News and Events|
Courses and Conferences
May 18-21, 2017
Bridging the Gap, AEP California State Conference 2017
Association of Environmental Professionals (AEP)
Margaret Sohagi will be presenting on the Drafting Programmatic EIRs: Lessons Learned and Practical Tips panel on May 19, 2017
At the Parc 55 Hotel in San Francisco, California
Please check HERE for more information and to register.
The Sohagi Law Group, PLC is pleased to announce the promotion of R. Tyson Sohagi to Partner in the firm
Mr. Sohagi represents public agencies on complex environmental and land use matters at the administrative, trial
court, and appellate level. His practice focuses on the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA"), the
National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), the Coastal Act, Election Law, and Land Use Planning/Zoning
Law. Mr. Sohagi has worked on complex projects involving public infrastructure, public/private partnerships,
and projects involving airports, ports, multi-modal transportation improvements, mixed use, hotels, retail,
General Plans, Specific Plans, Climate Action Plans, Zoning, and Local Coastal Programs
September 1st, 2015 - Court Denies Sierra Club's Challenge to Coastal Development Permits Approved by California Coastal Commission
Sierra Club v. California Coastal Commission; 22nd District Agricultural Association (Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BS151130)
On Tuesday, September 1st, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant upheld the California Coastal Commission's approval of two
coastal development permits for the Del Mar Fairgrounds, rejecting arguments by the Sierra Club that the development authorized by the permits violated the Coastal Act.
The challenged permits resulted from the Consent Cease and Desist and Restoration Orders, a historic settlement agreement negotiated and approved
by the Commission and the 22nd DAA in early 2012. The Consent Orders resolved long-standing disputes between the two agencies
regarding uses and development on the Fairgrounds, and set forth a framework for future Coastal Act compliance. The permits challenged by the
Sierra Club, approved in November 2013 and a key requirement of the Consent Orders, authorized a second thoroughbred horse racing meet
in the fall, as well as year-round parking and temporary events on the East Overflow Lot and Golf Driving Range, and other non-Fair/Race
time events on the main Fairgrounds property. The Commission's approval of the permits also triggered a $5 million restoration of the
remaining portion of the South Overflow Lot, approximately 9.5 acres, to fully functioning wetlands.
"Following a careful review of the facts and the applicable law, we are pleased that the court properly upheld
the two coastal development permits approved by the California Coastal Commission, thus allowing the 22nd DAA
to continue providing the citizens of San Diego with the long standing services to which they are entitled,"
stated Frederick Schenk, President of the 22nd District Agricultural Association.
In rejecting the Sierra Club's petition to overturn the Coastal Commission's decision, Judge Chalfant found
that the Commission had correctly applied the Coastal Act's conflict resolution principles when it determined
that approval of the permits would allow the 22nd DAA to expand and vastly improve the quality of the
surviving wetlands on the Fairgrounds property by restoring the SOL, while also furthering Coastal Act
policies favoring increased public access and public recreational uses in the coastal zone by consolidating
parking and event uses in the East Overflow Lot and Golf Driving Range. The Commission found that this
outcome, even though it would result in fill of degraded wetland areas of the EOL and GDR, was more
protective of coastal resources than denial of the permit application, which would leave all three
lots in their current disturbed state and curtail important Fairgrounds operations. The court's decision
rested in large part on its acknowledgement of the Fair's vested right to use all three overflow lots for
parking during the summer Fair and Races, which precluded the Commission from unilaterally ordering
restoration of any of the lots.
August 5th, 2015 - California Supreme Court Rules State Agencies' Duty to Mitigate Not Solely Dependent on Legislative Appropriations
City of San Diego et al. v. Board of Trustees of the California State University (California Supreme Court Case No. S199557)
In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court yesterday held that CSU failed to proceed in a manner
required by law when it found that mitigation for the off-campus environmental impacts of its San Diego State
University (SDSU) 2007 Campus Master Plan would be infeasible absent an explicit appropriation from the
Legislature to fund its fair-share of such mitigation. The Court rejected CSU's proposed rule that the
feasibility of mitigating its project's off-site environmental effects depends on a legislative appropriation
of funds. The Court instead agreed with the City of San Diego, the San Diego Association of Governments
(SANDAG) and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), who had challenged CSU's EIR for the Master
Plan under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for its failure to adequately mitigate impacts
associated with the expansion of both the student population and campus facilities. The Supreme Court's
opinion affirms the Fourth District Court of Appeal's 2011 decision directing CSU to vacate its
certification of the EIR.
