Railroad Trestle/Historical Resource. In Friends of the Willow Glen Trestle v. City of San Jose, (6th Dist. 2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 457, petitioners challenged the City of San Jose’s decision to not to prepare a full environmental impact report (EIR) for a project to replace an old wooden trestle with a new steel bridge. The trestle is a wooden railroad bridge that was built in 1922 as part of a “spur line” to provide “rail freight access” to “canning districts” near downtown San Jose. The trial court struck down the City’s approval of the project, holding that petitioners had demonstrated that there was a “fair argument” that the project would have significant environmental impacts (thereby requiring an EIR), because there was a fair argument that the bridge was a historical resource. However, the appellate court reversed, holding that the more deferential “substantial evidence” standard of judicial review applied to the City’s determination that the bridge was not a historical resource.
In La Mirada Neighborhood Assoc. of Hollywood v. City of Los Angeles, (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 586, the court of appeal dismissed as moot an appeal of the City of Los Angeles’s approval of a large development for the Target Corporation, which included a 75-foot building. Approving the project, the City granted Target six exceptions from development restrictions contained in the applicable specific plan, which included a prohibition on commercial buildings taller than 35 feet. The plaintiff neighborhood sued, arguing that the City had not made the requisite findings of “exceptional conditions”, which were necessary to justify the exceptions. The trial court agreed and ordered the cessation of all construction activities. Target then filed an appeal, and during the pendency of the appeal, the City adopted several amendments to the specific plan, such that the project was not reliant on the City making exceptions to the specific plan’s development restrictions. The court of appeal then dismissed the appeal as moot.
©2016 Miles J. Dolinger. This article is not intended to and does not constitute legal advice or a solicitation for the formation of an attorney-client relationship.
CASE UPDATE: A City’s General Plan Amendment Eliminating Minimum Residential Density Requirements Is Not Exempt From CEQA.
In People for Proper Planning v. City of Palm Springs (2016), 2016 WL 3005719, an affordable housing advocacy group filed a lawsuit challenging City of Palm Springs’s adoption of a general plan amendment (GPA) removing minimum density requirements for each residential development. The trial court ruled that the GPA was exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), but the court of appeal reversed on this issue.
At the May 10, 2016 Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors meeting, County staff presented their recommendations for a new commercial cannabis cultivation ordinance. Those recommendations were informed by a report of the Board-appointed Cannabis Cultivation Choices Committee (“C4”), with follow up input by some of the Supervisors. The staff report can be found at: http://santacruzcountyca.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=1189&Inline=True
(See page 459 to the end, which is agenda item 53.)
The staff report is fairly complicated. (For example, it states that the C4 group voted on 84 different issues.) The main subjects of the proposed ordinance will include: minimum parcel sizes, maximum permitted canopy sizes, and zoning; setbacks; exceptions; taxes and fees; and license and registration requirements.
The Santa Cruz Sentinel recently reported on the Santa Cruz City Council’s approval of a new 32-unit condominium project to be constructed at 1800 Soquel Avenue at the intersection of Hagemann Avenue, which is the current site of May’s Sushi Bar & Grill. (Santa Cruz Council Green Lights New Condo Development, 4/13/16.) The article described this project as, “a test case for the city’s in-development “Corridor Plan,” calling for increased density of residential and commercial growth along major city roads….” The project consists primarily of one-bedroom and studio units, and will provide much needed relatively affordable housing in the City.
The Santa Cruz City Council and the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors have already decided, as a matter of land use policy, that the best places to add the substantial amount of new housing that is needed in Santa Cruz are along the four main thoroughfares – Mission Street, Water Street, Soquel Avenue/Soquel Drive, and Ocean Street. The basic idea is to site new, dense residential development near bikeways and public transportation routes in hopes that a significant amount (10%? 20%?) of new residents will bike and/or take the bus instead of driving (at least some of the time), in order to minimize traffic and other impacts in the urban boundary area overall.
CASE UPDATE: Court Affirms Coastal Commission’s Authority to Issue Cease, Desist and Restoration Orders Regarding Extensive Development in the Coastal Zone Conducted Without Coastal Development Permits..
Hagopian v. State (2nd Dist. 2014), 2014 WL 265517, involved a challenge to Coastal Commission permitting and enforcement authority brought by egregious Coastal Act violators. The plaintiffs purchased undeveloped coastal zone property in the Santa Monica Mountains in Los Angeles County (“Parcel 24”). At the time, L.A. County did not have a certified Local Coastal Program, and so the Coastal Commission was the coastal development permit issuing authority.
CASE UPDATE: EIR For Redevelopment Of Treasure Island Complied With CEQA As A Planning-Level EIR Even Though It Was Called A “Project EIR”.
In Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island v. City of County of San Francisco, (1st Dist. 2014) 2014 WL 3057986, the court affirmed the City and County of San Francisco’s approval of a new, 20-year master plan for the total redevelopment of Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island. Petitioner’s main argument on appeal was that the City prejudicially abused its discretion by preparing a project EIR instead of aprogram EIR; the subject EIR characterized itself as a “project EIR” that analyzed all phases of the Project at maximum build out.
In Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Superior Court, (2014) 59 Cal.4th 1029, the California Supreme Court held that CEQA review is not required when a local government entity adopts a voter submitted land use initiative directly (and without the need for a public vote), just as CEQA review is not required before voters adopt an initiative at an election.
In Rominger v. County of Colusa, (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 690, the court held that the approval of a tentative subdivision map was subject to CEQA review categorically – even if a specific development project was yet to be planned. The court further held that CEQA procedural errors (in this case, failure to post public notice of the County’s intent to adopt a mitigated negative declaration (MND) for the full 30 days) constituted abuse of discretions, but such errors are not grounds for reversal unless they are shown to be prejudicial. The court held that the 27-day notice period in this case was not prejudicial. Also, the court rejected arguments that an EIR (as opposed to an MND) was required to address potential agricultural, odor, noise, air quality, greenhouse gas and water supply impacts, but the court agreed that an EIR was required to address potential traffic issues.
In Lynch v. California Coastal Commission, (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 658, the court of appeal held that a coastal permit applicant could not submit to coastal permit conditions of approval and reserve the right to challenge them in court later. The plaintiffs owned neighboring bluff-top homes in Encinitas, and they applied to the City and the Coastal Commission for permits to reconstruct a seawall, a mid-bluff geogrid protection structure, and a private stairway.
While the application was pending, a severe storm caused the bluff below one of the owner’s houses to collapse and destroyed portions of the existing structures. The Commission granted the permit but with special conditions that precluded building the lower part of the stairway, limited the permit to 20 years, and required the owners to record deed restrictions consistent with these conditions. Instead of challenging the permit conditions right away, the owners submitted to the conditions and recorded the deed restriction.
CASE UPDATE: Coastal Permit Condition Requiring Beach/Coastal Access Easement Lacked Rational Nexus With Inland Construction Project.
In Bowman v. California Coastal Commission, (2014) —Cal.Rptr.3d– (2014 WL 5390057), the court held that the Coastal Commission and the trial court erred in imposing a lateral coastal access easement as a condition of approval of a coastal development permit (CDP) for the reconstruction of a barn, the remodel of a house, and installation of a new septic system. This case involved two, successive CDP applications to make certain improvements at a single, 400-acre coastal property in San Luis Obispo County.