Category: Impact Analysis

Subscribe to Impact Analysis RSS Feed

First Appellate District Rejects Urban Decay Claim, Upholds EIR for New El Dorado County Courthouse

Since the 2004 decision in Bakersfield Citizens for Local Control v. City of Bakersfield, CEQA petitioners challenging development projects often assert that the lead agency has failed to adequately analyze urban decay (“blight”) impacts on historic downtown areas or other existing business districts.  However, such claims have met with limited success.  (See, for example, our … Continue Reading

Fourth Appellate District Upholds City of San Diego’s Rejection of Subdivision Project and Related MND

CEQA decisions usually arise in the context of a challenge to a lead agency’s approval of a project and a related CEQA document.  However, in a recent decision, Kutzke v. City of San Diego (2017) 11 Cal.App.5th 1034 (certified for publication on May 23, 2017), the Fourth Appellate District resolved a court action arising from a … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Again Considers Climate Change in the Context of CEQA, But Fails to Resolve Important Uncertainties for Future Environmental Review

Today, in an opinion authored by Justice Liu, the California Supreme Court ruled that the greenhouse gas analysis in an environmental impact report (“EIR”) prepared for the San Diego Association of Government’s (“SANDAG”) regional transportation plan (“RTP”) did not violate the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), but did little to resolve uncertainties in addressing climate … Continue Reading

The California Supreme Court Has a Banner Week, Hearing Argument in Three CEQA and Land Use Cases

On May 3–4, 2017, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in three cases with significant implications for California land use law. Below we summarize the main issue(s) argued in each matter and possible outcomes. Because many of these cases have been pending for years, the Court that originally voted to grant review has since … Continue Reading

Up One Day, Down the Next—California Air Resources Board Receives Mixed Reviews in its Implementation of its Cap-and-Trade Program and Low Carbon Fuel Standard

In recent weeks, California appellate courts issued two decisions regarding California Air Resources Board (CARB) programs implemented under AB32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, with mixed results.  The first decision upheld the legality of a key element of CARB’s cap-and-trade program, the auction of emission credits.  In that case, the Third Appellate District rejected an … Continue Reading

Third District Finds that EIR for Residential Development Inadequately Assessed Traffic Impacts

Cities charged with preparing EIRs for proposed projects often look to their general plans and other adopted policies to set thresholds of significance for assessing environmental impacts. A lead agency’s discretion to select a particular significance threshold has long been afforded deference under CEQA’s “substantial evidence” standard of review. Potential impacts assessed under a general … Continue Reading

Fourth Appellate District Upholds EIR for 200-Acre Specific Plan Development in Riverside County

In its February 14 decision (certified for publication on March 15) in Residents Against Specific Plan 380 v. County of Riverside, the Fourth Appellate District upheld the County of Riverside’s (“County’s”) approval of a master-planned community.  The opinion provides helpful guidance for lead agencies and applicants in understanding when changes made to a project in … Continue Reading

Downey Brand Partners to Speak at AEP 2017 State Conference in San Francisco

I am pleased to announce that both Christian Marsh and I will be participating in panel discussions at the Association of Environmental Professionals’ 2017 State Conference, entitled “Bridging the Gap” and taking place in San Francisco from May 18 through May 21 (view schedule of events).  As stated by AEP, “the conference seeks to ‘bridge … Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Upholds Final EIS for Tahoe Area Regional Plan Update

In Sierra Club v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (“TRPA”), finding that the TRPA’s final Environmental Impact Statement (“EIS”) for the agency’s Regional Plan Update (“RPU”) sufficiently addressed localized impacts on soil erosion and water quality. The 2012 RPU, … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Rejects “New Project Test” and Defers to Agencies on Whether Project Modifications Require Subsequent Environmental Review

On September 19, in a long-awaited and unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court issued its decision in Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens v. San Mateo County Community College District.  The opinion, authored by the Court’s newest justice, Leondra Kruger, resolves a split among the Courts of Appeal regarding the proper procedures for … Continue Reading

First Appellate District Upholds Use of Subsequent Mitigated Negative Declaration for Revisions to Use Permit for Religious Facility, Rejects Claim of General Plan Inconsistency

On August 31, the First Appellate District issued its decision in Coastal Hills Rural Preservation v. County of Sonoma, which centered on the applicable standards and appropriateness of proceeding on a subsequent mitigated negative declaration (SMND), rather than an environmental impact report (EIR) under CEQA, where changes had been incorporated in a religious facility use … Continue Reading

Sixth Appellate District Adopts Substantial Evidence Standard for Review of Lead Agency Determinations Regarding Historical Resources

