Despite a promising start, last year’s state legislative session was a relative bust for housing legislation as the Legislature justifiably focused on the pandemic in 2020.  Although we expect the Legislature will continue to grapple with legislative relief measures to address COVID concerns, there is some potentially promising housing supply legislation on the horizon for the 2021-2022 session.

Below is a summary of recently introduced state housing supply legislation to watch this session.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the theme for this year’s housing legislation seems to be, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Continue reading

As we reported in September 2020, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced a proposal to reissue existing and issue new nationwide permits (NWPs) for categories of activities involving minimal amounts of discharges of dredged or fill material into wetlands or other waters of the United States.  This form of streamlined approval to fill waters of the United States is critically important to developers and others in the regulated community because it enables applicants with qualifying projects to save significant amounts of permitting time and costs.  Following through on that announcement, the Corps issued its final rule on January 13, 2021, reissuing and modifying certain NWPs. Continue reading

Last week, the Sacramento Superior Court delivered a serious blow to California’s regulatory program for the protection of wetlands and other waters of the State.

The State’s wetland protection program (commonly known as the “Procedures”), which became effective in May, was intended to create a regulatory structure to fill the gap left by recent Trump administration regulations that dramatically narrowed Federal wetland protections.  Ironically, the court’s order prohibits the State of California from applying the Procedures to any waters other than those already protected by Federal law, thus leaving in place the very regulatory gap that the Procedures were intended to fill. Continue reading

When Senate Bill 35 (SB 35) was enacted in September 2017, the streamlined ministerial approval process it created for eligible housing developments was optimistically viewed as a powerful tool for developers to create more housing, especially in NIMBY jurisdictions loath to approve additional residential development. Over the past two weeks, two decisions on SB 35—both decided by the Honorable Helen E. Williams of the Santa Clara County Superior Court—solidified just how powerful a tool SB 35 can be. Continue reading

The Supreme Court ruled today that pollutant discharges to groundwater may, in some instances, be regulated in the same manner as discharges to navigable surface waters.  The decision was a clear rebuff to EPA, which argued that only direct discharges to surface waters are regulable under the Clean Water Act.  Coincidentally, the Court’s decision was issued just two days following EPA’s publication of a controversial rule limiting the federal government’s Clean Water Act jurisdiction over wetlands and other surface waters. Continue reading

In a far-reaching decision with sweeping implications, a federal district judge in Montana eliminated the Army Corps’ nationwide permit for utility line crossings over waters of the United States.  This permit – known as Nationwide Permit 12 – was used to streamline approvals across the country for electrical lines, pipelines, and other utility projects resulting in minor encroachments on wetlands and other waters.  Because of this decision’s scope, thousands of projects across the country – including projects in California – may be stalled as they re-think their permitting approach or await further direction from the courts.  Even more troubling is the fact that this decision calls into question the legality of over fifty other nationwide permits intended to streamline project approvals, including those issued for housing, industrial, and other development projects Continue reading

On March 21, 2020, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued an emergency order which tolls and extends certain land use-related deadlines and time limits set forth in the Los Angeles Municipal Code (“LAMC”).  This order 1) tolls and suspends any deadline (including provisions in community, specific, or other similar plans) pertaining to public hearings and decisions made by legislative bodies, zoning administrators, the Director of Planning, the General Manager of the Department of Building and Safety, or other City department general managers; 2) tolls and extends by six months the time limit for utilization of approved entitlements, and 3) tolls the expiration date for other permits (e.g. building permits) during the effective period of the order.  The order is in effect until April 19, 2020, and may be extended beyond this date.  To date, no state action has been taken to extend any local planning deadlines, although such action may be forthcoming and could supersede some or all of these actions. Continue reading

Major California Cities Close Planning Counters and Suspend Planning Deadlines

Cox Castle & Nicholson, LLP is tracking developments related to the processing of land use and planning applications in major California cities in light of the government’s efforts to contain the coronavirus.   While the situation is fluid, several patterns seem clear:

(1) zoning counters and planning departments are  closing for some period of time; some are maintaining virtual services;

(2) public meetings are being cancelled or delayed; in some cases social distancing is being enforced; in other case telephonic participation may be provided;

(3) cities have declared, or are preparing to declare, suspensions of deadlines under various state land use and environmental planning laws.

The following is the most recent information that we have received from these jurisdictions.  We plan on updating this page regularly as we receive additional information. Continue reading

Clark Morrison and Scott Birkey co-authored an article for Bloomberg Environment where they examine the effect of the Trump administration’s California Clean Water roll-back, as well as the state’s response. Continue reading

This morning, the White House announced adoption of its long-awaited redefinition of waters protected by the federal Clean Water Act.  This new rule will significantly restrict the role of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in regulating discharges of fill or other pollutants into wetlands and other waters. Continue reading

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