Last month the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District provided important guidance on the issue of when approval of an agreement affecting a development constitutes approval of a “project” that requires review under the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA"). In City of Santee v. County of San Diego, the Fourth District held that a siting agreement between the County of San Diego and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation ("DCR") for a state prison facility did not commit the County to a definite course of action, and therefore did not constitute a project approval requiring CEQA review. The court reached this conclusion after noting that the agreement did not preclude any alternatives or mitigation measures, and that implementation of the agreement was contingent on a number of factors, including future environmental review.
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