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Perkins Coie: Coastal Commission Must Complete an Environmental Review Under Its Certified Regulatory Program Before Approving Permit| Perkins Coie

Perkins Coie: Coastal Commission Must Complete an Environmental Review Under Its Certified Regulatory Program Before Approving Permit| Perkins Coie

California Coastal Commission v. Friends, Artists and Neighbors of Elkhorn Slough
2021 WL 5905714 H048088, 6ThDist., December 14, 2021

The court of appeal ruled in favor of the California Coastal Commission, who approved a coastal development permit for a residential subdivision before an environmental review had been completed.

The Commission’s staff report recommended that the permit be denied.  The staff report stated that the project would have serious adverse effects on the environment, that certain modifications and design options were required to address environmental problems, and that the project was not in compliance with several Local Coastal Program policies.  The Commission granted the permit at its conclusion.  Staff prepared a second analysis that examined, for the first, the various components of this project, mitigation measures, as well as the conditions of approval. The report included a more favorable analysis of oak woodland, water, vision, and traffic impacts. It concluded that the project would not have significant environmental impacts and took a new position regarding LCP consistency. The Commission’s findings for the permit approval were based on this report.

The court explained that the Commission must demonstrate full compliance with the provisions of its certified regulatory program in order to claim an exemption from CEQA’s EIR requirement.  This includes the requirement to approve a permit before preparing a written report that serves as a substitute for an EIR.  That report must contain detailed information on the project’s environmental impacts, alternatives, mitigation measures, necessary conditions of approval, and other information required to inform the Commission’s decision.

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The court found that the staff report to the Commission hearing was inadequate.  It did not include the full discussion and analysis of all the issues that were required. Before the Commission makes its decision. Because this information was not available until the second Report was prepared, AfterAlthough the Commission had acted properly, the court ruled in its favor.

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