CEQA project approved at time of commitment to a project, which can be difficult to discern at times

Van de Kamps Coalition v. Board of Trustees Los Angeles Community College District

June 5, 2012

B234955 (2nd App. Dist., Div. 2)

A school Board passed resolutions in which they approved the interim use of property intended to be a community college and authorized a five-year lease of part of a building to an outside tenant. The Board prepared an EIR in conjunction with that project. 180-day deadline to challenge under CEQA began at that time (longer period because there was no formal notice). The Coalition timely sued (not at issue here).

Nearly a year later, the Board decided to purchase adjacent land, hire an architect to meet needs of new tenant, and work out an indemnification agreement in accord with its prior resolutions. The Coalition again sued the Board, claiming those particular actions were subject to CEQA.

The Court of Appeal found the second set of approvals was not a substantial change from what was considered in the first project approval, so there was new CEQA project and no new 180-day statute of limitation. Rather, the Court held the second approval merely carried out steps previously approved. The Court disapproved of the City of Vernon case in which that Court concluded there was no agency decision subject to CEQA until the agency unconditionally committed itself to a particular course of action. The instant Court noted that was inconsistent with CEQA Guidelines, which define approval to be the earliest commitment to a project. This second suit was deemed time-barred by both trial and appellate courts.

 

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