Resident concerns about the social and psychological impact associated with the conversion of a horse-boarding facility to a 12-lot subdivision do not constitute a "community character" issue requiring an environmental impact report, the Fourth District Court of Appeal has ruled. >>read more
The California Department of Food & Agriculture erred in preparing an environmental impact report for a program intended to eradicate with an invasive pest without examining the long-term consequences of an alternative program to control the pest rather than eradicate it, the Third District Court of Appeal has ruled.
As it happens, CDFA actually switched the program at the last minute from eradication to control, but the Third District said the defeat in the EIR would have been a legal problem under any circumstances. Relying on Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority (2013) 57 Cal.4th 439, the Third District said CDFA's action was "prejudicial," requiring the appellate court to reverse two trial court rulings related to the case.
The case involves CDFA's efforts to eradicate the light brown apple moth, or LBAM, an invasive "leaf-roller" moth that was first seen in California in 2007. Because LBAM represented a threat to all California ornamental plants as well as fruits and vegetables, and its invasion of California was moving fast, the legislature quickly authorized CDFA to undertake a temporary LBAM program with the goal of eradicating the pest. >>read more
Last week's unanimous, finely worded ruling by the California Supreme Court has spared builders their worst-case scenario in the long-awaited "CEQA in Reverse" case. It does not interpret the California Environmental Quality Act to require an environmental impact report whenever a project might attract more people within range of an existing hazard such as air pollution or earthquake risk. >>read more
California's Supreme Court broke the Newhall Land & Farming Company's long winning streak November 30 in a victory for environmental and community groups over the Newhall Ranch megadevelopment. >>read more
Reversing itself on remand, the First District Court of Appeal has ruled in the Berkeley Hillside case that the proposed home of computer pioneer Mitch Kapor and his wife does not, in and of itself, represent an "unusual circumstances" under the CEQA Guidelines and therefore the City of Berkeley acted properly in applying a CEQA exemption to the project.
The California Supreme Court has denied review of a case from Riverside County involving the interplay of habitat conservation planning and the California Environmental Quality Act -- and also depublished the case so it cannot be used as precedent. >>read more
The federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday issued a nationwide stay blocking enforcement of the new federal rule defining "Waters of the United States". For now the stay applies in all states, including California. While it lasts, the "Waters Of..." definition returns to the jumbled but familiar state it was in before the new rule took effect on August 28. Although the stay is only a temporary measure, it strengthens legitimacy and buys time for opponents of the Obama Administration's approach to clean water regulation. >>read more
The California Supreme Court is finally catching up on its backlog of cases interpreting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Recently the justices moved along two cases related to the law's climate change implications. The bottom line, however, is that the list is getting longer. The court now has eight CEQA cases pending on issues ranging from how CEQA must account for climate change to whether the law is pre-empted by federal railroad regulation.
The justices heard arguments September 2 on the leading Newhall Ranch case, emphasizing greenhouse gas reduction standards. They've also just scheduled oral argument for October 7 on the "CEQA in Reverse" case, which addresses whether developers must consider the impact of environmental conditions on a project, as well as vice versa.
This is a big change from a year ago. Shorthanded from two retirements, the court had a docket full of big lurking environmental review issues with grants of review dating as far back as 2012. Last year, not counting denials of review, the justices issued one big CEQA opinion in the whole year: Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance, an August 2014 decision allowing the use of ballot measure petitions to pressure local governments into adopting large projects. (See CP&DR coverage here.) >>read more
Which means the score is now one Walmart in Tuolomne County, two football stadiums in L.A., and a shopping center in San Diego County. And that raises a pretty interesting question: How far will developers push the Tuolomne Tactic? And will the Legislature step in with a fix?
Not likely - which means California planning regulation just got even more convoluted than it was before. >>read more
The longtime battle over Newhall Ranch has spilled into unusual legal territory with a fight over the status of the private water company that would likely serve the development project.
Uniquely, the Valencia Water Company (VWC) may be California's only active large-scale water provider that is neither public, nor mutual, nor regulated as a private entity by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC).
VWC still supplies water day by day to some 31,000 existing hookups serving about 120,000 people in the Santa Clarita Valley of Los Angeles County. But legally VWC has been in an odd state of existence for a little over a year. Opinions differ whether VWC is public or private, what rules apply to its continued operation, and even by what right it operates at all.