The question before the Court involved interpretation of its 2006 decision in City of Marina v. Board of
Trustees of California State University (2006) 39 Cal.4th 351, addressing a state agency's mitigation
responsibilities. In City of Marina, the Supreme Court discussed an entity's obligation to make a "fair-share"
contribution as mitigation for a project's significant off-site impacts under CEQA. In finding that CSU
failed to take appropriate mitigation measures in its development of its Monterey Bay campus, the Supreme
Court in City of Marina stated: "[A] state agency's power to mitigate its project's effects through voluntary
mitigation payments is ultimately subject to legislative control; if the Legislature does not appropriate
the money, the power does not exist."
In yesterday's decision, Justice Werdergar (who also authored the City of Marina majority) confirmed that
this statement from City of Marina was dictum. That dictum, the Court found, is "simply an overstatement"
and "does not justify [CSU's] assumption that a state agency may contribute funds for off-site environmental
mitigation only through earmarked appropriations, to the exclusion of other available funding sources."
Instead, the Court found, a public agency, in mitigating a project has access to all of its discretionary
powers, not just the power to spend appropriations, including adopting changes to proposed projects,
imposing conditions on its approval, adopting plans or ordinances to control a broad class of projects,
and choosing alternative projects. CEQA does not provide an exception to the general rules of mitigation
for state agencies.
The Court's decision was also based on the "unreasonable consequences" that would follow from CSU's proposed
rule that fair-share payments for off-site mitigation may be funded only with an appropriation earmarked for
that purpose, and that without such an appropriation, mitigation is infeasible. Specifically, applying this
rule to all state agencies would force the Legislature to sit as a "standing environmental review board to
decide on a case-by-case basis whether state agencies' projects will proceed despite unmitigated off-site
environmental effects." The Court also found that CSU's proposed rule would impose on local and regional
government agencies the cost of addressing a state agency's project's contribution to cumulative impacts on
local infrastructure. Finally, under CSU's proposed rule, off-site mitigation would be found infeasible
in most cases and nothing would compel the Legislature to make appropriations for funding off-site mitigation.
For these reasons, the Court rejected CSU's conclusion that the feasibility of mitigating its project's off-site
environmental effects depends on a legislative earmark. The Court, thus, invalidated CSU's finding of
infeasibility as a failure to proceed in a manner required by law.
Margaret M. Sohagi, Philip A. Seymour, and Nicole H. Gordon represented the San Diego Association of Governments
(SANDAG) and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) in this case.
April 8th, 2016 - Court Upholds EIR for LAX Specific Plan Amendment Study (SPAS)
On April 8, 2016, Ventura County Superior Court Judge Glen Reiser ruled that the City of Los Angeles complied
with CEQA when it certified an EIR and approved a plan mapping out a strategy for upgrading the Los Angeles
International Airport. The "Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion" and the cities of
Inglewood and Culver City challenged the City's decision. Following a three-day trial in January 2016,
Judge Reiser issued a 118-page ruling rejecting all of the petitioners' claims, including issues related to
traffic, biological resources, air quality, cumulative impacts, mitigation, the project description, and the
City's selection of an Alternative that would move the northernmost runway further north. In rejecting
petitioners' claims, the Court ruled Los Angeles' actions were supported by a "veritable mountain range of
substantial evidence" and that "the 7829-page SPAS Alternatives Study analysis presented here may be by far
the most detailed project alternatives chapter and analysis in the 45-year history of CEQA." Margaret Sohagi,
Nicole Gordon, and R. Tyson Sohagi of the Sohagi Law Group represented the City of Los Angeles in this
litigation, along with Whit Manley (Remy, Moose, and Manley) and John Putnam (Kaplan, Kirsch and Rockwell).
Read the opinion HERE.