Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley

On August 19, 2021, the Second District Court of Appeal decided Save Our Access-San Gabriel Mountains v. Watershed Conservation Authority (Aug. 19, 2021, No. B303494), upholding an EIR’s finding of no significant impact under CEQA, where a project’s reduction in parking protected the environment, rather than adversely affected it. The case involved a project in the Angeles National Forest to “provide recreational improvements and ecological restoration to address resource management challenges with a focus on reducing impacts along the most heavily used section of the [San Gabriel] river.” The area was already heavily used for recreation. Visitors historically parked in the…
The D.C. Circuit recently held public employees’ browsing history is not an “agency record” subject to the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”). (Cause of Action Institute v. Office of Management and Budget (D.C. Cir. Aug. 20, 2021, No. 20-5006) ___ F.4th ____ [2021 WL 3699794] (Cause of Action Institute).) Cause of Action Institute sued the Office of Management and Budget (“OMB”) and the Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) to obtain browser histories of the OMB Director, the OMB’s Associate Director of Strategic Planning and Communications, the Secretary of Agriculture, and the USDA Director of Communications. Under FOIA, an “agency record” is…
Although cannabis is legal in California, it remains illegal under federal law. This controversy hamstrings cannabis businesses, as they are unable to use the services of federally regulated banking institutions and must do business in cash, creating risks for them and everyone they do business with — including local governments. Most banks avoid doing business with the cannabis industry to avoid federal regulations and penalties tied to cannabis, although a few banks and credit unions have taken the risks associated with serving this market. In California, some of that risk was mitigated by last year’s A.B. 1525 (Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles),…
On June 11, 2021, Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-08-21[1] to clarify the continued applicability of his previous Executive Orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, Executive Order N-08-21 extends application of Executive Order N-29-20, which allows public agencies to hold teleconference meetings until September 30, 2021.[2] This provides some assurance of the timeline to transition back to entirely in-person meetings as the Legislature considers permanent relaxation of the impractical pre-COVID requirements for electronic participation in meetings. Executive Order N-08-21 also scheduled the repeal of other prior Executive Orders relevant to the City on June 30th, 2021…
As California battles wildfires that seem fiercer, larger, and longer each year, cities around the state are tackling fire prevention and recovery. The main injuries from fires are obvious: loss of life and property, poor air quality, and damaged environments. Yet there are less obvious, more insidious consequences of wildfires that can be just as serious. One such example is water contamination from man-made sources, not just ash pollution, char, and sediment. As a wildfire moves through a community, it can rupture fire hydrants, burn meter boxes, and melt pipes. Pollutants from burning vegetation and buildings, as well as melted…
The California Department of Finance has now posted a weblink to the form cities can use to request American Rescue Plan Act funds here. Both City’s designated contact person for State-issued Coronavirus Relief Funds and the City Manager should receive a unique username and password to log into the Department of Finance’s webform application. The application must include the information some basis information about the city, including: City name, Taxpayer ID Number, DUNS Number, and Address; Authorized representative name, title, and email; Contact person name, title, phone and email; Financial institution information. In addition, the City must sign and…
After a marathon 10-hour meeting on June 3, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health (“Cal/OSHA”) Occupational Safety & Health Standards Board has approved revisions to its COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standards. (8 C.C.R., §§ 3205 et seq.) Most notably, all employees must still wear face coverings when indoors or when outdoors and less than six feet from another person, regardless of vaccination status. There are only limited circumstances when employees are not required to wear face coverings, including new exceptions for vaccinated employees either: (1) when all persons in a room are fully vaccinated and not displaying…
The Legislature continues its efforts to increase the state’s housing supply, regardless of local land use policies and priorities. Senate Bill 9, introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, will require cities to approve by right through ministerial action up to four units on existing single-family parcels.  Senate Bill 9 has passed the State Senate and is now pending in the Assembly. The bill is opposed by many cities and Cal Cities. Senate Bill 9 would require up to four residential units to be allowed per existing lot in most single-family residential zones statewide, without any discretionary…
In 2017, the Court decided California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, a dispute over an initiative to allow marijuana dispensaries in that city. It concluded that an initiative is not subject to some of Proposition 218’s limits on taxes proposed by city councils and county boards of supervisors. Its broad language opened the door to the possibility that a special tax proposed by initiative could be immune from the requirement for two-thirds voter approval. Three Court of Appeal decisions have now walked through that door, concluding that initiative special taxes can be approved by simple majorities of votes…
CHW’s quarterly newsletter on public law topics is out. You can see it here. This issue has articles on: A landmark Court of Appeal decision reducing the number of votes required to adopt an initiative special tax; A new statute governing redistricting after 2020 Census data are available next March; and, A recent win for a public agency in a dispute with a utility about the cost to relocate utility lines to facilitate a public works project. We also touch on the firm’s current webinar offerings. You can see that listing here. Check it out!…