Judicial CEQA reform on Supreme Court’s docket in coming year?

Judicial CEQA reform on Supreme Court’s docket in coming year?

By Miller Starr Regalia and Arthur F. Coon : lexology – expcert

Few would dispute that the California Supreme Court has played a leading role in judicial CEQA reform in recent years.  It has clarified the law on the operation of CEQA’s statues of limitations, and attempted to bring more coherence and common sense to the fundamental rules and concepts governing the statute’s scope, operation and timing.

Having issued another major decision in 2013 clarifying the law on environmental baseline analysis (see Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (2013) 57 Cal.4th 439 [CEQA requires project impact assessment against “existing conditions” baseline, disallows sole reliance on “future conditions” baseline unless substantial evidence shows existing conditions baseline would be misleading or without informational value]), the Supreme Court is poised to tackle several more important CEQA issues in decisions that may be forthcoming the next year.

Few would dispute that the California Supreme Court has played a leading role in judicial CEQA reform in recent years.  It has clarified the law on the operation of CEQA’s statues of limitations, and attempted to bring more coherence and common sense to the fundamental rules and concepts governing the statute’s scope, operation and timing.

Having issued another major decision in 2013 clarifying the law on environmental baseline analysis (see Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (2013) 57 Cal.4th 439 [CEQA requires project impact assessment against “existing conditions” baseline, disallows sole reliance on “future conditions” baseline unless substantial evidence shows existing conditions baseline would be misleading or without informational value]), the Supreme Court is poised to tackle several more important CEQA issues in decisions that may be forthcoming the next year.

The high court currently has pending before it CEQA cases presenting the following major issues:

  • What is the proper standard of judicial review of the “unusual circumstances” exception to categorical exemptions?  Berkeley Hillside Preservation, et al. v. City of Berkeley, et al.(Supreme Court Case No. S201116), review granted May 23, 2012.
  • Does CEQA ever operate “in reverse” to require analysis of the existing environment on a proposed project and its future occupants and users?  California Building Industry Assn. v. Bay Area Air Quality Management Dist. (Supreme Court Case No. S213478), review granted November 26, 2013.
  • Is a City’s decision to adopt without change legislative project approvals proposed by a qualified citizen initiative petition, pursuant to its strictly circumscribed statutory options under Elections Code § 9214(a), a CEQA-exempt “ministerial” action or a “discretionary” decision requiring CEQA review? Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Superior Court (Wal-Mart Stores, Real Party in Interest) (Supreme Court Case No. S207173), review granted February 13, 2013.

While it is unknown exactly when the Supreme Court will render its decisions in these matters, it is clear that the above cases present it with opportunities to shape and define CEQA’s scope and reach in profound ways that will affect California developers, public agencies, and land use consultants and practitioners for years to come… (more)

 

Postponement of Development Project Hearing Raises Question of CEQA “Greenmail”

Postponement of Development Project Hearing Raises Question of CEQA “Greenmail”

By Carolyn Schuk : santaclaraweekly – excerpt

The City Council was ready for a full hearing on a high-density residential infill project, 45 Buckingham/66 Saratoga, last Tuesday night, when the project’s developer, Prometheus Corp., asked at the last minute that the hearing be continued until Jan. 7, 2014.

The Council’s action would have been to approve or disapprove zoning changes from Community Mixed Use to High Density Residential, and resolutions that would exempt the project from a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) – satisfying requirements with a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) and Mitigation Monitoring or Reporting Program (MMRP). Currently, the parcel is parking lots for Stevens Creek car dealers, auto repair shops, and several retail establishments including smoking paraphernalia and adult novelties shops.

The reason for the postponement given was that there were “issues that the developer needed to deal with.” However, the public documents (preview.tinyurl.com/nf683wt) for the project suggest that the Santa Clara project is perhaps the latest target of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) “greenmail” by construction unions threatening unneeded, time-consuming and costly CEQA reviews in order to increase their control over project hiring.

In November, the city received a letter from attorney Ellen Trescott of the Sacramento-based law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo challenging the adequacy of the environmental review for a variety of issues including “hazardous waste mitigation, to cleaner burning construction equipment, greenhouse gas emissions, and traffic…Because there is significant dispute about the severity of environmental impacts associated the Project, the more proper course of action is to direct the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).”

A Law Firm Known for Its Union-Driven CEQA Appeals

Trescott is representing a group called Santa Clara Residents for Responsible Development, which, according to her letter, “includes David Clark, R.C. Crawford, Phillip Francisco, Victor Galvez, Matt Hancoc, Ricci Herro, Gregory Small, Robert Stuhr, Corey Quevedo, Scott Thomas, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 393, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families who live and/or work in the City of Santa Clara and Santa Clara County.”

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo has made a name for itself in the last few years by bringing CEQA appeals against development project approvals on behalf of various “residents” groups whose principal members are construction unions. In 2012 it represented similar groups in objections to a Pasadena power plant re-powering project, a Napa water pipe project, and a San Bernardino County solar energy project.

Closer to home, the law firm represented Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council in disputing the San Jose City Council’s approval of the environmental study for the One South Market high-rise apartment project. The group’s appeal lost 9-2, with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed calling the entire proceeding “just an abuse of the environmental process,” according to the San Jose Mercury report… (more)

Interesting read on “greenmail”. Could this be that the residents of the area object to the project and have hired a law firm that specializes in this matters?

Judge Dumps Lawsuit Opposing Artificial Turf In Golden Gate Park

Judge Dumps Lawsuit Opposing Artificial Turf In Golden Gate Park

by Sasha Lekach: – excerpt

A San Francisco Superior Court judge Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a parent and environmental group that opposed plans to convert the city’s Beach Chalet athletic fields from grass to artificial turf.

Judge Teri Jackson ruled Tuesday that the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department renovation plans to change the fields into turf at the park at the western edge of Golden Gate Park followed environmental guidelines. Because of the ruling, the project can now proceed.

The City Fields Foundation, a nonprofit working with San Francisco officials to renovate fields around the city, joined the parks department as co-defendants in the case that was filed in October 2012.

The opposition groups, which included the San Francisco Coalition for Children’s Outdoor Play and the local Sierra Club chapter, argued that reports examining the renovation’s environmental impact weren’t conducted properly and violated the California Environmental Quality Act.

Opponents, comprised of mainly parents living near the western side of Golden Gate Park, also said the turf could be toxic to children.

Opposition attorney Richard Drury said today his clients are disappointed but not surprised by the ruling.

“We were hoping for a different outcome,” he said.

He said the group would likely start an appeals process… (more)

 

 

Delta water plan released for public scrutiny

Delta water plan released for public scrutiny

by Melody Gutierrez : sfgate – excerpt

Sacramento — After seven years in the making, the $25 billion plan to build two massive tunnels diverting water out of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is up for public review. And one thing is clear: You better grab your reading glasses.

The 9,000-page Bay Delta Conservation Plan and 25,000-page environmental impact report pack a hefty punch, particularly considering the public has 120 days to comment on the documents, which state officials said contain significant revisions since first drafts were released this year… (more)

RELATED:
PublicReviewDraftBDCP.aspx

Continue reading “Delta water plan released for public scrutiny”

%d bloggers like this: