GDB Attorneys Obtain Court of Appeal Opinion Affirming Dismissal of Premature Challenges to Water Supply Documents Prepared for CEQA Use

Environmental/Land Use Alert (April 2018)

On March 26, 2018, the California Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, issued a decision affirming the dismissal of a premature challenge to a proposed master-planned community located in unincorporated San Diego County (County) and known as the Newland Sierra project.  Specifically, in Golden Door Properties, LLC v. Vallecitos Water District, et al., Court of Appeal No. D072280, the Court held that petitioner Golden Door Properties, LLC’s (Golden Door) lawsuit challenging the project’s water supply documents prepared by the Vallecitos Water District (District) was barred because governing law precludes claims against a public water supplier while the CEQA process is still ongoing.  (California Water Impact Network v. Newhall County Water Dist. (2008) 161 Cal.App.4th 1464, 1477-1491.) 

As background, Golden Door, a property owner to a site adjacent to the project, challenged two documents prepared by the District for the project:  a water supply assessment (WSA) and a water verification (WV).  As part of its lead agency review under CEQA, the County requested the District to prepare the subject documents.  The District prepared the WSA and WV in a single combined document and, in doing so, concluded there was sufficient water supply for the project and other development in its service area.  Before the County analyzed the District’s WSA and WV and incorporated it into its EIR, Golden Door filed its lawsuit, requesting the trial court to declare the WV invalid.  In response, the District rescinded its WV and reissued the report solely as a WSA.  Golden Door then amended its complaint to assert similar challenges to the WSA, and also requested that the trial court address its challenges to the WV (despite its rescission) as an exception to the “mootness” doctrine.

In Golden Door Properties, LLC, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment, which dismissed Golden Door’s lawsuit.  Specifically, in a 30-page decision, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment, thereby sustaining the trial court’s demurrer without leave to amend on grounds of lack of finality, failure to exhaust remedies, and mootness. 

The Court of Appeal opinion protects environmental review and planning from premature judicial interference.  By requiring Golden Door to wait until the County completes its administrative review of the Newland Sierra project before seeking judicial intervention, the Court conserves the parties’ and the Court’s resources, while avoiding multiple and simultaneous litigation and potential inconsistent rulings concerning the same project. 

GDB, led by Mark Dillon and supported by David Hubbard and Mike Masterson, represented the project applicant in this lawsuit, Newland Sierra, LLC.  For further information, please contact Mr. Dillon at 760.431.9501.

[This Announcement does not constitute legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created by viewing or responding to this Announcement.  Legal counsel should be sought for answers to specific legal questions.]