96 Cal.App.4th 398
Jan 29, 2002. As modified
Feb. 22, 2002.
CITY OF REDLANDS,
Plaintiff and Respondent,
COUNTY OF SAN
BERNARDINO et al., Defendants and Appellants.
CITY OF RANCHO
CUCAMONGA, Plaintiff and Respondent,
COUNTY OF SAN
BERNARDINO et al., Defendants and Appellants.
No. E028515., No.
Court of Appeal,
Fourth District, Division 2, California.
Jan 29, 2002. As
modified Feb. 22, 2002.
Alan K. Marks, County Counsel, and Robin Cochran, Deputy County Counsel, for
Defendants and Appellants.
James L. Markman; Richards, Watson & Gershon and Rochelle Browne for
Plaintiff and Respondent City of Rancho Cucamonga.
Daniel J. McHugh and Leslie E. Murad II for Plaintiff and Respondent City of
The County of San Bernardino (the County) approved
amendments that modified its general plan relating to land use regulation of
unincorporated territory located within a city's "sphere of
influence." In connection with the approval of these amendments, the
County also adopted a negative declaration under the California Environmental
Quality Act (CEQA). [FN1] The City of Rancho Cucamonga and the City of Redlands
filed petitions for writ of mandate on the ground that the County failed to
comply with CEQA in adopting the amendments by preparing an environmental
impact report (EIR). In particular, Rancho Cucamonga and Redlands argued that
the County's finding of no significant environmental impacts was based on its
inaccurate description of the amendments as mere clarifications of existing
language in the general plan. The trial court agreed with the cities, granted
the petitions, and issued the writ of mandate to set aside the amendments.
FN1 Public Resources Code
section 21000 et seq.
In appealing from the trial court's judgment, the County makes the following
arguments: the project description was accurate and, alternatively, even an
inaccurate project description would not require the mandatory preparation of
an EIR; substantial evidence did not support a fair argument that the
amendments may have a significant impact on the environment; and language in
the court's injunction precluding the County from adopting any
"similar" amendments without preparing an EIR was overbroad.
Rancho Cucamonga argues, and Redlands joins in its argument, that the trial
court properly granted the petitions and issued the writ of mandate. We agree
Factual and Procedural History
On July 27, 1999, the County Board of Supervisors (the
Board), despite objections submitted by a majority of the cities within the
county, adopted general plan amendment CW1-849N, also known as the Sphere
Amendments (the amendments). The amendments relate to sphere of influence
areas, which designate the probable physical boundaries and service areas of
local agencies. [FN2] As part of its project description, the County stated
that the purpose of the amendments was "to clarify the County's land use
planning authority and development approval discretion in sphere of influence
areas, as treated in the General Plan text. The wording changes proposed in the
amendment are necessary to ensure that policies meant to promote cooperation
with cities cannot be interpreted as a forfeiture of the authority of the
County Board of Supervisors."
FN2 Government Code section
56076; see also Government Code section 56425.
After evaluating the environmental impact of the amendments and considering
public comment, the Board adopted a negative declaration. A negative
declaration is "a written statement by the lead agency briefly describing
the reasons that a proposed project ... will not have a significant effect on
the environment and therefore does not require the preparation of an EIR."
FN3 "Guidelines for
Implementation of the California Environmental Quality Act," California
Code of Regulations, title 14, section 15371. All further references to these
regulatory provisions will be to the "Guidelines."
Certain entities, including Rancho Cucamonga and Redlands, filed separate
petitions for writ of mandate challenging the Board's decision. In their
petitions, Rancho Cucamonga and Redlands claimed that the amendments
substantially changed the general plan by eliminating certain requirements,
including that development within a city's sphere of influence conform to that
city's general plan and zoning laws. Rancho Cucamonga and Redlands claimed that
the amendments would allow for development that may have an adverse impact on
various environmental factors, including air quality, traffic, and public services.
