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Even Where No Environmental Review Was Undertaken, 30-Day Statute of Limitations for CEQA Challenge Applies Whenever NOD is Filed

Yesterday, in Committee for Green Foothills v. County of Santa Clara, the California Supreme Court considered the question, if a notice of determination (“NOD”) has been filed, but an action alleges that no environmental review was undertaken, which statute of limitations applies: (1) the general 30-day limit on challenges following a notice, or (2) the longer 180-day period provided for a case alleging that no environmental determination was made (§ 21167, subd. (a)).

The Court held that the filing of an NOD triggers a 30-day statute of limitations for all CEQA challenges to the decision announced in the notice.

In this case, the County of Santa Clara had approved an agreement as a subsequent activity encompassed within two previous program environmental impact reports (“EIR”), found that because environmental review was previously undertaken no further review was required, and filed an NOD for this decision. Petitioners filed a CEQA action challenging this decision outside of the 30-day statute of limitations, but within the 180-day statute of limitations provided in Public Resources Code section 21167 subd. (a). The Court upheld the County’s demurrer, holding that “[i]f a valid NOD has been filed, any challenge to that decision under CEQA must be brought within 30 days, regardless of the nature of the alleged violation.” The question, the Court stated, “is not the substance of the agency’s decision, but whether the public was notified of that decision.”

For information regarding the impact this decision may have on your city or any other CEQA issues, contact Julia Bond or Ed Grutzmacher.