By William W. Abbott As noted in our recent article “The Importance of the Mundane: CEQA’s Small Details are Important as Well”, the Sixth Appellate District discussed how the lead agency thoroughly documented the genealogy of a later EIR from a series of prior CEQA documents. In Save our Neighborhood v. Lishman (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 1288, the Third Appellate District recently made a similar observation when evaluating a legal challenge to an addendum which followed an earlier EIR. The court held that is important at the outset for the environmental document preparer to declare and document the pedigree relationship from earlier CEQA documents. There is a long CEQA history in Lishman. In 1986, the City of Placerville approved a restaurant and hotel development. This was followed by a 1988 approval of a restaurant, hotel, gas station and mini-mart for the same site and in 1990, the site was rezoned to Highway Commercial. In 1995, a request for re-approval of the 1998 site plan was denied. In 1997, the City, after accepting a negative declaration, approved a commercial center consisting of a hotel, restaurant, lounge, gas station, convenience store and car wash. As with its predecessor, this project was not built. In 1994, the City began to process a negative declaration for a hotel with convention facilities, and a gas station with car wash. The project encountered community opposition. After two public hearings which included public testimony that an EIR needed to be prepared, the City elected to proceed based upon an addendum. The addendum compared the relative effects of the two projects and mitigation measures, and included findings that there were no new impacts or significant increases in impacts. The City Council then approved the project with similar mitigation measures to the earlier project, along with some project specific conditions. The neighbors filed suit, seeking to overturn the approvals. The trial court ruled for the City and real party in interest, but the appellate court reversed, finding that the use of the addendum was improper. The appellate decision includes a short hit parade of the leading cases involving subsequent CEQA documents, including Benton v. Board of Supervisors (1991) 226 Cal.App.3d 1467, Fund for Environmental Defense v. County of Orange (1988) 204 Cal.App.3d 1538, Snarled Traffic Obstructs Progress v. City and County of San Francisco (1999) 74 Cal.App.4th 793, Santa Teresa Citizen Action Group v. City of San Jose (2003) 114 Cal.App.4th 689, and River Valley Preservation Project v. Metropolitan Transit Development Bd. (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 154. In Lishman, the appellate court noted that the lead agency, when preparing the last initial study and negative declaration, omitted any discussion of the earlier project approval. It was only after the latest project met opposition that the City stepped back and reassessed its CEQA strategy, opting then for an addendum. While noting the same sites were involved with “similar mixes of uses”, the court noted that different developers were involved (how startling is that?), and the was no evidence that the “latter project utilized any of the drawings or other materials connected with the earlier project as a basis for the new configuration of uses.” Although the City provided a comparative assessment of the features of the two projects along with a CEQA conclusions, this analysis was characterized as “self-serving”. The City got it right and the appellate court got it wrong, but that being said, the message from the Third Appellate District is clear. It is important, if not essential, to create a documented bridge from earlier environmental documents and project approvals to the current applications. Bill Abbott is a partner with Abbott & Kinderman, LLP. For questions relating to this article or any other California land use, environmental and planning issues contact Abbott & Kindermann at (916) 456-9595. The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice by Abbott & Kindermann, LLP, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Because of the changing nature of this area of the law and the importance of individual facts, readers are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.