California Native Plant Society v. City of Rancho Cordova

(2009) 172 Cal.App.4th 603

The Third Appellate District Court of Appeal held that the City of Rancho Cordova approved a project that was inconsistent with one mandatory policy of its General Plan concerning wetland mitigation. Specifically, the Court ruled that before the City approved a project that would impact on-site wetlands, its General Plan policy required the City to “coordinate” wetland preservation and mitigation with the federal agencies with jurisdiction over wetlands and wetland-dependent special-status species. The Court held that the term “coordinate” as used in the City’s General Plan policy implied a higher level of effort was required on the part of the City, beyond merely “consulting” with the other agencies, as under the CEQA process. Addressing the CEQA claims, the Court upheld the project EIR in its entirety, reversing the trial court’s determinations that the wetland mitigation measures improperly deferred mitigation. The court rejected the notion that an adequate wetlands mitigation measure relying on a “no net loss” performance standard had to identify specific off-site mitigation areas. The court also reversed the lower court’s ruling that the City’s findings concerning the adequacy of mitigation were not supported by substantial evidence. In so doing, the court repeatedly emphasized the requirement for petitioners to cite to evidence in the record that is favorable to the agency, not just supportive of their own arguments. The court also rejected a number of other claims raised by the California Native Plant Society because they were not properly exhausted at the administrative level. [RMM Counsel of record: James G. Moose and Sabrina V. Teller.]