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A Summary of Published Appellate Opinions Under the California Environmental Quality Act
Introduction
The courts issued relatively few published CEQA decisions in 2021, with no California Supreme Court activity and no blockbuster court of appeal opinions. But two cases addressed topics of great current interest: wildfire and climate change impacts. One court also settled an important question under CEQA’s frequently

The court of appeal found that the California Coastal Commission erred by approving a coastal development permit for a residential development before environmental review for the project had been completed. Friends, Artists and Neighbors of Elkhorn Slough v. California Coastal Commission, 2021 WL 5905714 (No. H048088, 6th Dist., December 14, 2021).

The Commission’s staff report recommended that the permit be

Over a quarter century of CEQA litigation over the validity of an agreement between the Department of Water Resources and State Water Project contractors finally came to an end with the court of appeal’s decision in Central Delta Water Agency v. Department of Water Resources, 69 Cal. App. 5th 170 (2021), and the California Supreme Court’s denial of a petition for

A trial court could not order a remedy that required preparation of an environmental impact report limited to the potentially significant impacts that led to invalidation of the project’s negative declaration — once the trial court found substantial evidence supported a fair argument that the project may have one significant environmental impact, it had no option but to require preparation

Courts may deny permissive intervention if there are already multiple parties in the case and the intervenor’s interests will be adequately represented by other parties. South Coast Air Quality Management District v. City of Los Angeles, No. B310783 (2d Dist., Nov. 4, 2021).
The South Coast Air Quality Management District filed a petition for a writ of mandate against

The State Water Resources Control Board’s registrations of small water diversions are ministerial projects and hence exempt from CEQA. As such, allegedly erroneous registrations cannot be challenged under CEQA. Mission Peak Conservancy v. State Water Resources Control Board, No. A162564, 2021 WL 5917917 (1st Dist., Dec. 15, 2021).

The Water Rights Permitting Reform Act of 1988 created a streamlined

The City of San Diego’s approval of underground utility lines was incomplete because its Climate Action Plan checklist improperly allowed certain non-occupancy projects to avoid greenhouse gas emission (GHG) consistency analysis. To take advantage of streamlined GHG review, CEQA requires lead agencies analyze each project’s consistency with the Climate Action Plan, regardless of occupancy. McCann v. City of San Diego,

In the first reported interpretation of a 2021 amendment to CEQA’s statute of limitations provisions, the First District Court of Appeal addressed “whether an action against a lead agency must be dismissed–despite being filed within the limitations period–because of a failure to [timely name and serve] necessary third parties.”  Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods v. The Regents of the University of California

A Court of Appeal held that the state’s density bonus law (Gov’t Code § 65915) does not require applicants to submit financial information to support requests for incentives or waivers and preempted a city ordinance that required such financial documentation to show that a project would not be “economically feasible” without the requested incentives. Schreiber v. City of Los Angeles,

The court rejected a claim that the city violated CEQA Guidelines section 15088.5(g) by failing to summarize each of the revisions to a draft EIR made by a revised and recirculated draft EIR. Save Civita Because Sudberry Won’t v. City of San Diego, 2021 WL 5937417 (No. D077591, 4th Dist. 1st Div., December. 16, 2021).
The original draft EIR was