California Legislature Passes Bills to Expedite Judicial Review of CEQA Challenges for Selected Projects

by Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP
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The California Legislature last week passed two bills that would expedite judicial review of challenges to certain large development projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The first, SB 292 (Simitian), applies only to the proposed development of a new NFL football stadium and convention center in Los Angeles. The second, AB 900 (Steinberg), applies to various types of projects involving investment of more than $100 million that provide "high-wage, highly skilled" jobs for Californians and do not result in a net increase of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Both bills would grant the state Courts of Appeal original jurisdiction over challenges to project approvals, bypassing the trial courts. Neither bill would significantly change the requirements for environmental analysis under CEQA.

SB 292 applies to the development of the proposed Convention Center Modernization and Farmers Field Project in downtown Los Angeles, which would construct an NFL football stadium and expand the Los Angeles Convention Center. The bill requires any challenge to the certification of the project environmental impact report, or to the granting of project approvals, to be filed with the Second District Court of Appeal. The bill also establishes an expedited briefing schedule and requires the Court of Appeal to decide the challenge within 60 days after the last reply brief is filed. Furthermore, the bill requires the California Supreme Court to render a decision on any petition for review within 30 days after filing. To qualify for these streamlined judicial review procedures, the project must achieve zero net emissions of GHGs from private automobile trips (including the use of offset credits if necessary) and achieve a trip ratio (the ratio of private automobile trips to stadium attendance) that is at least ten percent lower than any other NFL stadium.

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