Supreme Court Issues Ruling in Sierra Club v. County of Fresno

In December 2018, the California Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling authored by Justice Ming Chin. The Court ruled in favor of the Sierra Club and League of Women Voters of Fresno on the primary two issues accepted for review, holding that EIRs must explain the nature and magnitude of a proposed project’s significant air pollution on public health in a way that the public can understand. The decision also clarifies California law in making clear that the sufficiency of an EIR's analysis presents a question of law to be decided by a court.

Ongoing Challenge to Proposed Demolition of the Willow Glen Trestle

In July 2014, Judge Joseph Huber of the Santa Clara County Superior Court granted the peremptory writ petition requested by the Friends of the Willow Glen Trestle to stop the imminent demolition of the historic Willow Glen Trestle in San Jose. The Court ordered the City of San Jose to prepare an EIR before further consideration of demolition. The City prepared an EIR but filed an appeal, which was granted by the Sixth District in a published opinion.

The Trestle has since been listed in the California Register of Historical Resources and is still standing. The City has again approved demolition of the Trestle, and a new mandamus petition was filed in 2018 that challenges new violations of CEQA.

Protect Niles v. City of Fremont

In July 2018, the First District Court of Appeal Division 5 affirmed the judgment of the Alameda County Superior Court in a published decision. The opinion holds that approval of the Niles Gateway project in an historic area of Niles requires an environmental impact report process due to a fair argument of significant environmental impacts relating to aesthetics and traffic.

SOHO v. City of San Diego

In March 2018 the San Diego Superior Court granted a petition for writ of mandate filed by Save our Heritage Organization (SOHO), agreeing with SOHO that an environmental impact report prepared for a project calling for demolition of the historic California Theater failed to include a full rehabilitation alternative.

Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens

On remand from the California Supreme Court, in May 2017 the First District Court of Appeal again affirmed the trial court’s 2012 ruling that the College of San Mateo illegally approved the demolition of the College gardens based on an addendum from CEQA.

College of San Mateo

Los Angeles Conservancy v. City of Los Angeles

In April 2017, the Los Angeles County Superior Court granted the petition for writ of mandate and issued a peremptory writ setting aside the City’s approval of demolition of the historic mid-century Lytton Savings Bank in Hollywood, ruling that as found by the project EIR adaptive reuse of the building would be feasible within the 300,000 square foot project designed by architect Frank Gehry.

In 2018, the judgment was reversed by the Second District Court of Appeal in an unpublished decision.

Turn Down the Lights v. City of Monterey

In December 2016 the Monterey County Superior Court granted the petition for writ of mandate and issued a peremptory writ setting aside the City’s approval of LED streetlights based on a categorical exemption from CEQA. An appeal to the Sixth District is pending.

Whittier Conservancy v. California Public Works Board

Following a peremptory writ issued by the Alameda County Superior Court setting aside the state’s extension of an escrow for sale of the surplus property known as “Nelles” in Whittier for failure to comply with Chapters 1 and 2 of CEQA, the Whittier Conservancy settled the case on appeal with additional protections for the Nelles resources and other historic properties in Whittier.

Nelles Infirmary

Demolition by Neglect

In November 2015, Judge George Hernandez of the Alameda County Superior Court overruled the demurrer of the California Department of Corrections and issued a mandatory injunction allowing the Lake Norconian Club Foundation to enter the historic landmark Lake Norconian Club Hotel to take actions to protect the building and its fixtures from ongoing demolition by neglect in violation of CEQA.

Substantial repairs to the roof were made pursuant to the mandatory injunction. In 2018, Judge Brad Seligman denied the petition for writ of mandamus on the merits, holding that while demolition by neglect is a CEQA project, the Foundation should have filed suit earlier.

The Foundation's appeal is pending in the First District.

Lake Norconian Club Hotel

Court of Appeal Upholds Ruling re State Lands Commission Violation of CEQA

In a published decision on September 17, 2015, in Defend our Waterfront v. California State Lands Commission, the First District Court of Appeal affirmed the granting of a peremptory writ setting aside the State Lands Commission's statutory exemption for the public trust land exchange on the San Francisco Waterfront in connection with the 8 Washington project and Seawall Lot 351.

Court Overturns 8 Washington Project Due to Inadequate EIR

In March 2015, the San Francisco Superior Court ruled in favor of the Neighbors to Preserve the Waterfront and other environmental groups, holding that the EIR prepared for the luxury condominium 8 Washington project proposed on the waterfront was inadequate, and issued a writ ordering that all project approvals be set aside. No appeal was filed.

Ventura Foothill Neighbors prevail in Court of Appeal

The Sixth District Court of Appeal affirmed a trial court judgment in a published opinion in December 2014, holding that the County of Ventura violated CEQA in failing to conduct supplemental environmental review after substantially altering a project without public notice.

