The California Supreme Court agreed on October 1 to review a major CEQA case, Sierra Club v. County of Fresno, (2014) 226 Cal.App.4th 704, in which the Fifth District Court of Appeal blocked the "Friant Ranch," a large planned development focused on seniors' housing. (See prior coverage at

The ruling walks through several forms of CEQA analysis, so it's difficult to interpret the court's review announcement, which reads in substantive part: "This case presents issues concerning the standard and scope of judicial review under the California Environmental Quality Act." The online docket with the grant of review and links to the original opinion is at

The case was cited by conservationist petitioners in their important appeal of the challenge to the Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS) adopted by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). As explained last week at, the SANDAG case has been awaiting decision since August 27.

To the SANDAG petitioners, who have been alleging insufficient analysis in the RTP/SCS, the importance of the Fresno case is that it found an EIR for a project wasn't finished when it quantified projected air pollution effects numerically. The ruling said the EIR should also inform readers about the expected public health impacts of the emission tonnages that it mentions.

Enforcement letter issued on Laguna Beach resort expansion

The Coastal Commission issued an enforcement letter September 24 to stop part of the disputed renovation and upscaling work on The Ranch at Laguna Beach. The letter says project proponent Mark Christy engaged in improper unpermitted development in the form of landscaping, paving and construction of a 7000-square-foot dance floor in the property's eucalyptus grove. Construction, renovation and landscaping work on The Ranch at Laguna Beach was a subject of Coastal Commission arguments all summer. Part of the work has been allowed to continue as authorized remodeling of existing buildings, while other parts of the work have been ordered suspended pending Commission review. The enforcement letter distinguishes the outdoor work from the remodeling work on buildings that the Commission has been allowing to proceed. It asks Christy to "incorporate removal or modifications" to the unpermitted work into the description of the Ranch at Laguna Beach project that is already on appeal before the Commission.

Jurisdiction argument fails to stop Graton casino

The First District Court of Appeal on October 3 rejected a challenge to the Graton Tribe's planned casino at the edge of Rohnert Park. Opponents of the project, Stop the Casino 101 Coalition, alleged that, although the planned casino site was accepted into federal trust by the Department of the Interior, the tribe still lacked jurisdiction over the land. The project's opponents argued that, when the tribe reacquired the land from private owners and placed it into trust, the federal government did not specify that the tribe should also have jurisdiction over the land, and the state of California did not cede such jurisdiction to the tribe. The court rejected the jurisdiction argument, holding primarily that federally recognized tribes exercise jurisdiction over their reservations, and that even if state consent is required, "such consent is implicit in the [gaming] compact signed by the Governor and ratified by the Legislature." The case is Stop the Casino 101 Coalition v. Brown, at

In other news -

  • The City of Los Angeles issued a "Great Streets for Los Angeles" transportation plan with emphasis on improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians. The Los Angeles Daily News has details at For the report itself and a statement from the office of Mayor Eric Garcetti, see
  • The City of Fresno finally accepted a million-dollar grant to start plans for a station of the locally vilified High-Speed Rail project. See for recent Fresno Bee coverage and see for links to coverage of prior rejections of the grant.
  • The Monterey County Weekly reports that Sean Parker of Napster has indirectly funded a big handful of grants to Central Coast conservation groups. Parker agreed to contribute $2.5 million to conservation after the Coastal Commission pursued him over environmental damage from preparations for his 2013 wedding. The Commission has now announced the grant recipients. See
  • The Sacramento Bee reported California's Democratic leadership may be waiting for the 2016 Presidential election turnout to try and pass extensions of temporary taxes first passed in 2012. For details see