The cities therefore sought a peremptory writ of mandate ordering the County to
set aside the amendments and prohibiting the County from adopting any
substantially similar amendments before preparing an EIR.
The trial court found that the amendments, instead of clarifying existing
policy, substantially changed the County's land use policies pertaining to
unincorporated territories within various spheres of influence. The court found
that the County failed to gather facts necessary to perform an adequate
environmental analysis. The court also found that substantial evidence
supported a fair argument that the amendments may have a significant impact on
the environment. The court therefore issued the writ of mandate ordering the
County to set aside the amendments and prohibiting the County from adopting any
similar amendments to the general plan.
A governmental agency must prepare an EIR on any project
that may have a significant impact on the environment. [FN4] If there is no
substantial evidence of any significant environmental impact, however, the
agency may adopt a negative declaration. [FN5]
FN4 Public Resources Code
section 21100; Pala Band of Mission Indians v. County of San Diego
(1998) 68 Cal.App.4th 556, 570-571 [80 Cal.Rptr.2d 294], quoting Quail Botanical
Gardens Foundation, Inc. v. City of Encinitas (1994) 29 Cal.App.4th 1597,
1601-1602 [35 Cal.Rptr.2d 470]; Gentry v. City of Murrieta (1995) 36
Cal.App.4th 1359, 1399 [43 Cal.Rptr.2d 170].
FN5 Gentry v. City of
Murrieta, supra, 36 Cal.App.4th at page 1399.
In reviewing an agency's decision to adopt a negative declaration, a trial
court applies the "fair argument" test. [FN6] "Under this test,
the agency must prepare an EIR whenever substantial evidence in the record
supports a fair argument that a proposed project may have a significant effect
on the environment..." [FN7] If such evidence exists, the court must set
aside the agency's decision to adopt a negative declaration as an abuse of
discretion in failing to proceed in a manner as required by law. [FN8]
FN6 Gentry v. City of
Murrieta, supra, 36 Cal.App.4th at page 1399; see also Pala Band of
Mission Indians v. County of San Diego, supra, 68 Cal.App.4th at page 571.
FN7 Gentry v. City of
Murrieta, supra, 36 Cal.App.4th at pages 1399- 1400, citations omitted.
FN8 Pala Band of Mission
Indians v. County of San Diego, supra, 68 Cal.App.4th at page 571.
In reviewing the trial court's judgment on a petition for writ of mandate, we
apply the same test. [FN9] We independently review the administrative record to
determine whether the agency failed to proceed in a manner consistent with the
requirements of CEQA. [FN10]
FN9 Pala Band of Mission
Indians v. County of San Diego, supra, 68 Cal.App.4th at page 571; Gentry
v. City of Murrieta, supra, 36 Cal.App.4th at page 1375; see also Federation
of Hillside & Canyon Associations v. City of Los Angeles (2000) 83
Cal.App.4th 1252, 1259 [100 Cal.Rptr.2d 301].
FN10 Pala Band of Mission
Indians v. County of San Diego, supra, 68 Cal.App.4th at pages 571-572; Gentry
v. City of Murrieta, supra, 36 Cal.App.4th at pages 1375-1376.
The County claims the trial court erred in finding the
project description inadequate. The County also claims that any inadequacies
did not support the court's order to prepare an EIR.
Generally, an agency will prepare an initial threshold study to gather
information necessary to determine whether to prepare an EIR or a negative declaration. [FN11] The initial study must
include a description of the project. [FN12] The study must also
"[p]rovide documentation of the factual basis for the finding in a
negative declaration that a project will not have a significant effect on the
FN11 Guidelines section 15063,
subdivision (c)(1); see also Christward Ministry v. Superior Court
(1986) 184 Cal.App.3d 180, 186 [228 Cal.Rptr. 868].
