In order to prevent the avoidable environmental degradation that often accompanies new development, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires state and local decision makers to consider the potential environmental impacts of their discretionary approvals, even when they are voting entitlements for purely private development projects. California cities are burdened with notoriously underfunded transportation infrastructure and poor air quality, so CEQA findings can be marshaled to justify rejection of almost any proposed project. Because of California’s staggeringly high growth rates, projects rejected at one location are likely to find their way to another site within the same market area. Does CEQA demand that a local government before voting to reject a project must pay attention to the likely environmental impacts of the site where the rejected (displaced) development is likely to arise? Two recently decided intermediate appellate court cases reached opposite answers to this question. This paper examines the two recent cases, Muzzy Ranch Company v. Solano County Airport Land Use Commission and Wal-Mart v. City of Turlock. The author concludes that decision makers should evaluate the environmental consequences of both the proposed project and the destination of displaced development so as better to guide development where it will do the least harm to the environment and the most good.


Environmental Law | Land Use Law | Property Law and Real Estate

Date of this Version

July 2006