California Drought Advisory – Water Conservation Regulations

After an expedited rulemaking process, the State Water Resources Control Board’s (“Water Board”) emergency drought regulations (“regulations”) became effective when the Office of Administrative Law approved them on May 15. The regulations are designed to result in an immediate statewide 25% reduction in potable urban water usage, in compliance with the Governor’s April 1, 2015 Drought Emergency Executive Order (“Order”). The regulations will remain in effect for 270 days, unless the Water Board determines that they are no longer necessary, due to changed conditions. Agencies subject to the regulations must begin implementation immediately.  To support implementation, the Governor has committed funds through legislation and state budget revisions and the Water Board has approved funding guidelines.

Conservation Standards

The regulations will require urban water suppliers (suppliers serving more than 3,000 connections) to meet individualized water-conservation standards.  Urban water suppliers are assigned to one of nine conservation standards (requiring a reduction of between 4% and 36%). Consistent with the Governor’s directive, the Water Board assigned urban water suppliers to higher or lower conservation standards based on their per-capita water usage. Each urban water supplier’s conservation standard can be found here. The conservation standard will be applied on a monthly basis beginning in June 2015 and continuing through January 2016 relative to the water usage in the same month in 2013. Compliance will be measured on a cumulative basis, meaning a water supplier assigned a conservation standard of 25% that reduces usage by 30% in June would not be out of compliance if it failed to meet the 25% standard in July, so long as the cumulative reduction over the two months is more than 25%.

The Water Board has advised that agencies failing to meet the conservation standard can be issued cease and desist orders and the Water Board can impose civil liability of $10,000 per day for violations of the orders.

Non-urban water suppliers can choose between implementing either a 25% reduction or restricting outdoor irrigation to two days per week.

The regulations will allow urban water suppliers to seek a reduced conservation standard if more than 20% of their water is supplied to commercial agriculture or if they have adequate supplies of local surface water. Requirements to apply for the reduced conservation standard were issued on May 21 and are available here.

Irrigation Restrictions

The regulations prohibit irrigation outside of newly constructed buildings not in compliance with standards to be issued by the Building Standards Commission and the Department of Housing and Community Development. The Building Standards Commission will consider regulations on May 29 to implement this aspect of Governor’s directive.

The regulations also prohibit irrigation of public street medians with potable water.  The prohibition against irrigation could potentially apply to turf that provides storm water treatment, slope stabilization, or even dust control functions. One of the Fact Sheets accompanying the draft emergency regulations indicates that implementation guidance will be provided on these prohibitions to ensure that “existing trees remain healthy and do not present a public safety hazard.”

State Funding for Drought Relief

Over the past few months, the state has taken a number of actions to support public agencies’ drought response efforts and Water Board program implementation. On March 27, 2015, the Governor approved a $1 billion emergency drought relief package allowing the Water Board to develop and implement new drought response programs. As a result, on May 19, the Water Board approved guidelines for $19 million in funding to help public agencies, community water systems, not-for-profit organizations, and tribal governments meet emergency drinking water needs.  Additional information and resources on this program can be found here.

On May 14th, the Governor released his May Revision of the State Budget, which includes an additional $2.2 billion in one-time resources to continue the state’s response to drought impacts.  $1.7 billion is allocated for State Water Board Programs.  The Governor proposed a portion of the funds to support local agency and small community efforts to build or upgrade their wastewater systems to meet current standards.

Meyers Nave’s Multidisciplinary Drought Response Team: For nearly three decades, Meyers Nave has assisted public and private clients confronted with complex regulatory and legal challenges. California’s historic drought is raising the stakes and increasing the complexity of water issues that were difficult in times of normal water supply. The drought has also spurred development of new laws and regulations, including the State Water Resources Control Board’s emergency regulations and the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The most creative, effective and practical solutions to these new challenges require the comprehensive expertise of our multidisciplinary Drought Response Team, which consists of attorneys who specialize in all key areas of law including Land Use, Environmental, Litigation, Eminent Domain, Infrastructure Development, Construction, and Public Agency, Contracts and Finance.

Meyers Nave Sponsors the Annual Gala for the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles

April 29, 2015

LOS ANGELES – Meyers Nave is proud to announce that our Los Angeles office is a Gold sponsor of the Annual Gala for the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, the only LGBT bar association in Los Angeles. The event will be held at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and will celebrate the organization’s leadership throughout the country on behalf of the LGBT community. Meyers Nave  thanks the Lesbian and Gay Lawyers Association of Los Angeles for serving a great purpose, providing strong leadership, guiding meaningful change, and inspiring better communities for the last 36 years.

