CEQA Case Report: Understanding the Judicial Landscape for Development[i]
By Christopher W. Garrett, Daniel P. Brunton, Diego Enrique Flores, and Samantha K. Seikkula
In an unpublished opinion issued May 18, 2018, Responsible Development for Water Tank Hill v. County of San Mateo, Case No. A150883, the California Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment denying Responsible Development for Water Tank Hill’s (Petitioner’s) petition for writ of mandate, finding that the County of San Mateo (County) had properly analyzed the potential environmental impacts of San Mateo Real Estate, Inc.’s (Developers’) proposed housing development (Project) and that the County’s determinations were supported by the substantial evidence. In summary, the court determined:
- An EIR’s analysis of noise impact should be site-specific and should consider qualitative factors as well as technical factors
- When an EIR finds, based on substantial evidence, that an impact would be less-than-significant, further mitigation is not required.
- An agency may rely on statewide emissions-reduction goals when determining mitigation measures to reduce a project’s significant GHG impacts.
Background for Appeal
After several rounds of public comment, the San Mateo County Planning Commission (Commission) approved the Project. The County Board of Supervisors denied an appeal of the approval and upheld the Commission’s decision. Petitioner then filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking to set aside the Project approvals as inadequate under CEQA. Petitioner argued that the approvals were inadequate because:
- The environmental impact report (EIR) failed to adequately analyze impacts
- The County failed to adopt feasible mitigation measures
- The County’s findings were not supported by substantial evidence
- The County failed to recirculate the final EIR after making changes that constituted significant new information
The trial court rejected Petitioner’s specific challenges to the County’s environmental analysis of air quality, aesthetics, hydrology, and noise, finding that the County had properly analyzed the potential environmental impacts of the Project and that the County’s determinations were supported by substantial evidence. Petitioner appealed the decision with respect to air quality and noise.