In August, the Fourth District Court of Appeal released and published its opinion in Golden Door Properties, LLC v. Superior Court (2020) 53 Cal.App.5th 733, which recognizes that CEQA requires lead agencies to retain certain project-related records. See TLG’s coverage of the case at https://www.thomaslaw.com/blog/the-fourth-district-court-of-appeal-rejects-narrow-interpretation-of-public-resources-code-section-21167-6-and-requires-agencies-to-retain-project-related-e-mails/. This week, the California Supreme Court denied petitioners’ request to hear the case and requests by third parties to have the appellate opinion depublished. As such, the appellate decision stands.
As we noted when the case was originally published, the opinion contains important clarifications about administrative records. Under the decision, lead agencies must retain the writings and e-mails statutorily required in an administrative record, at least until the statute of limitations to challenge the project has expired. The opinion further clarified the showing necessary to withhold documents under the preliminary draft or deliberative process privilege, holding that an agency must justify privilege claims with some “reasonably specific detail”. A blanket exclusion with only general claims about the chilling effect disclosure would have on staff and consultant discussions is insufficient.