California Supreme Court Watch

May 17, 2023
Make UC A Good Neighbor v. Regents of University of California, S279242.

#23-93 Make UC A Good Neighbor v. Regents of University of California, S279242. (A165451; 88 Cal.App.5th 656, mod. 88 Cal.App.5th 1293a; Alameda County Superior Court; RG21110142.) Petition for review after the Court of Appeal reversed the judgment in a civil action. This case presents the following issues: (1) Does the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, § 21000 et seq.) (CEQA) require public agencies to consider as an environmental impact the increased social noise generated by student parties that a student housing project might bring to a community? (2) Under CEQA, when a lead agency has identified potential sites for future development and redevelopment in a programmatic planning document, is the agency required to revisit alternative locations for a proposed site-specific project within the program?

Petition for review granted: 5/17/2023

Case fully briefed: 8/24/2023

Supplemental briefing ordered: 9/13/2023

“The court directs the parties to serve and file supplemental briefs, each not to exceed 5,000 words, including footnotes, addressing the significance, if any, of Assembly Bill No. 1307 (2023-2024 Reg. Sess.) (Assembly Bill No. 1307) on the issues in this case. The court directs the Regents of the University of California (Regents) to serve and file an opening supplemental brief by September 20, 2023. The court directs Make UC A Good Neighbor and The People’s Park Historic District Advocacy Group to serve and file a responding brief by October 4, 2023. The Regents may serve and file a reply brief by October 9, 2023.”

Supplemental briefing complete: 10/09/2023

Cause argued and submitted: 4/03/2024

Opinion filed; judgment reversed: 6/06/2024

See the Court of Appeal Opinion.

See the Respondents Petition for Review.

See the Appellants’ Petition for Review.

See the Oral Argument.

See the California Supreme Court Opinion.  (Make UC A Good Neighbor v. Regents of University of California (2024) __ Cal.5th __.)

“After we granted review, on September 7, 2023, the Legislature passed Assembly Bill No. 1307 (2023–2024 Reg. Sess.) (Assembly Bill 1307) as urgency legislation, effective immediately. Assembly Bill 1307 added sections 21085 and 21085.2 to the Public Resources Code. As summarized by the Legislative Counsel, the new law provides that: (1) ‘the effects of noise generated by project occupants and their guests on
human beings is not a significant effect on the environment for residential projects for purposes of CEQA’; and (2) ‘institutions of public higher education, in an EIR for a residential or mixed-use housing project, are not required to consider alternatives to the location of the proposed project if certain requirements are met.’ (Legis. Counsel’s Dig., Assem. Bill No. 1307 (2023–2024 Reg. Sess.).)

The new law has narrowed the scope of the issues necessary for this Court to resolve. Good Neighbor concedes that Assembly Bill 1307 applies to our consideration of the case. Good Neighbor further concedes that the new law makes clear that the EIR, insofar as it evaluates the People’s Park housing project, is not required to examine ‘social noise’ [fn. omitted] or potential alternative locations to People’s Park. However, Good Neighbor contends that its social noise claim as to the adequacy of the EIR’s evaluation of the plan to guide long-term physical development remains viable because the new law ‘exempts only “residential projects” from CEQA analysis,’ and Good Neighbor maintains that the development plan — including its asserted projected enrollment-driven population increase — ‘is not a “residential project”‘ within the meaning of the new law. As to its alternative locations argument, Good Neighbor asks us to consider its claim with respect to housing projects that the Regents of the University of California (Regents) might carry out in the future pursuant to the development plan.

We conclude that, based on the new law, none of Good Neighbor’s claims has merit and we accordingly reverse the Court of Appeal’s judgment. We hold that the new law applies to both the People’s Park housing project and the development plan, and the EIR is not inadequate for having failed to study the potential noisiness of future students at UC Berkeley in connection with this project. We decline to consider Good Neighbor’s alternative locations argument with respect to potential future housing projects which are simply not before us. In short, as all parties have effectively acknowledged, this lawsuit poses no obstacle to the development of the People’s Park housing project.”

Chief Justice Guerrero authored the opinion of the Court, in which Justices Corrigan, Liu, Kruger, Groban, Jenkins, and Evans concurred.

In the news:  Egelko, California Supreme Court will decide whether UC Berkeley can build housing at People’s Park, S.F. Chronicle (May 17, 2023).