Posts Tagged ‘California Environmental Quality Act’

Uh Oh, Now There’s ANOTHER Lawsuit Against the City: Small Property Owners vs. the “Nonconforming Unit Ordinance”

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Man, San Francisco sure seems to be getting sued a lot by property owners a lot these days.

Get used to it, 2014′s going to be a bumpy ride.

To wit:

“January 29, 2014 

SMALL PROPERTY OWNERS OF SAN FRANCISCO FILE LAWSUIT TO BLOCK LAW

New Ordinance Would Discriminate Against Families Who Move Into Their Own Buildings 

SAN FRANCISCO, Tuesday, January 28, 2014 – Today, the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute filed a lawsuit challenging Supervisor John Avalos’ Nonconforming Unit Ordinance on the grounds that the ordinance violates state law and fails to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The Nonconforming Unit Ordinance would legalize the practice of renovating and expanding “nonconforming units.” Nonconforming units are “grandfathered” residential units that exceed local zoning laws’ density limits. Controversially, the ordinance would also discriminate against nonconforming units that have been the subject of lawful “no-fault” evictions, which are allowed under state and local law. Such units would be denied building permits for up to 10 years following a lawful eviction – even for regular maintenance and minor repairs. Property owners would also be barred from rebuilding their units after a fire or earthquake.

“This legislation punishes families who move into their own buildings,” stated Noni Richen, president of the Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (SPOSFI). “It could cause thousands of lawful housing units to sit vacant while the City denies permits for basic upkeep. Given the current housing shortage, this is unconscionable.”

“As we have shown again and again, we will not allow the City to violate property rights with these illegal schemes,” stated Andrew M. Zacks, SPOSFI’s attorney. “The state’s Ellis Act prohibits this kind of discrimination against lawful evictions. Moreover, cities are required to evaluate a new ordinance’s environmental impacts under CEQA. This legislation was rushed through without proper review.”

Nonconforming units are different from “in-law” units, which are generally unpermitted and illegal. For example, a permitted third unit on a parcel zoned for two units is considered a nonconforming unit. The City Planning Department’s Information and Analysis Group estimates that approximately 52,000 units in the city are nonconforming, comprising some 14% of the city’s housing stock.

A copy of the Nonconforming Unit Ordinance is available at http://zulpc.com/small-property-owners-file-suit-to-block-discriminatory-law/.

The Small Property Owners of San Francisco Institute (“SPOSFI”) is a California nonprofit corporation. SPOSFI advocates for the Small Property Owners of San Francisco, a nonprofit organization that works to promote and preserve home ownership in San Francisco. Its focus is to protect the rights of small property owners and foster opportunities for first-time home buyers. SPOSFI members range from young families to the elderly on fixed incomes, and its membership cuts across all racial, ethnic, and socio-economic strata. Its members include San Francisco residents who own nonconforming residential units in San Francisco.

Zacks & Freedman, P.C. is a law firm dedicated to advocating for the rights of property owners. With experience and knowledge in rent control issues, zoning, permitting, transactional disputes and other real estate matters, Zacks & Freedman, P.C. has successfully advocated its clients’ positions before local administrative tribunals and at all levels of the State and Federal courts.

Mayor Ed Lee Acts to Alter Poorly-Negotiated America’s Cup Deal – Fewer Massive Yachts Berthed at Rincon Point

Friday, October 21st, 2011

Just as dog murder threatens the image of our wasteful Central Subway, the plan to berth massive yachts at the wet end of SoMA does the same for America’s Cup 2013.

So, as he did with the Tom Otterness case, Mayor Lee is taking measures, as this late, late Friday afternoon press release shows:

“MAYOR LEE SUPPORTS SAFEGUARDING OPEN BAY VIEWS ALONG WATERFRONT DURING 34TH AMERICA’S CUP - Port of San Francisco & America’s Cup Event Authority Seek Approval from Bay Conservation & Development Commission for Revised Temporary Berthing Plan During America’s Cup Events

San Francisco, CA— Mayor Edwin M. Lee today announced that the City, the Port of San Francisco and the America’s Cup Event Authority (Event Authority) reached an agreement on a revised plan for berthing America’s Cup spectator vessels along the waterfront that will safeguard San Francisco Bay views along the Embarcadero promenade. The Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) will need to approve the plan to temporarily accommodate vessels expected for the 34th America’s Cup events.

“We are working together with BCDC and the Event Authority to refine our plans, so that the America’s Cup special events enhance the waterfront in a way that balances the excitement of the races with the picturesque Bay views that are so important to our residents and visitors,” said Mayor Lee. “This temporary berthing proposal is another step in collaborating with our event partners and the residents of San Francisco to reach a consensus.”

The area is known under the San Francisco Waterfront Special Area Plan (SAP) as the Rincon Point Open Water Basin. The Port of San Francisco and the America’s Cup Event Authority are seeking approval from the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) to amend the SAP.

In discussing the concerns raised by BCDC and the public over the last several months with the Port, the City and the Event Authority, the space sought for the temporary docks for these private vessels has been reduced from the entire Rincon Point basin to an area that begins at the northern boundary of Rincon Park and stretches northward to Pier 14, leaving the area in front of the park unobstructed by vessels. To free up these open water views, the event partners identified additional berthing locations for these vessels along the Port’s waterfront, including at Pier 9, the water area north of Pier 14 and the water area between Piers 32 and 36 where the America’s Cup racing vessels will also be moored.

