South Orange County Wastewater Authority v. City of Dana Point (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 1604

May 22nd, 2012

By: Thomas Law Group



The City of Dana Point (City) approved a mixed-use development project next to a sewage treatment plant. The City conducted an initial study and prepared a mitigated negative declaration (MND) after finding that all potential environmental impacts of the project could be mitigated to a less than significant level. The Wastewater Authority (Petitioner) challenged the project and the MND claiming that the sewage treatment plant had a bad odor, loud noises, and water runoff onto the project’s site that would negatively impact future residents. The trial court upheld the City’s use of an MND to comply with CEQA. Petitioner appealed to the Fourth District Court of Appeal, which also declined to issue a writ of mandate. The Court explained that the purpose of an EIR and CEQA is to study a project’s impacts on the surrounding environment, not what the environment’s impacts would be on the project. Therefore, the Court held that an EIR was not necessary since the project’s impacts were clearly mitigated. The Court also rejected Petitioner’s claim that the project was inconsistent with the City’s General Plan.

Key Point:

Until 2011, fifteen years elapsed without a published decision citing to Baird v. County of Contra Costa (1995) 32 Cal.App.4th 1464 to conclude that CEQA does not require a lead agency to analyze impacts of the environment on the project. With publication of the above decision and Ballona Wetlands Land Trust v. City of Los Angeles (2011) 201 Cal.App.4th 455, the reasoning in the Baird decision is gaining new traction. The Supreme Court declined to review the Fourth District’s decision as well as the requests for its depublication. The Supreme Court, however, has not yet decided whether or not to review Ballona Wetlands.