A local air district is developing a rule that would require both existing and proposed warehouses to reduce trucking emissions or pay a mitigation fee.

By Joshua T. Bledsoe

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD or District) is developing a so-called Indirect Source Rule (ISR) that would require Southern California warehouses to reduce emissions associated with trucking activity and on-site equipment. Proposed Rule 2305, recently released by the District in discussion draft form, would establish the Warehouse Actions and Investments to Reduce Emissions (WAIRE) Program — which would apply to owners and operators of warehouses located in the South Coast Air Basin (Basin) with greater than 100,000 square feet of indoor space in a single building. If the SCAQMD’s development timeline holds, Proposed Rule 2305 will phase in on July 1, 2020.

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

By Christopher W. Garrett, Daniel Brunton, James Erselius, and Derek Galey

In a published decision issued June 12, 2018, County of Ventura v. City of Moorpark, Case No. B282466, the California Court of Appeal rejected part of the County of Ventura and the City of Fillmore’s (Petitioners’) appeal and affirmed the trial court’s decision that a beach restoration project undertaken by Broad Beach Geologic Hazard Abatement District (BBGHAD) and a related settlement agreement with the City of Moorpark (City) were exempt from CEQA review.

In summary, the court determined:

  • Two separate activities can constitute one “project” under CEQA so long as those activities serve a single purpose, have the same proponents, and are inextricably linked.
  • Courts do not balance the policies served by statutory exemptions against the goal of environmental protection because the legislature has already determined that the policy benefits of the exemption outweigh the benefits of environmental review.

The trial court determined that the beach restoration project and the related settlement agreement between BBGHAD and City were a single statutorily exempt project. Petitioners appealed on the grounds that even if the beach restoration was exempt, the settlement represented a separate, non-exempt project that was not properly reviewed under CEQA.

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

By Christopher W. Garrett, Daniel P. Brunton, James A. Erselius, and Robert C. Hull

In an unpublished opinion issued May 31, 2018, Save Adelaida v. County of San Luis Obispo, Case No. B279285, the California Court of Appeal partially affirmed the trial court’s decision and held that an environmental impact report (EIR) was required for real party in interest Willow Creek Newco, LLC’s (Willow Creek) application for a minor use permit and that the EIR must analyze wastewater. In summary, the court determined:

  • A low threshold for requiring an EIR exists when a fair argument can be made that a project may have a significant environmental impact, even when contrary evidence exists.
  • An EIR is necessary when evidence regarding a project’s impact contradicts the contents of a mitigated negative declaration (MND).

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

By Lucas I. Quass, Peter J. Gutierrez, and Roopika Subramanian

In a partially published opinion issued September 18, 2018, Atwell v. City of Rohnert Park, Case No. SCV256891, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment that the petition for writ of mandate challenging the City of Rohnert Park’s (City’s) approval of a Walmart expansion project (the Project) was barred by res judicata because a prior petition challenging City’s initial approval raised the same claim of inconsistency with City’s General Plan. In summary, the court held:

  • In determining whether two challenges constitute the same cause of action under the doctrine of res judicata, if a subsequent claim is based on a project proposal that has not changed since the prior action, then a city’s approval will only raise a new issue or injury if the city included new or revised conditions or measures that are at issue in the subsequent petition.

In 2015, Petitioner Nancy Atwell (Petitioner) filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking an order to vacate City’s project approvals alleging inconsistency with the General Plan. After a briefing on the merits was complete, City filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, asserting that Petitioner’s claims were barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The trial court concluded that the petition was barred by res judicata and the statute of limitations, and that substantial evidence supported the City Council’s determination that the Project complied with the General Plan.

By Christopher W. Garrett, Daniel P. Brunton, Jennifer K. Roy and Derek Galey

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

In an unpublished opinion issued September 14, 2018, Inland Oversight Comm. v. City of San Bernardino, Case No. E064836, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s decision dismissing the Inland Oversight Committee (IOC), CREED-21, and Highland Hills Homeowners Association’s (HOA’s) (collectively, Petitioners’) appeal challenging the City of San Bernardino’s (City’s) approval of real party in interest First American Title Insurance Company’s (Developer’s) changes to a proposed development. In summary, the court determined:

  • In the CEQA context, the doctrine of res judicata applies if two actions involve the same episode of purported noncompliance.
  • Adequacy of representation for privity purposes is measured by inference, in other words, examining whether the party in the suit which is asserted to have a preclusive effect had the same interest as the party to be precluded, and whether that party had a strong motive to assert that interest.
  • The Water Code does not require a water supply assessment if a proposed development is not subject to CEQA review.

A recent Environmental Code amendment aims to invigorate sluggish legal processes delaying environmental project development.

By Paul A. Davies and Fabrice Fages

Third parties and local NGOs often bring legal action against environmental permits in France, hampering the development of environmental projects in the country. An example of a practical consequence is that the development of a wind farm takes on average between seven and nine years in France, versus three to four years in Germany. In order to limit the impact of drawn-out legal proceedings before administrative courts and allow projects to progress, a 2017 amendment to the Environmental Code (article L.181-18) now affords administrative judges broader powers to give more time and leeway to the authorities to correct a flawed decision or part of a decision before the court simply annuls it.