CEQA Portal Updates: 2022 Published CEQA Cases

The CEQA Portal was developed by the Association of Environmental Professionals to provide a set of tools for anyone interested in learning about the California Environmental Quality Act. It is intended for CEQA practitioners, attorneys, elected and appointed officials, students, and citizens to aid in understanding the goals of CEQA, its process and content requirements, and how to prepare CEQA documents.

The following is a listing of published cases that are available for review on AEP's CEQA Portal for 2022: 

2022 Published CEQA Cases

Ocean Street Extension Neighborhood Association v. City of Santa Cruz (Jan. 13, 2022) Cal.App.5th
The Fourth District Court of Appeal rejected a CEQA challenge to a multifamily project in Santa Cruz. The project site consists of a vacant parcel, a portion of which has slopes ranging from 15 to 30 percent. The case addresses proper mitigation approaches for biological resources impacts, project objectives, identifies approaches to streamline the EIR preparation process, and addresses the evaluation of water supply impacts during drought conditions.

Citizens' Committee to Complete the Refuge, et al. v. City of Newark et al(Jan. 25, 2022) Cal.App.5th
The First District Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment upholding the City of Newark's use of the CEQA exemption in Government Code Section 65457 for a 469-lot residential subdivision relying on a previously certified specific plan EIR. The Court reviewed impact concerns regarding harvest mouse and sea level rise related to legal principles governing programmatic analysis, the Government Code Section 65457 exemption, and CEQA's subsequent review rules under Public Resources Code Section 21166.

League to Save Lake Tahoe Mountain Area Preservation Foundation et al. v. County of Placer et al. (Feb. 14, 2022) Cal.App.5th
The Third District Court of Appeal affirmed in part, and reversed in part, lower court decision on CEQA actions challenging Placer County's EIR for its approval of a specific plan and rezoning to permit residential and commercial development. The case provides guidance on emergency response/evacuation plan impact analysis. Other issues addressed in the decision include VMT, water quality impacts to Lake Tahoe, recirculation of an EIR, greenhouse gas mitigation, cumulative impacts to forest resources, and energy impacts.

Save the El Dorado Canal v. El Dorado Irrigation District et al. (Feb. 16, 2022) Cal.App.5th
The Third District Court of Appeal upholds an EIR's project description and analysis of biological resource, hydrology, and wildfire impacts in the El Dorado Irrigation District's EIR for the Upper Main Ditch Piping Project.

Buena Vista Water Storage District v. Kern Water Bank Authority (Mar. 22, 2022) Cal.App.5th
The Second District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment invalidating the Kern Water Bank Authority's EIR and approval of its own project to divert unappropriated Kern River waters in certain wet years to recharge its Kern Water Bank. In upholding the authority's EIR and reinstating its project approval, the Court addressed CEQA project description, baseline, and impact analysis issues in the context of a water diversion and recharge project involving excess floodwaters from the not fully appropriated Kern River.

Save the Hill Group v. City of Livermore (Lafferty Communities, Inc., Real Party in Interest) (Mar. 30, 2022) Cal.App.5th
The First District Court of Appeal reversed a trial court judgment upholding the Reissued Final EIR for a 44-unit single-family residential project on a unique species- and habitat-rich 32-acre site in Livermore's Garaventa Hills area. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeal agreed that the Reissued Final EIR's analysis of the "no project" alternative was substantively inadequate because it lacked information about the feasibility of purchase and preservation options that was necessary for the City Council to make an informed, reasoned decision. However, the Court of Appeal disagreed with the trial court's conclusion that the petitioner/appellant Save the Hill Group's failure to exhaust on this issue barred judicial consideration of it. The Court of Appeal rejected the appellant's remaining arguments that the analysis and mitigation of the project's vernal pool fairy shrimp and wetlands impacts were inadequate and that its identified compensatory mitigation for permanent sensitive habitat loss was inadequate.

Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters et al. v. City of Los Angeles et al. (The Icon at Panorama, LLC, Real Party in Interest) (Mar. 30, 2022) Cal.App.5th
The Second District Court of Appeal (Div. 4) filed its published opinion in reversing the trial court's judgment and writ setting aside the approvals and EIR for a mixed-use commercial and residential infill development project. The Court held that the project EIR did not violate CEQA's requirement of an accurate, stable, and finite project description even though the project itself was revised and ultimately approved with components not matching those of any individual alternative studied in the EIR. The Court further held that the City's addition of a fifth alternative to the Final EIR which was not significantly different from its other previously analyzed alternatives did not require recirculation for additional public comment and that the City's response to the sanitation department's comment about local sewer line and sewage treatment plant capacity was adequate.

We Advocate Through Environmental Review et al. v. City of Mount Shasta et al. (Crystal Geyser Water Company, Real Party in Interest) (May 12, 2022) Cal.App.5th
The Third District Court of Appeal reversed a judgment that had denied a CEQA writ petition challenging the City of Mount Shasta's issuance of a wastewater permit for the Crystal Geyser Water Company's bottling plant project. The Court of Appeal held that the City's failure to make findings with respect to each identified effect, as required by Public Resources Code Section 21081, constituted a failure to comply with CEQA's basic procedural requirements. The Court rejected the City's argument and the trial court's reasoning that Section 21081 findings are not required unless the EIR identifies significant effects that will not be mitigated.

Tiburon Open Space Committee v. County of Marin (The Martha Company, Real Party in Interest, and Town of Tiburon, Intervenor and Appellant) (May 12, 2022) Cal.App.5th
The First District Court of Appeal affirmed the lower court decision denying a CEQA writ petition that challenged Marin County's approval of a 43-lot single-family residential subdivision on a 110-acre parcel.

County of Mono v. City of Los Angeles (July 26, 2022)
The First District Court of Appeal determined that the City's water allocations to the City's agricultural lessees were authorized under its existing 2010 leases and thus did not constitute a new project subject to CEQA review before they could be lawfully implemented.

County of Butte vs. Department of Water Resources (August 1, 2022)
The California Supreme Court affirmed the Third District Court of Appeal decision that Counties challenging the State Department of Water Resources' EIR, prepared in connection with its application to renew a 50- year license to operate its Butte County Oroville dam and related hydroelectric facilities, could not seek to unwind a settlement agreement prepared as part of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's application process and proceedings. However, the Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeal holding there was still some role for CEQA and some life left in the Counties' state court CEQA litigation challenging DWR's EIR.

G.I. Industries v. City of Thousand Oaks (October 26, 2022)
The Second Court of Appeal determined that the City of Thousand Oaks violated the Brown Act when it voted to adopt a CEQA exemption for a new waste-hauling franchise agreement without including the exemption on the meeting agenda at least 72 hours before the meeting.

Saint Ignatius Neighborhood Association v. City and County of San Francisco (December 5, 2022)
The First District Court of Appeal reversed the lower court decision regarding the proper use of an exemption (State CEQA Guidelines Section 15301).

Save Our Capitol! v. Department of General Services (December 6, 2022)
The Third District Court of Appeal determined that the EIR for the project description, analyses of impacts to historical resources and aesthetics, and alternatives analysis were deficient.

American Chemistry Council et al. v. Department of Toxic Substances Control (December 12, 2022)
The First District Court of Appeal reversed the lower court finding of a CEQA violation on the grounds that the claim was untimely under the statute of limitations.

Save North Petaluma River and Wetlands v. City of Petaluma (December 13, 2022)
The First District Court of Appeal upheld a Sonoma County Superior Court judgment upholding the EIR for a 180-unit apartment complex. The issues considered on appeal involved the adequacy of the EIR's environmental baseline for its analysis of potential special-status species impacts and the adequacy of its analysis of public safety/emergency evacuation impacts.