability of the Unusual Circumstances Exception

In Protect Tustin Ranch v. City of Tustin (2021) 70 Cal.App.5th 951, the Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s determination that the Class 32 infill categorical exemption was properly applied to a project which would redevelop a portion of a shopping center in the City of Tustin (City) and rejected the application … Continue Reading

Fifth District Upholds Grant of Petition Challenging Inyo County’s Use of Eminent Domain to Acquire Ownership of Landfill Sites it Leases and Operates Under a Categorical Exemption

In Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power v. County of Inyo (2021) 67 Cal.App.5th 1018, the Fifth District considered a challenge to a decision by Inyo County (County) to acquire landfill sites owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) through eminent domain. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court … Continue Reading

Sacramentans for Fair Planning v. City of Sacramento (2019) 37 Cal.App.5th 698, 704.

Sacramentans for Fair Planning v. City of Sacramento (2019) 37 Cal.App.5th 698, 704. The Yamanee project, a 10-story mixed-use condominium development in Midtown Sacramento, (Project) exceeded both the density and height limits of its parcel’s zone. A Sacramento General Plan provision allows the City Council to authorize projects at densities higher than the applicable zoning if … Continue Reading

Categorical Exemption Applies to Single Family Residence Project on Demolished Historical Resource Site

In Bottini v. City of San Diego (2018) 27 Cal.App.5th 281, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held that the City of San Diego (City) violated CEQA where it refused to rely on a categorical exemption and instead required that an EIR be prepared for a single family residence project (Project) on a vacant lot. Invoking … Continue Reading

Second District Court of Appeal Finds County Well Permit Approval is “Ministerial,” Exempt from CEQA Review Absent Showing of Discretion, SGMA Absent Agency Law Incorporation

In California Water Impact Network v. County of San Luis Obispo (2018) 25 Cal. App. 5th 666, the Second District Court of Appeal held that the approval of groundwater well permits was a ministerial act and not subject to CEQA environmental review because no discretion was exercised when such permits were issued. County of San Luis … Continue Reading

Second Appellate District Upholds PG&E Lease Extension as Categorically Exempt from CEQA, Finds Unusual Circumstance Exception Inapplicable to Extension of Nuclear Power Plant Lease

In World Business Academy v. California State Lands Commission (2018) 24 Cal.App.5th 476, the Second Appellate District determined that renewing a lease for an existing power plant constituted a categorically exempt “existing structure” project under CEQA and the record did not support an “unusual circumstances” exception to the exemption. Diablo Canyon Power Plant is a … Continue Reading

Fourth District Court of Appeal Finds Minor Telecommunications Facility on Dedicated Park Land Is Not An “Unusual Circumstance” Exception to CEQA Small Facility Exemption

In Don’t Cell Our Parks v. City of San Diego (2018) 21 Cal.App.5th 338, the Fourth District Court of Appeal found that the San Diego City Charter (Charter 55) did not prohibit the City of San Diego (City) from approving a telecommunications project within real property held in perpetuity by the City for “park purposes.” The … Continue Reading

First District Court of Appeal Strikes Down Challenge to Categorically Exempt Project, Rejects Argument that Conditions of Approval Signal Significant Impacts

In Protect Telegraph Hill v. City and County of San Francisco (2017) 16 Cal.App.5th 261, the First District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court and upheld the City and County of San Francisco’s (“City”) approval of the construction of a three-story-over-basement, three-unit condominium and the restoration of an existing cottage on a 7,517-square-foot lot … Continue Reading


BoDean Company, Inc. (“BoDean”) operates an asphalt plant in the City of Santa Rosa. The plant is a vested and legal nonconforming use that has been in continuous operation since approximately 1953. In November 2011, BoDean proposed to install three new storage silos, ancillary conveyors, three batchers, and an air filtration system. The upgrade would … Continue Reading


In 2012, the City of Kingsburg began the process of annexing approximately 430 acres of land in Fresno County, including developed land that was home to three major facilities: a glass manufacturing plant, a grape processing facility, and a raisin processing plant. The land proposed for annexation separates the City of Kingsburg from the City … Continue Reading

Fourth Appellate District Modifies Published Opinion on the Unusual Circumstances Exception to Categorical Exemptions

Note: the Supreme Court granted a request for depublication of this opinion on August 22, 2016. See here.  On June 17, 2016, the Fourth Appellate District modified its recently published opinion, People for Proper Planning v. City of Palm Springs. As modified, the opinion now cites to last year’s Supreme Court decision Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. … Continue Reading


In Citizens for Environmental Responsibility v. State ex rel., the Third Appellate District affirmed the denial of a CEQA petition relating to the 14th District Agricultural Association’s and its Board of Directors’ (collectively District) use of the Class 23 categorical exemption in approving a small-scale two-day rodeo at an existing Fairground. The case was originally … Continue Reading


In Save Our Big Trees v. City of Santa Cruz, 2015 Cal. App. LEXIS 942, the Sixth Appellate District held that the City of Santa Cruz (City) failed to carry its burden of demonstrating with substantial evidence that the amendment of its Heritage Tree Ordinance and Heritage Tree Removal Resolution (Project) were categorically exempt from … Continue Reading

“No one ever said it was easy to build a project in San Francisco”

On September 17, 2015, the California First District Court of Appeal struck another blow to the beleaguered 8 Washington Street Project in Defend Our Waterfront v. California State Lands Commission, 2015 Cal. App. LEXIS 817, when it upheld the trial court’s ruling that a necessary land transfer between the State Lands Commission and the City … Continue Reading

Paulek is Dead… Long Live Berkeley Hillside

The California Supreme Court has depublished the Fourth Appellate District’s June 17, 2015 opinion in Paulek v. Western Riverside County Regional Conservation (2015) 238 Cal.App.4th 583 (Paulek). The Paulek opinion erroneously stated that “when determining whether a categorical exemption applies, the question is whether a fair argument has been made that the project will have … Continue Reading

Fourth District Court of Appeal Re-Releases its Opinion Reversing the Denial of Petitioner Group’s Writ Petition

Following rehearing on its own motion, the Fourth District Court of Appeal again reversed and remanded a case involving the closure of two public schools in the Barstow Unified School District (“BUSD” or “District”). (Save Our Schools v. Barstow Unified School Dist., 2015 Cal.App.LEXIS 779.) The court had previously vacated its July 14, 2015 unpublished … Continue Reading

Court Remands Challenge to Categorical Exemption for School Closure to Allow Further Findings or Evidence to be Considered by the School District

The California Fourth District Court of Appeal reversed and remanded a case involving the closure of two public schools in the Barstow Unified School District (BUSD). In Save Our Schools v. Barstow Unified School Dist., 2015 Cal.App.Unpub. LEXIS 4926, Save Our Schools (SOS) sued BUSD over the closure of two schools. BUSD closed the schools … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Issues Ruling Clarifying “Unusual Circumstances” Exception

In Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley, (March 2, 2015, S201116) __ Cal.4th __ (Berkeley Hillside), in a Majority Opinion joined by five Justices the California Supreme Court provided long awaited guidance on the standards applicable to both lead agencies and courts tasked with interpreting and applying the “unusual circumstances” exception to categorical exemptions … Continue Reading