General and Specific Plans

On November 7, 2016, the Court of Appeal for the Third Appellate District reversed and remanded a trial court decision addressing a neighborhood group’s challenge to a 328-unit infill residential project in the City of Sacramento.  East Sacramento Partnership for a Livable City v. City of Sacramento, __ Cal.App.5th __ (2016) (Case No. C079614).

Continue Reading Court Defers to City’s General Plan Consistency Findings, Upholding Residential Infill Project

Numerous California communities regulate broad economic development objectives through general plan goals and policies intended to encourage and support small businesses or to ensure the compatibility of new commercial development with the community or neighborhood. Such objectives are susceptible to a range of reasonable interpretations that are difficult to successfully challenge. On July 13, 2016, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District partially published Joshua Tree Downtown Business Alliance v. County of San Bernardino, __ Cal.App.4th __ (2016) (Case No. E062479), a case that illustrates the key legal principles—including the correct standard of review—that can make such challenges a little like tilting at windmills. The case also addresses several CEQA issues (including whether the County adequately considered whether project had the potential to cause urban decay and whether an EIR was required because there was substantial evidence to support a fair argument that the project could cause urban decay) my partner Art Coon wrote on this in his CEQA Developments blog.

Continue Reading Court Rejects General Plan Consistency Challenge Regarding City’s Approval of Franchise Retail Store Where Applicable Economic Development Goals and Policies are Alleged to Favor Small, Independent Businesses

There is no question in California land use law that development projects need not comply with every goal or policy in a community’s general plan.  While a city’s or county’s land use decisions must be consistent with the goals and policies in its general plan, the courts have consistently held that a finding of general plan consistency requires only that a project be “compatible with,” and “not frustrate,” the goals and policies of the applicable general plan.  State law does not require precise conformity of a proposed project with the land use designation for a particular site or an exact match between the project and the general plan.  Instead, development projects must simply be in agreement or harmony with the terms of the general plan.

These fundamental principles are easily understood when dealing with qualitative general plan policies such as those addressing community character or those requiring open space preservation and resource conservation.  But general plan consistency principles are sometimes misapplied when the issue is whether a given project is consistent with quantitative general plan provisions, such as those dealing with a project’s size, if a proposed project would exceed such development standards.

Continue Reading Development Project May be Declared Consistent with General Plan Even if Quantitative Standards Exceeded