FN12 Guidelines section 15063,
FN13 Guidelines section 15063,
The negative declaration is inappropriate where the agency has failed to
provide an accurate project description or to gather information and undertake
an adequate environmental analysis. [FN14] An accurate and complete project
description is necessary for an intelligent evaluation of the potential
environmental impacts of the agency's action. [FN15] "Only through an
accurate view of the project may affected outsiders and public decision-makers
balance the proposal's benefit against its environmental cost, consider
mitigation measures, assess the advantage of terminating the proposal ... and
weigh other alternatives in the balance." [FN16]
FN14 See Sundstrom v. County
of Mendocino (1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 296, 311 [248 Cal.Rptr. 352]; Christward
Ministry v. Superior Court, supra, 184 Cal.App.3d at page 197.
FN15 Silveira v. Las Gallinas
Valley Sanitary Dist. (1997) 54 Cal.App.4th 980, 990 [63 Cal.Rptr.2d 244];
see also San Joaquin Raptor/Wildlife Rescue Center v. County of Stanislaus
(1994) 27 Cal.App.4th 713, 730 [32 Cal.Rptr.2d 704]; McQueen v. Board of
Directors (1988) 202 Cal.App.3d 1136, 1143 [249 Cal.Rptr. 439]; County
of Inyo v. City of Los Angeles (1977) 71 Cal.App.3d 185, 193 [139 Cal.Rptr.
FN16 County of Inyo v. City
of Los Angeles, supra, 71 Cal.App.3d at pages 192-193.
In this case, the initial study characterized the project as an amendment to
revise land use policies relating to unincorporated territory within a city's
sphere of influence and to clarify the County's authority and discretion
relating to land use planning and development. Despite this benign description,
the changes themselves reveal far broader consequences.
Rancho Cucamonga and Redlands alleged that, before the 1999 amendment, the
County's general plan required that the County conform development within a
city's sphere of influence to that city's planning and zoning standards,
support annexation of urban areas within a city's sphere of influence to that
city, require a conditional use permit for certain development, and implement
other policies to ensure these goals. Rancho Cucamonga claimed that the Board's
adoption of the amendments eliminated all of these requirements.
The record supports the cities' contention. In adopting the amendments, the
Board often replaced mandatory language with more permissive or discretionary
language. For example, one former provision in policy LU- 10 stated:
"Review the master plans and/or general plans of all agencies and incorporate
any and all policies that are applicable and appropriate into the County
General Plan." The provision now reads: "Review the master plans
and/or general plans of affected agencies and consider the provisions of
those plans in the implementation of the County General Plan."
A former provision contained in policy LU-9 relating to growth control
provided: "Recognize and implement growth control limits adopted by
cities as they apply to spheres." The amended provision states: "Consider
implementation of growth control limits adopted by cities as they apply to
spheres, unless such limits conflict with the goals and policies of the County
The amendments entirely eliminated certain provisions containing various
requirements or limitations. One such provision originally provided:
"Require Conditional Use Permits within city spheres of influence for all
development other than single family residences and expansions of existing uses
that are less than 25%." From the policies pertaining to the West Valley
Foothills planning area, the Board also eliminated the following requirement:
"Adopt and implement the slope development guidelines of adjoining
Additionally, the amendments granted the county greater discretion in land use
matters relating to unincorporated territory. In determining whether to apply a
city's development policies and standards, the Board added the phrase, "as
determined based on the goals and policies of the County General Plan."
Also, under the heading, "Land Use Planning in the Sphere of Influence ...
Areas," the Board included the following language: "The County
possesses final authority to regulate land use within all unincorporated areas,
including those areas located in the cities' spheres of influence. However, in
order to ensure orderly quality development with adequate public services ...
the County will seek input from a City on the subject of any land use
entitlement applied for within [Rancho Cucamonga's] sphere of influence prior
to approving any such application."
