The Pocket Protectors v. City of Sacramento

(2005) 124 Cal.App.4th 903

The Court of Appeal held that the City of Sacramento should prepare an EIR for a proposed 139-unit, single-family residential project in the Pocket neighborhood in southern Sacramento, finding that the comments of neighbors opposed to the project and the opinions of members of the Planning Commission qualified as the requisite “substantial evidence” under the “fair argument” standard that significant impacts may result, and therefore, the City’s mitigated negative declaration for the project was insufficient. At issue were aesthetic impacts associated with the project’s design, two parallel rows of detached, one- and two-story single-family homes along a narrow private street, and the project’s consistency with existing land use regulations and policies applicable to the site. The court also held that the City’s interpretation of its own regulations was not entitled to the traditional, significant deference, but rather, when the document at issue is a negative declaration, the less deferential “fair argument” standard also applies to the agency’s threshold determination of a project’s consistency with the agency’s land use policies and regulations. [Former RTMM partner Tina A. Thomas and current RMM partner Sabrina V. Teller were counsel of record.]