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Court of Appeal Rules Developers Can Recover CEQA Administrative Record Costs

In the partially published opinion for Citizens for Ceres v. City of Ceres (Sept.12, 2016), the Fifth District held that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) allows the developer to recover costs of administrative record preparation where the city actually incurred those costs and the developer reimbursed the city for those costs.  Citizens for Ceres challenged the City of Ceres’ certification of an Environmental Impact Report and approval of a shopping center project proposed by Walmart.  The Court, in the unpublished portion of the opinion, upheld the trial court’s rejection of all of Citizens’ CEQA arguments.

On the issue of costs, the trial court, relying on Hayward Area Planning Assn. v. City of Hayward, had held that Hayward prohibited Walmart from recovering the costs of preparing the administrative record.  The Fifth District disagreed with Hayward to the extent that Hayward interpreted Public Resources Code Section 21167.6 as prohibiting a prevailing real party in interest from recovering the costs of administrative record preparation, so long as the record was prepared in one of the three ways specified under section 21167.6.  Here, because Citizens had requested the City to prepare the administrative record and the City had done so, the costs of record preparation were recoverable by the prevailing parties.  Thus, the Court of Appeal remanded the case to the trial court for a determination of the reasonableness of the claimed costs.

Meyers Nave represented the City of Ceres in this case.