First Quarter CEQA Update in Under 60 Seconds

by Stoel Rives LLP
Contact

Okay, maybe slightly longer than 60 seconds.  The point being, though, that CEQA case updates really should not read like law school case briefs.  Long discussion of the lower court’s findings?  No thank you.  Point/counterpoint for each and every argument made by petitioners?  No one has time for that.  Get in, get out and move on with some useful knowledge — that’s the goal for this update on CEQA cases in the first quarter of 2017.

If we had to pick a theme for first quarter CEQA cases, it would be simple: don’t stick your head in the sand, do explain yourself, and all will be fine.  Why this theme?  Continue reading and find out in these case summaries.

Banning Ranch Conservancy v. City of Newport Beach.  One word summary: ouch!  It is never good when a court describes your CEQA process as sweeping something under the rug, especially when it is the California Supreme Court as in this case.  Here, the City of Newport failed to identify and analyze potential impacts to environmentally sensitive habitat areas (ESHA) under the Coastal Act in its EIR for a development project.  The Court held that the City had an obligation to review ESHA even though the Coastal Commission would ultimately determine whether ESHA were present on site or not.  The lesson here: a lead agency can’t shirk its CEQA obligations just because another agency has jurisdiction over a particular environmental resource impacted by a proposed project.  Of course, as noted by the Court, lead agencies are free to disagree about whether a resource exists on a site and the impacts to that resource — that is, so long as the lead agency actually discloses its analysis.

Aptos Council v. County of Santa Cruz.  There was no sweeping under the rug in this case, which ultimately paid off for the lead agency.  The court upheld Santa Cruz County’s adoption of three ordinances related to zoning site standard exceptions, signs, and height/density/parking requirements for hotels.  The County considered the three ordinances separately, which according to the court, was not improper “piecemealing” because each amendment could be implemented independently.  The court also upheld the negative declaration for the hotel ordinance, even though the negative declaration did not analyze potential impacts resulting from future hotel development.  Key to the court’s ruling on this point: the County discussed the speculative nature of future hotel development in the negative declaration and supported its conclusions by contacting local vacant property owners to identify foreseeable plans to develop their properties.  See?  Full disclosure really can be the best policy.

Residents Against Specific Plan 380 v. County of Riverside.  Maybe the petitioners in this case would have fared better with a catchier name, but the court delivered a resounding defeat to their cause.  To (very roughly) paraphrase the court’s main holding:  The CEQA process, like life, can be messy and that’s okay.  Here, the Planning Commission revised a specific plan after circulation of a final EIR.  The Board of Supervisors further revised the specific plan and tentatively certified the final EIR and approved the specific plan pending preparation of the revised plan, relevant resolutions, findings, MMRP and statement of overriding considerations.  All through the process, the County considered the environmental impact of these changes and, ultimately, concluded that the changes did not warrant recirculation of the final EIR.  Of course, anyone who has gone through the CEQA process knows this as the standard operating procedure.  Projects get tweaked at public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.  No matter how much time you spend on an EIR, it won’t be perfect.  And that’s okay when, as shown in this case, the lead agency carefully evaluates and explains whether project changes should require a final EIR to be revised and recirculated.

City of San Jose v. Superior Court of Santa Clara County.  Here’s a (not-so-shocking) revelation: Hillary Clinton and Mike Pence apparently aren’t the only government officials using personal email for government business.  While not a CEQA case, CEQA practitioners should take note of the holding in this case: a government employee’s emails sent, received or stored in a personal account may be subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act if those emails relate to public business.  Really, there was only one way this case could come out, i.e. in favor of disclosure of emails on personal accounts.  To hold otherwise would have certainly created a perverse incentive to hide public business on personal accounts.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Stoel Rives LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Stoel Rives LLP
Contact
more
less

Stoel Rives LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.