Published Opinion: Second District Confirms That Anti-SLAPP Statute Protects Private Support for Major Public Projects And Institutions

The Second District published today its December 22, 2014 decision in Save Westwood Village v. Meyer Luskin, applying the anti-SLAPP statute to protect significant charitable donations to public institutions and projects from baseless claims.  The Court of Appeal confirmed that written and financial support from private donors for a new University of California facility is expression protected by the constitutional right of free speech.  In addition, the Court rejected arguments that the claim against the private donors was exempt from the anti-SLAPP statute as a public interest lawsuit.

The underlying lawsuit challenges the University of California’s approval of a new $162M academic conference center, currently under construction on the UCLA campus.  In addition to the University, project opponents sued two private individuals who donated $100M to UCLA, including a $40M pledge for the construction of the conference center, and the UCLA Foundation, the non-profit entity who received the charitable donation on the University’s behalf.  The private donors and the UCLA Foundation filed a special motion to strike pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16.  The anti-SLAPP statute was enacted to limit the improper use of litigation to attack constitutionally-protected free speech.  The project opponents argued that their claims were exempt from the anti-SLAPP statute as a public interest lawsuit.

The Court of Appeal affirmed in full the trial court’s ruling, which granted the anti-SLAPP motion and awarded legal fees to the private donors and the non-profit foundation.  The Court first ruled that the public interest exemption did not apply because the claims against the private individuals and non-profit were not brought in the public interest.  Further, the donors’ pledges of support were constitutionally-protected written expression as “private conduct that impacts a broad segment of society and/or that affects a community in a manner similar to that of a governmental entity.”  The Court of Appeal also held that the opponents were unable to show any possibility of prevailing against the private entities, noting that the opponents dismissed those entities on the eve of the trial court hearing.

Save Westwood Village reiterates the principle that project opponents cannot use claims against public entities as a shield to protect improper lawsuits against private entities and individuals.  This ruling should help curtail unnecessary lawsuits filed against public agencies for the sole purpose of circumventing the anti-SLAPP statute.  It also provides additional security to those who support public institutions, by confirming that the anti-SLAPP statute is available to protect their constitutional rights.

Meyers Nave Argues Landmark CEQA Case Before CA Supreme Court

On December 2, Amrit Kulkarni presented oral argument before the California Supreme Court on a case that Law360 calls the “biggest CEQA case” and members of the state’s land use legal community describe as a “landmark” case that will result in a “blockbuster decision.”

Amrit and Julia Bond are handling the high-profile matter of Berkeley Hillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley on behalf of Lotus founder Mitch Kapor and his wife, Freada Kapor-Klein, which addresses whether a full environmental impact report is required for their proposed single-family home on a hillside lot. The California Supreme Court granted the City of Berkeley’s petition for review after a lower court required that an environmental impact report be prepared for the home despite the fact that CEQA categorically exempts single family homes from that requirement.   

The case will have profound implications for courts, private landowners and project developers, and all government agencies that regularly rely on categorical exemptions. If the Supreme Court affirms the lower court’s decision, it will be more difficult to qualify for the exemptions that legislatures provided in the CEQA guidelines to help streamline and shorten the review process for minor projects.

The Court’s ruling in this case is expected by March 2, 2015. Below are examples of the extensive media coverage of this precedent-setting case.

California Supreme Court Divided In Key CEQA Case

California Supreme Court Urged To Reinforce CEQA Exemptions

California High Court Could Play Major Role In CEQA Reform

CEQA Reform: The Aggrieved Instigator

Meyers Nave Continues Winning Streak on Behalf of Sacramento Kings

Agreeing with Meyers Nave, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld a lower court ruling that denied a request for an injunction to halt construction of a new $477 million downtown arena for the Sacramento Kings. The Court’s Nov. 20 decision rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of SB 743, which amended the California Environmental Quality Act to facilitate expedited review of the arena and set a target of 270 days for resolving CEQA litigation related to the arena.

The National Basketball Association holds a contractual option to buy and move the team if the arena is not completed by 2017. The tight schedule led to the passage of SB 743, which plaintiffs in Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento asserted was an “unconstitutional intrusion of the legislative branch on the core function of the courts.” The Court disagreed, holding there was no material impairment of core court function and further stating that “CEQA review does not implicate any constitutionally granted right. Consequently, even if the deadlines set [by SB 743] are short, they are not unconstitutional.”