In its August 12 decision in Friends of the Willow Glen Trestle v. City of San Jose, the Sixth Appellate District rejected a claim that the fair argument standard should apply to a lead agency’s determination regarding whether a resource is a historical resource for purposes of CEQA. In doing so, it became the second … Continue Reading

Air District CEQA Guidelines Partially Invalidated For Mandating “CEQA-In-Reverse” Analysis, Following Remand From California Supreme Court

On remand from the California Supreme Court, the First Appellate District has issued its second ruling in California Building Industry Assn. v. Bay Area Air Quality Management District. In this case, CBIA challenged BAAQMD’s 2010 “CEQA Air Quality Guidelines”—specifically, the Guidelines’ thresholds and methods for assessing the effects of siting new sensitive receptors (residences) near … Continue Reading

White House Council on Environmental Quality Issues Final Guidance on Consideration of Climate Change in NEPA Review

Guest author Darrin Gambelin, a Downey Brand associate, contributes today’s post. On August 1, The White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) issued its Final Guidance for Federal Departments and Agencies on Consideration of Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Effects of Climate Change in National Environmental Policy Act Reviews (Guidance), which provides federal agencies with … Continue Reading

Appellate Court Rejects Urban Decay Claim Based on Lay Witness Opinion, Upholds Mitigated Negative Declaration

When cities and counties conduct CEQA review of a large-scale commercial development project including a major national chain like Wal-Mart or Costco, a common objection is that the project will displace existing, locally owned retail establishments, resulting in a significant impact on the environment, in the form of urban decay (or “blight”). This is generally … Continue Reading

Appellate Court Upholds Bay Area’s SB 375 Sustainable Communities Strategy

Since the passage of AB 32 in 2006, the methods for climate change analysis under CEQA have taken a number of turns. Most recently, the California Supreme Court in Center for Biological Diversity v. Department of Fish & Wildlife (2015) 62 Cal.4th 204, concluded that an EIR for a major development project (Newhall Ranch) lacked … Continue Reading

Appellate District in Newhall Ranch Case Limits its Jurisdiction to Supervise Agency Compliance with Rulings in CEQA Cases

As we reported last year, the California Supreme Court in Center for Biological Diversity v. California Department of Fish and Wildlife invalidated the greenhouse gas analysis and mitigation for the fully-protected unarmored stickleback on review of an environmental impact report (“EIR”) prepared for the Newhall Ranch development in northern Los Angeles County. In its ruling, the … Continue Reading

Addendum Does Not Save Inadequate Energy Impacts Analysis in EIR, First Appellate District Rules

In 2014, the appellate decision in California Clean Energy Committee v. City of Woodland (“CCEC”) caught many lead agencies and CEQA consultants off-guard, by holding that the type of energy impacts analysis conducted in many EIRs actually fails to comply with CEQA. EIRs prepared post-CCEC have generally included a much more in-depth analysis of energy … Continue Reading

Appeals Court Finds Wal-Mart EIR Deficient and Overturns Development Approval Due to Inadequate Map Act Findings

Cities and counties across the state have revised their general plan policies to address the interrelated issues of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and energy consumption by new commercial and residential development, often in proactive and innovative ways. However, the rubber only meets the road when those projects undergo CEQA review, and courts evaluate whether those … Continue Reading

Fifth Appellate District Rejects CEQA and General Plan Consistency Challenges to Modesto Commercial Development

The City of Modesto and Downey Brand client Berberian Holdings, L.P. (“Berberian”), have prevailed in a legal challenge to a commercial development project proposed by Berberian. On June 7, the Fifth District Court of Appeal issued a 45-page unpublished opinion in the action (Naraghi Lakes Neighborhood Preservation Association v. City of Modesto), affirming the Stanislaus … Continue Reading

Appeals Court Affirms Cadiz Valley Groundwater Project

In a series of sweeping opinions, the Fourth Appellate District on Tuesday, May 10, upheld the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project against six separate challenges brought by a host of environmental organizations and a salt mining operation. The Cadiz Project, initiated by the Santa Margarita Water District (SMWD) and Cadiz, Inc. in … Continue Reading

Social and Psychological Impacts Related to “Community Character” Not Covered by CEQA

Is the “character” of a community part of the “environment” and therefore subject to analysis under CEQA, or is it instead a subjective state of mind of the people who live there?  An appellate court has now weighed in. In its decision in Preserve Poway v. City of Poway (March 9, 2016), the Fourth District … Continue Reading

The End (of LOS) is Nigh: OPR’s Revised Proposal on Analysis of Transportation Impacts

In late January, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released its revised proposal to update the CEQA Guidelines with respect to the analysis of transportation impacts. OPR has not backed off from the main thrust of its original proposal: abandonment of “level of service” (LOS) in favor of “vehicle miles travelled” (VMT) as … Continue Reading
LexBlog