By James L. Arnone, Benjamin J. Hanelin, Lucas I. Quass, and Christopher Adam Martinez

CEQA Case Report: Understanding the Judicial Landscape for Development[I]

In an unpublished opinion issued August 30, 2018, Stewards of Public Land v. City of Pasadena, et al., Case No. B277996, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s denial of a writ of mandate challenging two Notices of Exemption (NOE) issued by the City of Pasadena (City) for minor physical and programmatic changes to the operation of an archery range in a City park (the Project). The court held that the City properly relied upon the Category 1 Exemption for minor alteration to existing structures or facilities, and that neither the historical resources or unusual circumstances exception to the exemption applied.

Petitioner Stewards of Public Land (Stewards) argued that the City failed to comply with its historical preservation ordinance, failed to comply with state planning and land use laws, and wrongly determined the Project was categorically exempt from CEQA. Stewards also argued several municipal law claims, which the court found to be without merit. As to the Stewards’ CEQA claims, the court unanimously determined:

  • The general effects of the longstanding operation of an archery range on subsequently developed residences did not constitute unusual circumstances and that no exception to a CEQA exemption applied.