No Excuses Allowed — Court Determined CEQA Provides No Flexibility in Regard to the 30-day Statute of Limitation Requirement

March 6th, 2013

By: Thomas Law Group



In an unpublished decision, Alliance for the Protection of the Auburn Community Environment v. County of Placer (Feb. 28, 2013) 2013 Cal.App.Unpub.LEXIS 1524, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld the trial court’s decision that Petitioner’s complaint was barred by the mandatory provisions of Public Resources Code section 21167, which sets forth the 30-day statute of limitations within which to bring a challenge to the approval of an EIR.

The County of Placer (County) certified an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared by Bohemia Properties, LLC for the development of a 155,000 square foot building (the project).  The notice of determination (NOD) was filed on September 29, 2010.  Alliance for the Protection of Auburn Community Environment (Alliance) filed a writ of mandate challenging the approval of the project, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

In the original action, Bohemia filled a demurrer to Alliance’s claim, alleging it was not filed within statue of the limitation period required under CEQA.  Alliance filed a motion for relief under section 473 of the Code of Civil Procedure.  Section 473 provides that a “court may, upon any terms as may be just, relieve a party or his or her legal representative from a judgment, dismissal, order, or other proceeding taken against him or her through his or her mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect” provided that relief is sought within a reasonable time, not exceeding six months after the judgment, dismissal, order, or proceeding was taken.

The court explained that statutes of limitation are, “of necessity, adamant rather than flexible in nature.”  If the Legislature desired to allow some flexibility in a statute of limitations, it expressly provides for an extension upon showing of good cause.  However, if the Legislature is silent about a good cause extension, the court infers that the Legislature did not intend such an extension.  Following this reasoning, the court determined Code of Civil Procedure section 473 provided no relief from Alliance’s untimely filing because section 21167 of the Public Resources code, which is the applicable law governing this case, contains no provisions for extending the limitations period, even upon showing of good cause.  The court concluded it could be inferred that Legislature intended there to be no extensions.

In further support of its decision the court explained that CEQA contains a number of provisions that clearly point to the legislative determination that challenges under CEQA be filed promptly in order best serve the public interest.

Written By: Tina Thomas, Michele Tong and Andrea Lutge (law clerk)
___________
For questions relating to this blog post or any other California land use, environmental and/or planning issues contact Thomas Law Group at (916) 287-9292.

The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice by Thomas Law Group, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Readers are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.