Articles Posted in California Court of Appeal

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Citizens for Odor Nuisance Abatement (CONA) appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of San Diego and Todd Gloria (in his capacity as former interim mayor of San Diego (collectively, the City)). CONA sued the City in 2013 for an alleged public nuisance caused by noxious sea lion waste odors permeating the La Jolla Cove. The trial court granted the City's motion for summary judgment, finding: (1) the City did not have a duty to prevent harms caused by wild animals; (2) there was no triable issue that the City's conduct caused the alleged nuisance; and (3) Civil Code section 3482 barred nuisance liability.1 CONA challenges these rulings on appeal and argues the City cannot avail itself of immunity under Government Code section 831.2. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment, finding, as the trial court found, there was no triable issue as to causation. To the extent CONA's mandamus cause of action rested on an independent duty arising from documents issued by the former mayor, the Court likewise find no triable issue those documents gave rise to a legal duty for the City to act. View "Citizens Odor etc. v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The proposed construction includes a 488,000-square-foot arena for the Golden State Warriors basketball team and other events, plus two 11-story office and retail buildings, parking, and 3.2 acres of open space, on 11 acres in San Francisco’s Mission Bay South redevelopment plan area. The site is an underutilized industrial area. Planning for the area began decades ago. A 1998 environmental impact report (EIR) incorporated information from a 1990 EIR. In 2015, the Governor certified the current project as an “environmental leadership development project” under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code 21000), requiring expedited review. The 2015 EIR was tiered to the 1998 FSEIR. The lead agency found that the project would have significant, unavoidable effects on the environment, adopted a statement of overriding considerations, and authorized implementation of a “mitigation monitoring and reporting program.” The city rejected a challenge by citizens’ groups, approved certification of the EIR, adopted the CEQA findings, and approved the project. The court of appeal affirmed. Although some analysis of potential environmental impacts might have been expanded, the record generally reflects a thorough study of all environmental impacts to be anticipated that were not considered in the 1998 report and identifies mitigation measures to lessen adverse impacts to the extent feasible. View "Mission Bay Alliance v. Office of Community Investment & Infrastructure" on Justia Law

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Real-Party-in-Interest Encore McKinley Village, LLC (Encore) proposed to construct the McKinley Village Project (the Project). The City of Sacramento certified the Project’s environmental impact report (EIR) and approved the Project. East Sacramento Partnership for a Livable City (ESPLC), a neighborhood group, appeals from denial of its petition for a writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief to set aside the City’s approval of the Project. ESPLC contended the City violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it approved the Project because: (1) the Project description is defective; (2) there was illegal piecemealing; (3) the EIR failed to analyze significant health risks; (4) the EIR ignored significant traffic impacts; and (5) the EIR failed to disclose or mitigate methane migration. Further, ESPLC contends the Project was inconsistent with the City’s general plan. After review, the Court of Appeals found merit in only the fourth contention. ESPLC challenged the threshold of significance used in the EIR to determine whether traffic impacts were significant; the City relied on policies in its general plan that permitted congested traffic conditions within the core area of the City, thus finding no significant impact of congested traffic on neighborhood streets. The Court held that compliance with a general plan policy did not conclusively establish there was no significant environmental impact, and the City failed to explain why it found none in this circumstance. The Court reversed the judgment and remanded for the City to correct this deficiency in the EIR. View "East Sacramento Partnership v. City of Sacramento" on Justia Law

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The Company purchased the assets of Johnson Oyster and assumed the operation of a 1,060-acre mariculture facility at Drakes Estero estuarial bays in Point Reyes National Seashore. The site is owned by the federal government and within the California Coastal Commission’s permitting jurisdiction. The 40-year lease with the federal government expired in 2012. The government did not renew the agreement. The Company unsuccessfully challenged that decision in court. The operation had issues with the Commission relating to unpermitted development that began before and continued after the Company took over. Eventually, the Commission issued a consent order in which the Company agreed to stop certain development. The parties continued to have unresolved issues concerning unpermitted development and restoration. In 2013, the Company filed suit, alleging the Commission had infringed on the jurisdiction of the State’s Department of Fish and Wildlife and violated the Coastal Act, the Company’s due process rights, and the California Environmental Quality Act. The Commission sought injunctive relief and civil penalties against the Company. The court denied the Commission’s motion for a preliminary injunction and to disqualify certain Commission staff members from participating in the litigation and from communicating confidentially with the Commission regarding the litigation. The court of appeal affirmed. The Company’s argument that the Commission might in the future take further enforcement actions is too speculative and involves circumstances too uncertain to deprive it now of its staff’s assistance in the litigation. View "Drakes Bay Oyster Co. v. California Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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Citizens petitioned for a writ of mandate pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, Pub. Resources Code, 21000 et seq., alleging several defects in the environmental documents the city certified when it approved a development project. The trial court denied the petition and Citizens appealed. The court affirmed the trial court's decision and rejected Citizens' arguments that: (1) The environmental impact report (EIR) certified by the city did not mandate adequate mitigation measures for the urban decay impact of the project; (2) the EIR did not sufficiently analyze the project's impacts on landfill and recycling facilities and did not mandate adequate mitigation measures for those impacts; (3) the EIR failed to contain adequate information correlating the project's air pollution impacts with resulting effects on human health; and (4) the city's statement of overriding considerations, a document that explains how the project's benefits will outweigh its significant and unavoidable environmental impacts, was not supported by substantial evidence. However, the court reversed as to Wal-Mart's appeal on the cost of preparing the administrative record, concluding that the trial court's application of Hayward Area Planning Assn. v. City of Hayward was erroneous. View "Citizens for Ceres v. City of Ceres" on Justia Law

