Court rules city’s adoption of a project proposed in an initiative (without an election) was a discretionary act requiring CEQA compliance.

Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Superior Court

No. F063849 (5th Dist.) (2012 DJDAR 15078)(October 30, 2012)

Wal-Mart sought to expand its store into a Supercenter and submitted an application to the city of Sonora for approval. The city prepared an EIR. Before considering the project for approval, an initiative was circulated that would, if approved, allow construction of the Supercenter. The city postponed voting whether to certify the EIR in order to consider the initiative, which had been signed by 15% of the city residents. A project is exempt from CEQA when it is approved by an initiative. The city later held a hearing on the initiative. In the end, however, the city simply decided to adopt an ordinance approving the Supercenter rather than submit the initiative to a vote.

The trial court ruled in favor of the city’s action, but the Court of Appeal reversed. The Court held that by adopting the initiative through city action, rather than submitting to a citywide election, the city’s action was discretionary and not exempt from CEQA.

Prepared by John Reaves

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