In San Francisco Beautiful v. City and County of San Francisco, No. CPF11511535, (Cal. Ct. App. 1st Dist. May 30, 2014), the First Appellate District upheld San Francisco’s application of a categorical exemption to exempt from CEQA review the installation by AT&T of 726 utility cabinets on public sidewalks.

AT&T applied for a categorical exemption for its “Lightspeed” project (the Project), which is intended to upgrade broad band Internet speed and capabilities. The majority of the utility cabinets would be approximately 48 inches high, 51.7 inches wide, and 26 inches deep. (Slip Op. at p. 2.) Although AT&T had not determined precisely where the new utility cabinets would be located, the new cabinets would be “paired” with or placed within 300 feet of existing AT&T utility cabinets. (Ibid.) In response to community concerns, AT&T also promised to affix a 24-hour-a-day contact number for reporting graffiti directly to AT&T and a system in which AT&T personnel would remove the graffiti. (Ibid. at p. 3.) In 2010, AT&T submitted a revised application for a categorical exemption pursuant to section 15303(d) of the CEQA Guidelines (Guidelines), and the San Francisco Planning Department (SFPD) determined that the Project was categorically exempt from CEQA, leading to the present litigation. The trial court denied plaintiffs’ challenge, and they appealed.
Continue Reading Court Finds No CEQA Necessary For Utility Cabinets on San Francisco Sidewalks

In Citizens for Environmental Responsibility v. State of California ex rel. 14th District Agricultural Association, et al. (3rd App. Dist., March 26, 2014), the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision to exempt a three-day rodeo from California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) review under the Class 23 categorical exemption[1] because the rodeo would

Decision expected to provide guidance for public agencies in determining the type of environmental review required for such bans.

In Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. County of Marin, et al. (published in part by the First Appellate District on July 25, 2013) (“Marin”), the court upheld the County of Marin’s (“County”) ordinance prohibiting certain retail establishments from dispensing plastic bags and imposing a charge of at least five cents for paper bags.  The court determined that the ordinance did not require review under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) because it was categorically exempt under CEQA Guidelines §§ 15307 and 15308 (also known as Class 7 and 8 exemptions, which are actions taken to assure the maintenance, restoration, or enhancement of a natural resource, or protection of the environment from environmental review).  

This decision follows a previous challenge by the Save the Plastic Bag Coalition (“Coalition”) appealing a plastic bag ban ordinance in the City of Manhattan Beach, which proceeded all the way to the California Supreme Court.  See Save the Plastic Bag Coalition v. City of Manhattan Beach (2011) 52 Cal. 4th 155 (“Manhattan Beach”). Continue Reading Marin County’s Plastic Bag Ban Categorically Exempt From CEQA Review