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California Passes New Statutory CEQA Exemption

As readers of this blog know, the regulatory requirements imposed by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) can increase the cost, time, and overall difficulty of real estate development.  Any new exemption or other limitation on CEQA’s purview is a boon for real estate developers looking to limit cost.  The California Legislature recently enacted a new statutory CEQA exemption for certain infill multifamily housing development projects in urbanized, unincorporated county areas.  Learn below about the new exemption, and contact a knowledgeable San Diego real estate attorney with any questions.

New CEQA Exemption Modeled After Class 32 Categorical Exemption

The California Legislature has just enacted Public Resources Code section 21159.25, effective as of January 1, 2019.  The new law takes the substance of the current CEQA Guidelines’ Class 32 categorical exemption for “infill developments” (CEQA section 15332) and extends it to certain multi-family housing projects in unincorporated, urbanized county areas.  The new section has a few additional elements that differentiate it from the broader Class 32 exemption.

Whereas the Class 32 exemption applies broadly to all “in-fill” projects that qualify, the new exemption applies only to mixed-use or residential housing projects.  While the Class 32 exemption applies to infill developments “within city limits on a project site of no more than five acres substantially surrounded by urban uses,” the new exemption applies to “mixed-use or residential housing projects” that are “within an unincorporated area of a county on a project site of no more than five acres substantially surrounded by qualified urban uses,” where the site is “wholly within the boundaries of an urbanized area or urban cluster.”  For the purposes the new statute, “substantially surrounded” means “at least 75 percent of the perimeter of the project site adjoins, or is separated only by an improved public right-of-way from, parcels that are developed with qualified urban uses.”  The remaining 25% must also adjoin parcels designed for qualified urban uses.

Like the existing Class 32 exemption, the project must be consistent with the overall general plan designation and plan policies, have appropriate access to utilities and public services, not have value as a habitat for endangered species, and not cause any significant effects relating to traffic, noise, air quality, or water quality.  The new exemption also carries additional minimum housing density requirements.  Moreover, if an exemption is granted based on this section, the lead agency must file a notice of exemption (NOE) with the Office of Planning and Research; the NOE is optional under other existing exemptions.    

Help is Available for Real Estate Legal Issues in San Diego

If you’re a real estate investor facing a legal issue in California, get help from seasoned and professional legal counsel by contacting San Diego real estate attorney Jon Alan Enochs at 619-421-3956.

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