Since our February 1, 2023 blog, concerning the California Court of Appeals tentative decision in Make UC a Good Neighbor vs. Regents of Univ. of California, et al., that Court has taken the definitive step of confirming its tentative decision, on the critical ground that “UC Berkeley failed to assess potential noise impacts from loud student parties in residential neighborhoods near campus, a long-standing problem that the [environmental review] improperly dismissed as ‘speculative.’”
Anyone who has ever been a student at a university, and lived off-campus (probably including the judges), understands the reality of the Court’s conclusion. Nevertheless, the Regents continued to argue, unsuccessfully, that “social noise” is not an impact subject to CEQA. On that basis, the Regents continued to loudly excoriate the Court, saying, among other things, that the Court had armed “the NIMBY neighbors with additional weapons to obstruct development of all new urban housing.”
On the contrary, however, the Court’s argument is neither new nor does it “dramatically expand CEQA.” As the Court responded “[t]he regents must analyze the potential noise impacts relating to loud student parties. Their decision to skip the issue, based on the unfounded notion that the impacts are speculative, was a prejudicial abuse of discretion and requires them to now do the analysis that they should have done at the outset.” The Court reached that decision on a plethora of prior judicial decisions such as Keep Our Mountains Quiet v. County of Santa Clara, 236 Cal. App. 4th 714, 734 (2015) [substantial evidence exists that crowd noise might have significant noise impacts on surrounding residents].
In short, despite the Regents loud protests, CEQA has not changed as a result of the Court’s ruling. What may have changed, however, is a strengthening of the will of the legislature to protect its new-found priority on the construction of housing in a State long, and increasingly, deficient in that asset. However, even their victory does not mean that petitioners reject the effort to increase the supply of housing. As stated by Petitioners, “we want UC to build housing, just not in a totally inappropriate location. Based on the publicity already surrounding this decision, that issue is still open.