As argued by the cities, the amendments were more than mere clarifications of
existing general plan provisions. By adopting the amendments, the Board made
substantive changes to the County's policies and procedures in making land use
and development decisions involving unincorporated territory within a city's
sphere of influence. In essence, the amendments eliminated the requirement that
the County give substantial weight to and even implement the standards provided
in an affected city's general plan. *408
In fact, the Board adopted the amendments in response to Redlands's successful
litigation against the County involving a conflict between the County's general
plan and Redlands's growth control measures and development standards. Under
the new amendments, where a conflict between city and county standards exist,
the County has granted itself discretion to override city standards in making
decisions concerning land within that city's sphere of influence. It appears
that what the County failed to do in court, it attempted to accomplish through
Moreover, the initial threshold study is inadequate because it fails to provide
sufficient evidence or analysis of the potential environmental effects of the
amendments. [FN17] "The agency should not be allowed to hide behind its
own failure to gather relevant data." [FN18] Although the amendments
essentially indicate a movement away from a city's standards and a movement
toward county's exercise of greater discretion, the County does not provide
evidence to show how such a shift in policy would have little or no effect on
FN17 Sundstrom v. County of Mendocino,
supra, 202 Cal.App.3d at page 311.
FN18 Sundstrom v. County of
Mendocino, supra, 202 Cal.App.3d at page 311.
In the initial study, although the County checked either the "no
impact" or "less than significant impact" options, the County
failed to cite any evidence in support of its findings. Instead, under each
environmental factor, the County provided the following evaluation with slight
variations: "The policy changes proposed in this General Plan Amendment
are not expected to result in any significant environmental impacts related to
[--]. The project would revise County polices concerning city spheres of
influence and coordination of County planning with other agencies. The revised
policies emphasize the primacy of County land use plans and polices over those
of any city as long as an area remains unincorporated, under County
jurisdiction. No changes are proposed for any goals, policies or action items
related to [--]. This project will have no direct physical impacts on the
environment, and the potential differences in future land development would
have no significant effect on [--].
"As an indirect result of this project, more properties may develop under
County land use jurisdiction instead of annexing to cities. Remaining
unincorporated would not affect existing [--] ...."
The County's response indicates an impermissible attempt to evade environmental
review by failing to address the consequences of the revisions to its policy
and procedures. Indeed, the County's efforts can be characterized as "a
token observance of regulatory requirements." [FN19]
FN19 Sundstrom v. County of
Mendocino, supra, 202 Cal.App.3d at page 305.
Not only does CEQA apply to revisions or amendments to an agency's general
plan, but CEQA reaches beyond the mere changes in the language in the agency's
policy to the ultimate consequences of such changes to the physical
environment. [FN20] A general plan embodies an agency's fundamental policy
decisions to guide virtually all future growth and development. [FN21] "Even
if a general plan amendment is treated merely as a 'first phase' with later
developments having separate approvals and environmental assessments, it is
apparent that an evaluation of a 'first phase-general plan amendment' must
necessarily include a consideration of the larger project, i.e., the future
development permitted by the amendment. Only then can the ultimate effect of
the amendment upon the physical environment be addressed." [FN22]
FN20 Christward Ministry v.
Superior Court, supra, 184 Cal.App.3d at page 194; City of Livermore v.
Local Agency Formation Com. (1986) 184 Cal.App.3d 531, 539 [230 Cal.Rptr.
FN21 Federation of Hillside
& Canyon Associations v. City of Los Angeles, supra, 83 Cal.App.4th at
FN22 Christward Ministry v.
Superior Court, supra, 184 Cal.App.3d at page 194; see also Rio Vista
Farm Bureau Center v. County of Solano (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 351, 370-371 [7
The record indicates that the County has failed to consider such reasonably
anticipated future development. In response to specific complaints of
segmentation, the County noted: "The proposed Sphere Policy changes do
not, in and of themselves, lead to potential significant impacts either
directly or ultimately because future projects within the spheres will be
evaluated on their own merits based on the issues associated with each
individual sphere where the project occurs."
