California Appeals Court Upholds Legislative Workaround That Mooted CEQA Suit Targeting Development Project In Los Angeles

Author:Mr Martin Stratte
Profession:Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP
 
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In August 2018, the California Court of Appeal decided Citizens Coalition Los Angeles v. City of Los Angeles, 26 Cal.App.5th 561 (2018), commonly referred to as "Target II," which arose from a years-long challenge by citizen activist organizations to the development of a Super Target in Hollywood, California.

As discussed below, the court was asked to resolve the following issue of first impression: what level of environmental review is required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for a legislative action that re-designates a project site for the purpose of mooting pending litigation that was filed in opposition to an already approved project?

In essence, what the City of Los Angeles did was re-zone the site of a previously approved Super Target to remove the need for the variances that were adopted in support of the project, which the trial court had struck down in the litigation commonly referred to as "Target I."

Background

Target applied to the City of Los Angeles (City) for land use entitlements to develop an approximately 75-foot high, three-story Super Target at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue in Hollywood, California, the top floor of which would contain the 163,862 square foot "Superstore."

The City certified an EIR for the Target project and granted eight exceptions (variances) so that the project could exceed height and parking-space restrictions, among others. Thereafter, two citizen activist organizations filed a petition for writ of mandate alleging: 1) the project violated CEQA; and 2) the variances violated the City's Municipal Code because they were not supported by substantial evidence. Target proceeded with construction while the litigation was pending; that litigation is commonly referred to as "Target I."

The trial court denied the petitioners' CEQA claim in Target I, but found that six of the eight variances were not supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the court ordered Target to stop construction. Target filed an appeal and the petitioners filed a cross-appeal.

While the appeals were pending, the City enacted Ordinance No. 184,414 (Ordinance), which increased the height restriction of the underlying specific plan to 75 feet, among other things.

The City subsequently certified an Addendum to the Target-project EIR that analyzed the environmental impacts associated with the enactment of the Ordinance and "all construction activities needed to complete the existing...

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