The California Environmental Quality Act (Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq., also known as "CEQA"), is intended to require decision-makers to consider a project's environmental impacts before approving the project. Any project that may have an impact on the environment will require some level of environmental review . The "environment" is broadly defined and includes such factors as traffic, noise, and historic resources. CEQA is fraught with peril for developers.
CEQA is fertile ground for neighborhood opposition. Appeals of the Planning Department's environmental determinations are heard by the Board of Supervisors. Developers and neighbors alike should obtain qualified counsel to advise them through the appeal process.
Heads, I Win; Tails, You Lose
If the Board of Supervisors' decision is appealed to court on a "petition for writ of mandate," CEQA contains a unilateral attorney's fees provision. If an appellant wins in litigation and vindicates a "public right," she may be able to recover her attorney's fees and costs - which can be substantial. This attorney's fees provision is not extended for the benefit of developers.