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In 1975, TNMC purchased property in Cazadero, for use as a monastery and retreat center, including the printing of sacred Buddhist texts in the Tibetan language for shipment to Asia and free distribution to Buddhist practitioners whose libraries have been destroyed by Chinese authorities. In 1983, the county approved a conditional use permit for Timberhill, a Cazadero resort within an area designated as Resources and Rural Development in the county’s general plan. Timberhill’s permit allowed construction of a lodge, a dining room, and 15 guest cabins. In 2000, the county adopted a mitigated negative declaration (MND), allowing five additional cabins, a new dining room and other guest facilities, and 10 staff dwelling units. In 2004, TNMC purchased Timberhill and designated it as the Ratna Ling Retreat Center. The county adopted an MND in lieu of a formal environmental impact report, approving a third master use permit for expansion of the Center. Opponents filed suit under the California Environmental Quality Act, maintaining that an EIR was required because the proposed project greatly expands an existing printing operation and that the approval violated the general plan and zoning provisions. The trial court and court of appeal rejected the arguments, finding that the approvals did not constitute spot zoning and that the county imposed adequate mitigation measures. View "Coastal Hills Rural Pres. v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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The Permanente Quarry is a 3,510-acre surface mining operation, producing limestone and aggregate for the manufacture of cement, in unincorporated Santa Clara County. The Quarry has been in existence since 1903. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors conducted a review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Pub. Resources Code section 21000, certified an environmental impact report, and, in 2012, approved a reclamation plan amendment for closing and reclaiming the Quarry’s mining operations over a 20-year period. Opponents challenged the approval, asserting claims under the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act (SMARA), Pub. Resources Code section 2710, and CEQA. The trial court and court of appeal affirmed the approval, upholding a determination that the reclamation plan amendment satisfied SMARA’s regulatory standards for water quality and wildlife habitat. Statements by the Office of Mining Reclamation were properly considered by the county and provided substantial evidence to support the county’s findings. The county’s findings regarding the direct and indirect environmental impacts from the reclamation plan amendment were sufficient under CEQA. View "Bay Area Clean Env't, Inc. v. Santa Clara Co" on Justia Law

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The City of San Jose proposed to demolish the Willow Glen Railroad Trestle and replace it with a new, steel truss pedestrian bridge to service its trail system. The City found that the Trestle was not a “historical resource,” and therefore the project would not have a significant effect on the environment. It adopted a mitigated negative declaration (MND) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Public Resources Code 21000). Opponents argued that an environmental impact report (EIR) was required. The trial court invalidated approval of the project, finding that there was a “fair argument” that the Trestle was a historical resource. The court of appeal reversed. The statutory scheme requires application of a deferential substantial evidence standard of judicial review. Substantial evidence means enough relevant information and reasonable inferences from this information that a fair argument can be made to support a conclusion, even though other conclusions might also be reached. Whether a fair argument can be made that the project may have a significant effect on the environment is to be determined by examining the whole record before the lead agency. View "Friends of Willow Glen Trestle v. City of San Jose" on Justia Law

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The City approved a conditional use permit (CUP) for construction of a combination car wash and coffee shop on a vacant lot adjacent to homes owned by appellants. Appellants filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the City's finding that the project is categorically exempt from the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Pub. Resources Code 21000 et seq. The trial court denied the petition. The court concluded that the City properly determined that the car wash and coffee shop project satisfies the categorical exemption requirements of Guidelines section 15303, subdivision (c) because there is no dispute that the proposed car wash and coffee shop is a commercial structure of less than 10,000 square feet that is to be built in an urbanized area zoned for commercial use. There also is no dispute that “all necessary public services and facilities are available” and that the surrounding area is not considered “environmentally sensitive.” Furthermore, appellants’ speculation that the car wash operation might include hazardous substances is not supported by the administrative record. The court concluded that the unusual circumstances exception is not applicable in this case. Finally, appellants' argument that the City erred in issuing the CUP pursuant to the Municipal Code is without merit. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Walters v. City of Redondo Beach" on Justia Law

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Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) determined that its approval for a Richmond rail-to-truck facility to transload crude oil instead of ethanol was “ministerial” and exempt from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review. Transloading of crude oil began in September 2013. The trial court dismissed a challenge filed in March 2014 as time-barred under Public Resources Code 21167(d), because it was filed more than 180 days after “the date of the public agency’s decision to carry out or approve the project,” the Authority to Construct issued in July 2013. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that the action was timely under the discovery rule, which postpones the accrual of an action from the date an injury occurs until the date the plaintiff has actual or constructive notice of the facts constituting the injury. The plaintiffs claimed they could not have learned about BAAQMD’s determination any earlier, as BAAQMD gave no “public notice” and “the project itself [was] hidden from the public eye.” An action to challenge such a determination accrues on one of three alternative dates listed in section 21167(d). A plaintiff is deemed to have constructive notice of a potential CEQA violation on all three alternative dates of accrual under section 21167(d). View "Communities for a Better Env't v. Bay Area Air Quality Mgmt. Dist." on Justia Law