Category: Planning and Zoning

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Residential Development Project Consistent with Specific Plan Found Exempt from Further CEQA Review

In Citizens’ Committee to Complete the Refuge v. City of Newark (2021) 74 Cal.App.5th 460, the First District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling that a residential project in a specific plan area in the city of Newark fell within Government Code section 65457, a statutory exemption under CEQA for residential development projects … Continue Reading

Trial Court Decision Indicates that Housing Must be Permitted at General Plan Density, Regardless of More Restrictive Zoning

In YIMBY v. City of Los Angeles (Super. Ct. L.A. County, 2022, No. 21STCP03883), a Los Angeles County trial court decided a number of issues under California housing laws. Though the trial court decision carries neither precedential nor persuasive value, it may portend the direction in which courts will interpret these relatively new laws. In … Continue Reading

Impact Analysis and Mitigation May Be Located in Initial Study Appended to EIR; City Entitled to Deference on Interpretation of Its Municipal Code

In Ocean Street Extension Neighborhood Assn. v. City of Santa Cruz (2021) 73 Cal.App.5th 985, the Fourth District Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s determination that the City of Santa Cruz (City) had complied with CEQA in approving a 32-unit residential project (Project) and overturned the trial court’s ruling that the City had violated … Continue Reading

Approval with Density Bonus Concession Upheld for Residential Tower Adjacent to Balboa Park; Housing Accountability Act Renders Subjective Development Standards Inapplicable

In Bankers Hill 150 v. City of San Diego (2022) 74 Cal.App.5th 755, the Fourth District Court of Appeal considered arguments that a residential development including affordable housing in San Diego (City) was inconsistent with a number of land use plan policies. The Court held that the Density Bonus Law (Gov. Code, § 65915 et seq.) … Continue Reading

Approval of Mixed-Use Development Found Consistent with General Plan, Other Planning Documents – Court Upholds Project’s Sustainable Communities Environmental Assessment

In Old E. Davis Neighborhood Assn v. City of Davis (Dec. 20, 2021, C090117) ___Cal.App.5th___ [2021 Cal. App. LEXIS 1114], the Third District Court of Appeal upheld the City of Davis’s (City) determination that a proposed mixed-use development project (Project) was consistent with the City’s General Plan (GP). The Court held that the City’s approval … Continue Reading

GHG Mitigation Once More Found Lacking in San Diego County EIR; Fourth District Also Identifies General Plan Inconsistency but Upholds Wildfire and Air Quality Analyses in Unpublished Opinion

In the unpublished Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council v. County of San Diego (Oct. 14, 2021, Nos. D077611, D078101) [2021 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 6474], the Fourth District Court of Appeal found that the County of San Diego’s (County) approval of the Harmony Grove Village project’s (Project) environmental impact report (EIR) did not employ … Continue Reading

Third District Finds County General Plan Requirements for Mitigating Traffic Impacts Present an Unconstitutional Exaction

In an opinion filed on April 19, and certified for publication on May 4, 2021, the Third Appellate District in Alliance for Responsible Planning v. Taylor (County of El Dorado) held that a citizen-sponsored ballot measure requiring new development to fund all cumulative traffic mitigation prior to construction violated the Takings Clause of the Constitution … Continue Reading

Fifth Appellate District Invalidates Kern County Oil and Gas Ordinance

On Tuesday, February 25, 2020, the Fifth Appellate District invalidated Kern County’s 2015 Oil and Gas Ordinance (the “Ordinance”), which was intended to streamline the permitting process for a variety of oil and gas activities within unincorporated portions of the County, including for oil and gas production wells and related infrastructure such as well pads … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Holds Medical Marijuana Zoning Ordinance is a Project Subject to CEQA

Every CEQA analysis begins with the threshold question of whether the activity is a “project” as defined by Public Resources Code section 21065 and 21080. In Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of San Diego, the California Supreme Court held that regardless of the nature of a project, CEQA applies if it “may … Continue Reading

SB 50 “Equitable Communities Incentive” Would Exempt Affordable Housing Developments in “Job-Rich” and “Transit-Rich” Areas from Certain Zoning Standards

California State Senator Scott Wiener (D–San Francisco) has introduced Senate Bill 50, the More Housing Opportunity, Mobility, Equity, and Stability (“HOMES”) Act, which establishes the “equitable communities incentive.” This incentive would allow developers to bypass certain local zoning restrictions when building multi-family units that are near transit or employment opportunities in exchange for allocating a … Continue Reading

