Real Estate & Land Use - Court Rejects the Need for CEQA Analysis of Sea Level Rise and Invalidates CEQA Guideline

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In an opinion ordered published last Friday, December 2, 2011 (originally filed November 9, 2011), the Second District Court of Appeal held that the City of Los Angeles was not required to discuss the impact of sea level rise as a result of global climate change on a proposed mixed-use development project. (Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, et al. v. City of Los Angeles (2009) ___ Cal.App.4th ___ (Nov. 9, 2011, Case No. B231965).) The court restated its prior conclusion that “the purpose of an EIR is to identify the significant effects of a project on the environment, not the significant effects of the environment on the project.” (See City of Long Beach v. Los Angeles Unified School Dist. (2009) 176 Cal.App.4th 889, 905.)

The court also upheld the City’s determination that the project site would not be subject to inundation as a result of sea level rise, finding substantial evidence in the record to support the City’s determination. It should be noted that while not specifically addressed in Ballona Wetlands, projects located in floodplains or areas subject to inundation may remain subject to CEQA’s mandate that environmental impacts of projects be identified, analyzed, and mitigated if the project may have an impact on the physical environment, such as by causing a diversion of floodwaters due to new construction.

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