In Delia Guerrero v. City of Los Angeles (2024) ___ Cal.App.5th ___, the Second District Court of Appeal reversed the trial court, finding the petition for writ of mandate untimely under CEQA.


Real estate developers submitted an application to the City of Los Angeles to subdivide a parcel and build 42 single-family homes in Northeast Los Angeles. The City prepared an Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) in June 2016. The applicants later redesigned the project, and the revised project required zoning changes and approvals for retaining walls. The City updated the MND to reflect the changes.

In March, 2017, after a noticed public hearing, the Department of City Planning adopted the MND and approved a vesting tentative tract map for the project. The Department issued a 30-page letter of determination which summarized the applicable conditions. The City filed a Notice of Determination (NOD) on March 25, 2020.

Two months later, on May 13, 2020, the East Los Angeles Area Planning Commission adopted the MND and made zoning determinations and adjustments necessary for the applicant to construct retaining walls. The Planning Commission also recommended that the City Council adopt the necessary zone change. The Commission issued a letter of determination and filed a second NOD on February 4, 2021.

On June 8, 2021, the City Council adopted the MND and the zone change. The City filed a third NOD on June 18, 2021.

The Trial Court’s Ruling

Delia Guerrero filed a petition for writ of mandate on July 16, 2021, and a first amended petition on August 13, 2021, alleging violations of CEQA, Planning and Zoning Law, and the Subdivision Map Act. The City and the project applicants demurred. The trial court sustained the demurrer as to the Planning and Zoning Law and Subdivision Map Act causes of action. As to the CEQA cause of action, the trial court concluded that the petition was timely because it was filed within thirty days of the final, June 18, 2021, NOD, and overruled the demurrer. After a hearing on the merits of the CEQA claim, the trial court granted the petition. The City and the applicants appealed.

The Court of Appeal’s Decision

The Court of Appeal reversed, holding the CEQA claims were also untimely.  According to the court, the petitioners were required to challenge the MND within 30 days of the first NOD, which was filed on March 25, 2020.

The court raised four key points in reaching its conclusion. First, the court said, CEQA requires public agencies to conduct environmental review as early as feasible. The City did that here when it prepared and adopted the MND prior to the initial March 2020 approval. Second, for projects that are subject to multiple discretionary approvals, the first approval triggers the statute of limitations and later approvals do not restart the clock. Here, the first approval occurred in March of 2020, which triggered the statute of limitations. Third, the purpose of a NOD is to trigger the statute of limitations. Fourth, the petitioners did not identify any changes to the project that might have triggered a requirement for subsequent or supplemental review.

Because Ms. Guerrero filed the petition over a year after the City filed the first NOD, the court dismissed the lawsuit as untimely.