January 2015

By William W. Abbott

Reed v. Town Of Gilbert

A sign from the top? On January 12, 2015, the United States Supreme Court wrestled with local regulation of directional signage and whether the Town of Gilbert, Arizona had unpermissibly regulated sign content. During oral argument the court aggressively questioned the town’s defense of its regulations. The transcript is available here, along with that of the lead parties. Stay tuned.

William W. Abbott is a partner at Abbott & Kindermann, LLP. For questions relating to this article or any other California land use, real estate, environmental and/or planning issues contact Abbott & Kindermann, LLP 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.


By William W. Abbott

Adam Nick v. City of Lake Forest (December 23, 2014, G047115) ___ Cal.App.4th ___.

Due to over concentration of liquor licenses, the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control referred an application for a determination of public convenience or necessity to the City of Lake Forest. A competitor then sought to overturn a city council’s findings in support of the license based upon four arguments: the city’s failure to act timely; improper determination by the planning commission; failure of the operator to provide a unique goods; and improper advocacy by the planning director.

Continue Reading Too Much Of A Good Thing? Court Upholds Findings Of Convenience/Necessity For A Liquor Sales Permit.

By Katherine J. Hart

Friends of the Kings River v. County of Fresno (2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 105.

In the most recent CEQA case out of California’s Fifth Appellate District, the court of appeal upheld an EIR certified by the County of Fresno (County) as well as the County’s approvals of a use permit, site plan and reclamation plan for a large mining project.

Continue Reading County’s Approval of 100 Year Mining Project and EIR Upheld by Fifth DCA

By William W. Abbott

Sierra Club v. County of San Diego (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 1152.

As with many cities and counties updating their general plans, the County of San Diego committed to adopting a climate action strategy. This commitment was formulated in 2011 as part of the county’s general plan update, based upon a program EIR (PEIR). In 2012, county staff advanced a Climate Action Plan (CAP) along with suggested thresholds of significance which would apply to the processing of later projects. The county relied upon an addendum to its 2011 general plan PEIR. The Sierra Club sued. The trial court agreed that the county had violated CEQA. The county appealed and the appellate court affirmed that the county violated CEQA. Where did the county go wrong?

Continue Reading Make No Grand (General) Plans

By William W. Abbott

Paulek v. Department of Water Resources (2014) 231 Cal.App.4th 35.

It is a subtle shade of grey which separates a generalized comment on a project from an objection sufficient to support a later CEQA lawsuit. The California Department of Water Resources crafted this distinction in a case involving a CEQA challenge to a dam remediation project at Perris Lake, located within the Lake Perris State Recreation Area. The project included the following components: remediation of structural deficiencies; replacement of the existing outlet tower; and construction of an emergency outlet extension. In response to comments on the DEIR, the lead agency separated out the emergency outlet extension for separate CEQA review. In response to the CEQA lawsuit, the state (as the lead agency) argued that petitioner Paulek had only posed questions regarding the project, but had not “objected” to the project as required by Public Resources Code section 21177 and therefore, lacked standing to pursue a CEQA claim. Reviewing the transcript and comments, the court of appeal concluded that a question could readily be understood as an objection, as would questioning of the lead agency which inquired as to whether a project would achieve its objectives. On the latter point, the appellate court held this was part of the CEQA process as CEQA requires a balancing of interests. [Comment: in practical terms, this case affirms the widely held belief that it is not difficult for a potential CEQA petitioner to satisfy the obligation to object to the project as a condition precedent to bringing a CEQA claim.]

Continue Reading Objector’s Questioning Of Project Sufficient To Meet The Standing Requirement To Bring a CEQA Claim. Separating Out A Portion of the Original Project For Separate Environmental Review Did Not Result In Impermissible Project Splitting.