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California Clean Energy Committee v. City of San Jose

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20246
Nos. No. H038740, (Cal. App. 6th Dist., 09/30/2013)

A California appellate court reversed a lower court decision dismissing a clean energy group's petition challenging a city's certification and approval of an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared for a proposed update to the city's general plan. The group argued that the approved final EIR fell below the standards set forth in California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and that the EIR should have been recirculated as it contained significant changes from the draft EIR. The lower court denied the petition, holding that that the group failed to exhaust its administrative remedies since it did not file an administrative appeal of the planning commission's certification of the final EIR. But the city council improperly delegated CEQA certification duties to the planning commission. Because delegation to the planning commission was faulty, no administrative appeal was available to the group. The group, however, submitted a comment letter to the planning commission during the public comment period, which specified the alleged deficiencies in the EIR and sufficiently apprised the city council of its arguments regarding the adequacy of the EIR and the need for recirculation. The group therefore adequately exhausted its administrative remedies when it filed its comment letter to the commission.