Amended Court Rule Provides Certainty for CEQA Statutes of Limitations

COVID-19 Update

On April 6, 2020, the Judicial Council of California (Council) adopted a court rule that tolled statutes of limitations for all civil causes of action until 90 days after the Governor declares that the state of emergency is lifted. This meant that statutes of limitations for land use challenges, including California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) litigation, were tolled indefinitely. As a result of urging from the land use and development community, the Council has amended its rule and has provided greater certainty for when the statute of limitations on land use challenges will begin to run. Effective immediately, statutes of limitations for claims brought under CEQA are tolled until August 3, 2020. Thus, for land development projects approved after April 6, 2020—the original adoption date of Emergency Rule 9—the applicable statute of limitations for CEQA and land use challenges will begin to run on August 3.

The original emergency rule adopted on April 6, 2020, was a significant extension in the land use and CEQA context, given that lawsuits challenging certification of an environmental impact report or approval of a negative declaration typically must be filed within 30 days, or 35 days for a categorical exemption. Challenges to land use permits and approvals under the Government Code are required to be filed within 90 days. The Council’s amendment now clarifies that statutes of limitations that are 180 days or less are tolled only until August 3, 2020. The amendment also clarifies that statutes of limitations that exceed 180 days are tolled until October 1, 2020.

Several interest groups representing local governments, the building industry, and urban planners and environmental professionals had urged the Council to reconsider and amend Emergency Rule 9, given its potential to exponentially extend the period of uncertainty for land development projects and its likely unintended effect of greatly impeding land use projects, including much-needed housing development projects.

If you have questions regarding how the Council emergency rules or this recent amendment may affect your land development project, please reach out to Susan Hori or your relationship partner.

To read the Circulating Order Memorandum to the Council, click here.

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