The latest victory is one in a series of high-profile hurdles the City of Sacramento has overcome with the help of a dedicated team of Meyers Nave attorneys led by David Skinner, Adam Lindgren, Amrit Kulkarni and Shaye Diveley. Their unbeaten track record includes preventing the Sacramento Kings from moving to Seattle, obtaining an eminent domain win giving the City permission to take over the final piece of downtown property, and defeating a proposed ballot measure for a public vote on the City’s $255 million subsidy for the project.

Meyers Nave Obtains Rare Writ of Supersedeas

On Nov. 12, Division One of the Second Appellate District granted a rare writ of supersedeas benefiting Meyers Nave’s client in a case that will help define the constitutional powers of elected bodies. The case addresses whether the Los Angeles City Council may withdraw its “delegation” of authority to the Retirement Board in setting the amount of a health care “subsidy” for retired Police and Fire Department union members.

“This is only the second time in over 30 years of California appellate practice that I have seen one of these,” said Harry W.R. Chamberlain, Principal and Certified Specialist in Appellate Law at Meyers Nave. Supersedeas preserves the “status quo” while the City of LA pursues its appeal on constitutional and statutory grounds challenging the trial court’s finding that authority was irrevocably “vested” in  the Board. The writ of supersedeas enjoins enforcement of the Superior Court’s decision that authorized the Retirement Board to proceed. It also stays the remaining trial court proceedings until the issues are resolved on appeal.


Brenda Aguilar-Guerrero Receives Unity Award from Minority Bar Coalition

OAKLAND — Brenda Aguilar-Guerrero, the Chair of Meyers Nave’s Eminent Domain and Inverse Condemnation Practice, received a 2014 Unity Award from the Minority Bar Coalition in recognition of her dedication to advancing the cause of diversity in the legal profession.

The Minority Bar Coalition (MBC) is a network of more than 35 public and private organizations that are working together to facilitate progress in improving diversity throughout the Bay Area’s legal community. Brenda’s award was bestowed during the MBC’s Nov. 12 ceremony at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

Brenda was nominated by the Women Lawyers of Alameda County, where she has been a member for many years, assisted numerous committees and currently serves as President of the Board. Brenda also is a member of the East Bay La Raza Lawyers Association and a previous recipient of the State Bar of California’s Wiley Manuel Pro Bono Award. At Meyers Nave, Brenda helps to guide the firm’s Diversity, Inclusion and Women’s Initiative efforts.

In her legal practice, Brenda represents clients in complex eminent domain and inverse condemnation matters, ranging from large-scale transportation projects requiring hundreds of property acquisitions to smaller infrastructure and other development projects. Brenda earned her JD from UCLA and her bachelor’s degree in social welfare from the University of California at Berkeley.

Meyers Nave congratulates Brenda on receiving this well-deserved award.

Meyers Nave Scores Crucial CEQA Win for Sacramento’s New Downtown Pro Basketball Arena

In a 21-page ruling, Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley agreed with Meyers Nave attorneys and denied all challenges that two groups brought under the California Environmental Quality Act to the Environmental Impact Report for a downtown arena that will serve as the new home for Sacramento’s professional basketball team. As reported by the Sacramento Bee, the ruling “clears away much of the lingering uncertainty” over the $477 million project even though the Oct. 17 decision could be appealed. City Attorney James Sanchez explained that “These are significant challenges. … With the CEQA law being what it is, there are many ways to challenge a project as complex as this.”

The CEQA victory is one of many high profile hurdles the City of Sacramento has overcome with the help of a dedicated team of Meyers Nave attorneys led by David Skinner, Adam Lindgren and Amrit Kulkarni. Their unbeaten track record includes preventing the Sacramento Kings from moving to Seattle, obtaining an eminent domain win giving the City permission to take over the final piece of downtown property, prevailing against an injunction that would have delayed construction, and defeating a proposed ballot measure for a public vote on the City’s $255 million subsidy for the project.

Arena foes continue searching for ways to oppose the project, such as a lawsuit challenging the City’s subsidy and litigation to resolve the price of a now-demolished building that was the subject of eminent domain proceedings. The Meyers Nave team continues to move forward with its representation of the City of Sacramento in bringing to fruition an arena that is so important that Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 743 which declares that a “new, more efficient entertainment and sports center located in downtown Sacramento is needed to meet the city’s and region’s needs.“