“Because our goal for the 34th America’s Cup is creating a great experience for those both on land and on the water, we really appreciate the opportunity we’ve had to hear directly from San Franciscans about what is important to them,” said Tom Huston, Chief Operating Officer of the Event Authority. “We are very pleased that our work with the City, the Port and BCDC has resulted in a proposal that will preserve waterfront views while enabling the City to benefit from the economic impact that comes with these vessels.”

These revised proposals reflect the City and the Event Authority’s commitment to listening to the concerns raised through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) comment process and other public meetings about balancing the event activities with the needs of San Francisco residents and the environment.

If the vessel berthing proposals for the Rincon Point Open Water Basin and the Brannan Street Open Water Basin between Piers 32 and 36 are approved and implemented, the terms of the City’s Host and Venue Agreement for the 34th America’s Cup provide the Event Authority with the right to negotiate for a future long-term lease for the development of recreational marinas at these locations.

Any long-term marina proposal of this kind would require further amendments to the SAP before any lease could become effective, and are not directly contemplated under the current proposal. Any further SAP amendments would require a separate public review and planning process for the City, Port and Event Authority working in concert with BCDC.

BCDC will consider the issuance of a brief descriptive notice for the SAP amendments relating to this temporary berthing plan at its public meeting on November 3, 2011.”

O.K. fine.

Larry Ellison giving the finger to the people of the City and County of San Francisco with one hand whilst steering his boat with the other:

Click to expand

California Supreme Court Upholds Municipal Ban on Plastic Bags: “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach”

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Just saying. KQED’s Scott Shafer has some deets.

Looks like San Francisco’s idea will spread further, now that there will be fewer concerns over every NIMBY’s favorite weapon, the California Environmental Quality Act.

See below for the deets on “Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach.” No. S180720.

Bags, bags, bags!

“California Supreme Court Upholds City’s Ban on Plastic Bags

Ruling Dampens Challenges to Plastic Bag Bans Across The State, And Raises Threshold For Environmental Impact Reports

SAN FRANCISCO, July 14, 2011 — The California Supreme Court today issued a ruling that impacts not only plastic bag bans throughout the state but has far-reaching ramifications for the circumstances under which public agencies must prepare environmental impact reports under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”). The court ruled in favor of the City of Manhattan Beach, paving the way for the city’s ban on plastic bags to go into effect. Downey Brand partner Christian Marsh argued the case before the Supreme Court on behalf of the appellant, Manhattan Beach. He was joined in the argument by James Moose of Remy Thomas Moose & Manley for amici curiae Californians Against Waste. “We were confident the city had a right to impose the bag ban, and this ruling gives cities across California some real clarity,” Marsh said.

An industry coalition of plastic bag manufacturers and distributors known as the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition sued Manhattan Beach for its citywide ban on plastic bags, arguing that the environmental impacts associated with increased paper bag use would outweigh any environmental benefits of the ban. The city, among many in California with similar ordinances, imposed the ban to limit the number of plastic bags making their way into the ocean and marine environment. The case raised two important issues that have been facing fiscally-strapped cities and counties across the state: (1) whether the coalition, which had a commercial interest in overturning the ban, qualified for “public interest” standing under CEQA, and (2) what is the legal threshold under CEQA for when a project or ordinance necessitates preparing an environmental impact report, known as an EIR. In its ruling, the court sided with the city on the CEQA threshold, but ruled against the city on the coalition’s standing to sue.

Justice Carol Corrigan, writing for a unanimous court, upheld the city’s ban, finding that “it is plain the city acted within its discretion when it determined that its ban on plastic bags would have no significant effect on the environment.” In the face of a number of “life cycle” studies that had been put forth by the coalition, the court noted that “common sense leads us to the conclusion that the environmental impacts discernible from the ‘life cycles’ of plastic and paper bags are not significantly implicated by a plastic bag ban in Manhattan Beach.”

The decision on the threshold for producing an EIR was being closely-watched by public entities and private project proponents alike, as often they are compelled to prepare costly and time-consuming EIRs even though the activity in question has little or no environmental impact (and in this case, a tremendous environmental benefit). As Marsh reported, “Due to the risks associated with litigation over these decisions, public agencies often feel the need to go well beyond the requirements of the statute, at great time and expense. This decision sets a more reasonable threshold for when pubic agencies must prepare EIRs, and will reduce the ability of would-be challengers to delay projects across the state. Instead of conducting unwarranted environmental review, the decision allows public agencies to focus their limited resources on producing reports for projects that are much more likely to impact the environment than minor projects would.”

Christian Marsh is a partner in Downey Brand’s San Francisco office, and advises public and private clients on natural resource, energy, and land use matters involving water supply and water quality, endangered species, California planning and zoning law, and CEQA and its federal counterpart the National Environmental Policy Act (“NEPA”). Marsh also conducts trial and appellate-level litigation in these areas. With a former partner, he prevailed in the last CEQA case decided by the California Supreme Court, Stockton Citizens for Sensible Planning v. City of Stockton (2010) 48 Cal.4th 481.”