County General Plan EIR Need Only Address “Reasonably Foreseeable Development” Outside the Planning Area, Population Reports in the Record Showed Possible Subdivision Unlikely

In High Sierra Rural Alliance v. County of Plumas (2018) 29 Cal.App.5th 102, the Third District Court of Appeal held a general plan update and EIR were valid where evidence in the record supported the County of Plumas’ (County) determination that there was no “reasonably foreseeable development” outside the planning area. The Court also held … Continue Reading

OPR Accepts Comments on General Plan Guidelines Environmental Justice Chapter

The Governor’s Office of Planning and Research is accepting comments on a revised Environmental Justice Chapter in the General Plan Guidelines until Thursday, December 20. Senate Bill 1000, proposed by California State Senator Connie Leyva (D –Chino), requires that local jurisdictions with disadvantaged communities incorporate an environmental justice element into their General Plan or, in … Continue Reading

Court of Appeal Allows CEQA Challenge to PG&E Tree Removal Project to Proceed, But Finds Claims under Planning & Zoning Law Time-Barred

On October 23, the First Appellate District issued its opinion in Save Lafayette Trees v. City of Lafayette et al. (Case No. A154168) finding that Save Lafayette Trees’ (“Save Lafayette”) CEQA challenge to a Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) tree removal project was timely filed and served, reversing in part and affirming in part the … Continue Reading

City Charter Must Explicitly Limit Municipal Power to Approve General Plan Amendment of Single Parcel Initiated with Project Proposal, Los Angeles Auto Mall Conversion Project Valid

In Westsiders Opposed to Overdevelopment v. City of Los Angeles (2018) 27 Cal.App.5th 1079, the Second District Court of Appeal held that a charter city may approve a general plan amendment for a single project site, even if initially requested by a project applicant, so long as the city’s charter did not “clearly and explicitly” … Continue Reading

Governor Brown Signs Pro-Density, Pro-Housing Bills to Close Legislative Session

In the last evening of the last legislative session of his governorship, California Governor Jerry Brown signed two bills directed at increasing housing availability in the State. He signed each September 30, 2018 with no instructive message. Senate Bill 828, proposed by San Francisco Democratic Senator Scott Wiener, requires local governments to report more data … Continue Reading

California Supreme Court Allows Referendum Vote That Would Make Zoning Ordinance Inconsistent with General Plan for “Reasonable Time”

In City of Morgan Hill v. Bushey (2018) 5 Cal.5th 1068, the California Supreme Court held that a local referendum challenging a zoning ordinance amendment in the City of Morgan Hill (a general law city) was valid even where the referendum, if adopted by the local electorate, would be inconsistent with the general plan, so … Continue Reading

Appeals Court Finds that EIR for Planned Los Angeles Railyard for Storage and Transfer of Goods Failed to Sufficiently Consider Air Quality Impacts

On January 12, 2018, the First Appellate District held that the California Attorney General need not exhaust administrative remedies in order to contest the adequacy of Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as is normally required of third-party challengers under Section 21177.  City of Long Beach v. City of Los … Continue Reading

Second Appellate District Rejects Challenge to EIR Alternatives Analysis for West Hollywood Redevelopment Project

On December 22, the Second Appellate District certified for publication its November 30 opinion in Los Angeles Conservancy v. City of West Hollywood, concerning a proposed mixed-use redevelopment of the “Melrose Triangle” site that would result in demolition of the existing buildings.  In this decision, the Court rejected the Conservancy’s claim that the City gave … 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

Sixth District Upholds County Zoning Updates Against Piecemealing Claim, Rejects Challenge to Negative Declaration Based on “Wholly Speculative” Impacts

In March 2017, the Sixth Appellate District issued its decision in Aptos Council v. County of Santa Cruz, which rejected a two-pronged challenge to the County of Santa Cruz’s adoption of three zoning ordinances revising existing sections of the County zoning code, including an ordinance altering height, density, and parking requirements for hotels.  In affirming … 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

California Supreme Court Grants Review in Medical Marijuana CEQA Case

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 … Continue Reading

Local Ordinance Regulating Medical Marijuana Dispensaries is Not a “Project” Subject to CEQA Review, Fourth Appellate District Rules (Again)

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 … Continue Reading
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