Court of Appeal Affirms City of Fresno Error

The Fifth District Court of Appeal published a decision In August 2014 affirming the Fresno Superior Court's ruling that the City's Historic Preservation Commission was not a decisionmaking body authorized to approve a Mitigated Negative Declaration. The demolition challenged by the Citizens for the Restoration of L Street was affirmed as unlawful. However, the Court rejected a cross-appeal relating to identification of historic resources.

Balboa Park Judgment Final

The Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego dismissed the City of San Diego's appeal in December 2013 as requested by Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO). The judgment held that the City had unlawfully pre committed to the Plaza de Panama project that threatened the historic integrity of Balboa Park. SOHO prevailed in the CEQA case in 2012, and successfully contended that the case was moot.

Balboa Park

Cordilleras Creek Judgment Issued

On November 15, 2013, Judge Marie Weiner of the San Mateo Superior Court entered judgment in favor of the Friends of Cordilleras Creek and the Finger Avenue Pride Committee, enforcing Redwood City's streambank protection ordinance and setting aside the City's approval of a market-rate housing project encroaching upon the creek.

Court of Appeal Affirms Judgment to Protect Historic Gardens at College of San Mateo

In September 2013 the First District Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment of the San Mateo County Superior Court granting the Petition for Writ of Mandate sought by Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens. The Friends -- College students and community members -- successfully argued that environmental review is required to study impacts and alternatives to demolition of the College horticulture complex, including a beloved 60-year old garden proposed to be razed for a parking lot.

The Supreme Court granted review in January 2014 and the case is pending.

College of San Mateo Gardens

Settlement Protects First Street Store Mural

The iconic First Street Store Mural in East Los Angeles depicting "The Story of Our Struggle" was the subject of an appeal of a school project without adequate environmental review. Settlement was reached in May 2013 to allow the school project to proceed with the mural incorporated into a new plaza.

Historic Buildings at Leuzinger High School Saved

In May 2012 the Friends and Alumni of Leuzinger High School settled their case seeking designation of historic buildings at the high school and avoidance of further piecemeal demolition. Settlement was made possible by the January ruling of Judge John Torribio of the Los Angeles Superior Court for preliminary injunction as requested by the Friends and Alumni group. The Court stayed demolitions at the high school campus buildings in Lawndale, because Friends "established that the building(s) have architectural significance and have a close association with the 1932 Olympic Games...The destruction or alteration of such structures would be irreparable."

Leuzinger High School

Flanders Mansion Appeal Won

The Sixth District Court of Appeal on January 4, 2012, affirmed the ruling of Judge Kay Kingsley of the Monterey County Superior Court in significant part. The published decision agreed that the EIR challenged by the Flanders Foundation regarding the sale of the historic Flanders Mansion was inadequate and that the form of judgment was proper. The Court disagreed that the EIR was inadequate in addressing impacts relating to the Surplus Lands Act. The Foundation is hopeful that the Court ruling will lead to a cooperative solution preserving the mansion for an appropriate use without cost to the City of Carmel.

Flanders Mansion

Whittier Conservancy success

In May 2011, the California Domestic Water Company sucessfully moved its 1934 Art Deco office building to prepare it for rehabilitation on another portion of its historic site on Whittier Boulevard, as required by settlement in Whittier Conservancy v. City of Whittier in 2008. The building had initially been approved for demolition. The relocation will allow commercial use of the center of the water district site.

California Domestic Water Company, Whittier

Lacy Historic Neighborhood Case Settled, April 2011

Friends of the Lacy Historic Neighborhood challenged violations of CEQA in the proposed demolition of 18 vintage buildings in Santa Ana. Alleged violations included an inadequate EIR and failure to adopt feasible preservation alternatives. Following full briefing, the case settled a few days before the scheduled writ hearing. The settlement provides for rehabilitation of 10 out of 18 threatened vintage homes to provide affordable housing, establishment of a $1 million, 5-year Lacy neighborhood loan fund for historic property rehabilitation, and a survey of area vintage homes to determine historic status.

Judgment in favor of Pasadenans for a Liveable City and Pasadena Heritage

On October 22, 2010, Judge Thomas McKnew of the Los Angeles Superior Court overturned approval of the Playhouse Plaza project proposed opposite the historic Pasadena Playhouse. The Court found inadequacies in the project EIR relating to historic resource impacts, failure to consider reduced-size project alternatives, and failure to address pedestrian safety.

Pasadena Playhouse

National Preservation Award

Susan Brandt-Hawley was honored with the John H. Chafee Trustees' award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Policy at the annual conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, in Austin, Texas, on October 29, 2010.

Lincoln Place Settlement! May 2010

After years of tireless effort by tenants and preservationists, and many lawsuits, the threats to demolish the mid-century garden apartments at Lincoln Place in Venice Beach have ended, the amazingly perseverant tenants are finally returning, and restoration is in sight. See the LA Times article, URL below. We are proud of our involvement in the early litigation that stopped the escalating demolitions, working with our friends and colleagues at Chatten-Brown and Carstens in Santa Monica. (Lincoln Place Tenants Association v. City of Los Angeles (2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 1491.)

Lincoln Place Apartments

  copyright © 2019, Brandt-Hawley Law Group