The County's response is again inadequate. On the one hand, the County states
that the amendments may result in greater development under County's
jurisdiction without annexation to a city; yet, on the other hand, the County
insists that the amendments would have little or no significant effect on the
environment. The County apparently anticipates no future development impacting the
environment. The record, however, clearly indicates the existence of not only
potential future development, but at least one existing project undergoing
separate environmental review. Thus, the County has failed to adequately
consider future development in making its determination to adopt the negative
CEQA advances a policy of requiring an agency to evaluate the environmental
effects of a project at the earliest possible stage in the planning process.
[FN23] We conclude that, by failing to accurately describe the agency action
and by deferring full environmental assessment of the consequences of such
action, the County has failed to comply with CEQA's policy and requirements.
FN23 Public Resources Code
section 21003.1; Sundstrom v. County of Mendocino, supra, 202 Cal.App.3d
at page 307.
The County alternatively claims that any inadequacies did not support the
court's order to prepare an EIR. Rather, the County argues that the court
should have required a revised initial study or reconsideration of the negative
declaration. [FN24] As discussed in the next section, however, because there
was substantial evidence of significant environmental impacts, the court
properly ordered the County to prepare an EIR.
FN24 Silveira v. Las Gallinas
Valley Sanitary Dist., supra, 54 Cal.App.4th at page 992; Gentry v. City
of Murrieta, supra, 36 Cal.App.4th at page 1379.
An agency must prepare an EIR if the project may have a
significant effect on the environment. [FN25] Therefore, as stated above, we
must determine whether the record discloses substantial evidence to support a
fair argument that the general plan amendments may have a significant effect on
the environment. [FN26]
FN25 Public Resources Code
section 21100, subdivision (a); No Oil, Inc. v. City of Los Angeles
(1974) 13 Cal.3d 68, 75 [118 Cal.Rptr. 34, 529 P.2d 66].
FN26 See Gentry v. City of
Murrieta, supra, 36 Cal.App.4th at pages 1399-1400.
The following does not qualify as substantial evidence under CEQA: "argument,
speculation, unsubstantiated opinion or narrative, evidence that is clearly
inaccurate or erroneous, or evidence of social or economic impacts that do not
contribute to, or are not caused by, physical impacts on the environment."
[FN27] Substantial evidence, instead, consists of "fact, a reasonable
assumption predicated upon fact, or expert opinion supported by fact."
FN27 Public Resources Code
section 21080, subdivision (e)(2).
FN28 Public Resources Code
section 21080, subdivision (e)(1).
The County argues that the cities failed to provide the required evidence in
challenging the County's findings. Specifically, the County argues that the
letters that were submitted in opposition of the proposed amendments were
comprised of argument, speculation, and nonexpert opinion.
While the cities may produce expert opinion evidence, they may also present
other evidence of facts and reasonable assumptions from those facts. [FN29]
There is no requirement therefore that the city produce expert testimony in order
to support a fair argument that the project may have a significant effect on
the environment. [FN30]
FN29 Public Resources Code
section 21080, subdivision (e)(1).
FN30 See Stanislaus Audubon
Society, Inc. v. County of Stanislaus (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 144, 152-153
[39 Cal.Rptr.2d 54].
In its letters to the Board, Rancho Cucamonga discussed the original terms of
the County's general plan, the language of the amendments themselves, and the
provisions of its general plan to demonstrate the shift in the County's
policies regarding territory within a city's sphere of influence. Rancho
Cucamonga then drew reasonable inferences from this evidence to present a fair
argument that the amendments may produce a significant impact on the
environment. In support of its position, Rancho Cucamonga cited the City of
Livermore v. Local Agency Formation Com. [FN31]
FN31 City of Livermore v.
Local Agency Formation Com., supra, 184 Cal.App.3d 531.
In the City of Livermore, the city sued the Alameda County Local Agency
Formation Commission (LAFCO) to require LAFCO to prepare an EIR before adopting
its revised sphere of influence guidelines. In characterizing its revision as
an incorporation of its existing policies and procedures as they had evolved
over the past decade, LAFCO essentially made two changes to the guidelines.
