Michele Chan, California Land Use and Development Report, March 12, 2019
“The court of appeal held that the City of St. Helena did not violate CEQA by approving a demolition permit and design review for a multi-family residential project without preparing an environmental impact report. McCorkle Eastside Neighborhood Group v. City of St. Helena (2018) 31 Cal.App.5th 80. The court held that because the city’s discretion under its local design review ordinance did not extend to addressing the project’s environmental effects, CEQA review was unnecessary.
“In 2016, the city amended its zoning ordinance to eliminate the conditional use permit (CUP) requirement for multi-family dwellings within the High Density Residential (HR) districts. By eliminating the CUP requirement, multi-family dwelling units are permitted uses by right under the HR district, subject to design review.
“The court concluded that the Class 32 exemption was unnecessary and upheld the city’s actions, holding that the city properly found that its discretion was limited to design review, given that no use permit was required for multi-family housing in HR districts.
“The court summarily rejected the petitioner’s argument that because the city had discretion to conduct design review, the entire project was discretionary and subject to CEQA.”