The Second District Court of Appeal has issued a decision in Comunidad en Accion v. Los Angeles City Council (case no. B240554 (Sept. 20, 2013), finding that the petitioner’s failure to timely request a hearing under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) was excusable neglect.  The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court’s ruling dismissing the petitioner’s suit on this basis.[1]

Comunidad en Accion challenged the City of Los Angeles’ approval of new and expanded solid waste facilities at the Bradley Landfill in Sun Valley, where the real party in interest, Waste Management, proposed building a new solid waste transfer station and expanded recycling and green waste processing facilities. Comunidad failed to comply with Public Resources Code section 21167.4 by filing a request for a hearing within 90 days of filing the lawsuit, however, and Waste Management filed a motion to dismiss on this basis shortly after the 90-day deadline ran. 

The trial court granted the motion to dismiss Comunidad’s CEQA claims and denied its request for relief under Code of Civil Procedure section 473, which permits relief from dismissal due to mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.  Comunidad’s attorney averred that he had inadvertently omitted the 90-day hearing request from his personal calendaring system and that this mistake was compounded when he was out of state for two weeks prior to the deadline due to family illness.  The trial court distinguished case precedent that found a calendaring error warranted discretionary relief under section 473, concluding that calendar shortcomings in the age of electronic litigation calendars, was not excusable neglect. 

Upon review, the Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Comunidad relief.

[1] In addition to the CEQA claims, Comunidad challenged the siting of the waste facilities under state antidiscrimination laws.  On this issue, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the City.Continue Reading Second District Court of Appeal finds Failure to Request a CEQA Hearing within 90 Days is Excusable Neglect