First, LAFCO deleted the statement, " 'Existing and future urban
development areas belong in cities.' " [FN32] Second, LAFCO added language
that future incorporation of urban development located outside of a city's
sphere of influence would be based on the county's, rather than the city's,
general plan. In its attempt at complying with CEQA, LAFCO conducted an initial
study and, despite the city's objections, adopted a negative declaration. In
response to the city's lawsuit, the trial court ordered LAFCO to prepare an EIR
to analyze the environmental impact of its revisions.
FN32 City of Livermore v.
Local Agency Formation Com., supra, 184 Cal.App.3d at page 536.
In affirming the trial court's decision, the appellate court stated that, while
the record disclosed substantial evidence of potential environmental impact,
the record failed to show any persuasive evidence to the contrary. A planning
consultant for the city submitted a report that listed several possible effects
on the environment, including "(1) greater consumption of land to
accommodate the same level of population and economic activity, (2)
deterioration of existing cities, (3) promotion of growth in unincorporated
areas to pay obligations underwriting the services provided by a new urban
service area, (4) inability of existing cities to meet bond obligations due to
the direction of growth away from these cities, (5) increased net travel
resulting in greater energy consumption and pollution, (6) loss of open space,
and (7) conversion of agricultural land to nonagricultural uses, reducing the
availability of land productive for agriculture and the number of scenic
areas." [FN33] Additionally, the administrative record included letters
from various entities, including other affected cities.
FN33 City of Livermore v.
Local Agency Formation Com., supra, 184 Cal.App.3d at pages 541-542.
In an attempt to refute this evidence, LAFCO provided a conclusory resolution
concerning its own interpretation of the revisions. LAFCO also attacked the
reliability of the planning consultant's report. Based on this weak evidence
against a fair argument that the revisions may have a significant effect on the
environment, the court concluded that LAFCO's negative declaration must be set
FN34 City of Livermore v.
Local Agency Formation Com., supra, 184 Cal.App.3d at page 542.
Similarly, in this case, Rancho Cucamonga, Redlands, and every affected city
that took a nonneutral position toward the amendments, submitted written
objections. Many cities provided lengthy evaluations of the potential effects
of the amendments. In its written objection, Rancho Cucamonga argued that the
amendments would discourage annexations and promote development in unincorporated
areas. In support of its argument, Rancho Cucamonga cited the language of the
amended version of the County's general plan. By comparing the County's amended
general plan and its own general plan, Rancho Cucamonga pointed to several
potential conflicts that, under the County's new policies, may result in
development that would not have otherwise been permitted under the County's
former general plan.
Before considering specific examples, we note that, when the project under
environmental review involves amendments or revisions to a general plan, the
results of the environmental studies usually will lack the degree of
specificity involved in other projects such as a construction project. [FN35]
Therefore, the environmental analysis will focus on expected secondary effects,
rather than specific identifiable consequences. [FN36]
FN35 Schaeffer Land Trust v.
San Jose City Council (1989) 215 Cal.App.3d 612, 625 [263 Cal.Rptr. 813].
FN36 Schaeffer Land Trust v.
San Jose City Council, supra, 215 Cal.App.3d at page 625.
In providing an example of such expected secondary effects, Rancho Cucamonga
discussed the West Valley Foothills Planning Area polices, which impacts
territory within Rancho Cucamonga's sphere of influence. Under the County's
former general plan, the County was required to "[a]dopt and implement the
slope development guidelines of adjoining
communities." As previously stated, the amendments delete this
provision. Rancho Cucamonga provided a copy of its own policies concerning
slope development. Rancho Cucamonga's general plan and development standards
are "designed to minimize grading, preserve natural contours, minimize
erosion, maintain open space and protect public safety[,] protect water and
biological resources[,] while allowing for limited development in harmony with
the environment." Under Rancho Cucamonga's standards, grading of slopes
greater than 15 percent is significantly limited and grading of slopes greater
than 30 percent is completely prohibited. By contrast, the County permits grading
of slopes greater than 30 percent with certain limitations. Based on these
facts, Rancho Cucamonga reasonably inferred that the deletion of the provision
requiring the County to adopt its standards would allow for an increase in
grading, thereby destroying the natural contours of hillsides and possibly
eliminating the natural habitat of certain plants and animals.
Rancho Cucamonga also pointed to the amendments dealing with standards for the
density of development. The amendments eliminate language requiring the County
to implement the cities' growth control limits and development standards. The
amendments also eliminate the conditional use permit requirement for certain
development. Based on the revised language, the County is required only to take
the cities' standards into consideration in exercising its discretion to apply
its own standards. Under its general plan, Rancho Cucamonga requires five acres
of park for every 1,000 inhabitants. The County, on the other hand, requires
three acres of park for every 1,000 inhabitants. Rancho Cucamonga also notes
that, unlike the County, it calculates the permitted density of development in
net acreage, thereby excluding existing parks and open spaces. As stated by
Rancho Cucamonga, it is reasonable to assume that such development would reduce
the amount of open space as well as adversely impact traffic and air quality.
In a letter submitted by counsel for several of the affected cities, including
Rancho Cucamonga and Redlands, counsel noted the inadequacies of the County's
proposed negative declaration. In particular, counsel referred to the
amendments dealing with public utilities and services. Under the previous
version of the County's general plan, a developer was required, with limited
exceptions, to locate service connections for its projects within a mile away
from sewer main lines. The amended version makes this condition discretionary.
Under the amendments, rather than supporting annexation based on certain
factors, including the city's ability and commitment to provide services, the
County simply must review and consider a city's request for annexation. As to
the policies dealing specifically with the east Loma Linda and west Redlands
sphere of influence areas, the County eliminated two provisions mandating that
new development comply with the city's service requirements and obtain the
necessary service commitments prior to approval. As noted by Redlands, these
amendments may lead to conflicts in coordinating services to the areas within a
city's sphere of influence.
The above examples provide a sample of the expected secondary consequences to
the County's adoption of the amendments. Based on the drastic changes to the
County's general plan, reasonable assumptions of environmental impact may be
discerned simply from the language of the amendments themselves. Nevertheless,
in referring to differences in policies before and after the amendments, the
cities have presented substantial evidence of a fair argument that the
amendments may have a significant effect on the environment.
Moreover, the County admitted that the amendments may cause an increase in
development under the County's jurisdiction without annexation. The County also
acknowledged "... a history of conflict with the cities of Redlands and
Rancho Cucamonga over the concept of allowing development in unincorporated
sphere of influence areas, and over the application of city development
standards or growth control measures." Although the County would argue
that the amendments simply clarify its interpretation of the language in the
pre-amended version of its general plan, the County fails to cite any
substantial evidence in support of its argument.
Ironically, the County complains concerning the cities' lack of evidence, when
it initially set the stage by failing to gather facts and evidence in
conducting its initial study of the amendments' potential environmental
effects. The County's conclusory evaluation of the amendments fail to support
its decision to adopt a negative declaration.
Rather, there is substantial evidence of a fair argument for potential
significant environmental impact. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court
properly ordered the County to comply with CEQA by preparing an EIR.
Under Public Resources Code section 21168.9, upon a finding
of the agency's noncompliance with CEQA, the court must enter an order
mandating that the agency set aside its decision and take any necessary action
to achieve compliance. [FN37]
FN37 Public Resources Code
section 21168.9, subdivision (a)(1) and (3).
In exercising its authority under this provision, the trial court commanded the
County "not to readopt General Plan Amendment GPA/CW1-849N, or any similar
amendment(s) to the County's General Plan concerning planning, land use and
annexation policies that affect the areas of the County that are within the
spheres of influence of any incorporated city in the County without first
preparing and considering an [EIR] and fully complying with [CEQA]."
The County claims this language is overbroad, vague, ambiguous, and invalid
under common law, constitutional law, and statutory law. None of the County's
claims have merit.
In its first argument, the County contends that the language is overbroad
because it extends beyond the scope of the litigation. Although the County
cites various cases dealing specifically with injunctions that infringe upon
constitutionally protected activity, we agree with the County that an
injunctive order should be limited in scope to the subject of the litigation.
[FN38] We disagree, however, with the County's argument that the court's order
prohibiting the adoption of "similar amendments" extended beyond the
scope of the litigation. Rather, the court reasonably included this additional
requirement to prevent the County from attempting technical compliance with the
court's order (i.e., by simply enacting new amendments with similar language),
without remedying the deficiencies raised in this action (i.e., the County's
failure to comply with CEQA before enacting the amendments).
FN38 Watsonville Canning
& Frozen Food Co. v. Superior Court (1986) 178 Cal.App.3d 1242, 1248
[224 Cal.Rptr. 303]; see Endangered Habitats League, Inc. v. State Water
Resources Control Bd. (1997) 63 Cal.App.4th 227, 244 [73 Cal.Rptr.2d 388].
In challenging the injunction on the grounds of vagueness and ambiguity, the
County argues that the language would leave a person of common intelligence
guessing as to the court's meaning of a "similar amendment."
Generally, "an injunction must not be uncertain or ambiguous and the
defendant must be able to determine from the order what he may and may not do.
However, in determining whether the defendant has been given sufficient notice
of the conduct proscribed or compelled, the language of the injunction must be
interpreted in light of the record which discloses the kind of conduct that is
sought to be enjoined." [FN39]) When interpreted in light of the record,
the court's order clearly indicates that the County is prohibited from making
substantive changes to its land use and development standards without complying
with CEQA. Again, as stated above, the court's order is reasonably tailored to
prevent the County from circumventing the court's ruling by simply enacting
similar amendments and avoiding the requirements of CEQA.
FN39 People v. Wheeler
(1973) 30 Cal.App.3d 282, 296 [106 Cal.Rptr. 260], citing Continental Baking
Co. v. Katz (1968) 68 Cal.2d 512, 534 [67 Cal.Rptr. 761, 439 P.2d 889].
The County next argues that the court's order constituted an impermissible "obey
the law" injunction. We disagree. While a court may not issue a broad
injunction to simply obey the law, thereby subjecting a person to contempt
proceedings for committing at any time in the future some new violation
unrelated to the original allegations, the court is entitled to restrain the
person from committing similar or related unlawful activity. [FN40] That is
exactly what the court did here.
FN40 See National Labor
Relations Board v. Express Pub. Co. (1941) 312 U.S. 426, 435-437 [61 S.Ct.
693, 699-700, 85 L.Ed. 930].
The County contends that the court's injunction encroaches upon the County's
constitutional and statutory authority to legislate in the area of land use and
development. This contention also lacks merit. The County's authority is only
limited insofar as it attempts to adopt similar, not minor or insignificant,
changes to its general plan without complying with the state's environmental
In its final argument, the County argues that the court violated Public Resources
Code section 21168.9, subdivision (b), which provides that the court's order
must include only those mandates that are necessary to achieve CEQA compliance.
[FN41] For the reasons stated above, we conclude that the court properly
exercised its authority under section 21168.9 in prohibiting the County from
engaging in the same or similar unlawful activity.
FN41 Public Resources Code
section 21168.9, subdivision (b).
Therefore, we conclude the court did not exceed its jurisdiction in including
this additional requirement in its writ of mandate.
We affirm the trial court's judgment. Rancho Cucamonga and
Redlands shall recover their costs on appeal.
Ramirez, P. J., and Hollenhorst, J., concurred.
CITY OF REDLANDS, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO et al.,
Defendants and Appellants. CITY OF RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v. COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO et al., Defendants and Appellants.