Law Offices of Brian Gaffney APC has over 20 years experience representing environmental groups regarding proposed EIRs, Negative Declarations, General Plan updates and development plans.

Comments Prepared & No Litigation Required

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires agencies to analyze a proposed project’s impacts, potential mitigations, and alternatives prior to granting project approvals. Well prepared comments not only preserve issues for litigation, but also alert the agency to public concerns and EIR flaws.

Comments on Environmental Impact Report (EIRs) or Negative Declaration may result in changes to the environmental review document or the project, including possible withdrawal of the project application, such that litigation is unnecessary.

This office has prepared CEQA comments and often clients’ goals have been achieved without filing suit. Clients have included Sierra Club, Friends of the Russian River, Petaluma River Council, Committee for Green Foothills, Environmental Protection Information Center, Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge, Committee to Preserve Pescadero, Alameda Creek Alliance, San Bruno Mountain Watch, Neighbors of Memorial Stadium, and Petalumans for Responsible Planning among others.

Land Use and Natural Resource Litigation

Law Offices of Brian Gaffney APC has litigated land use issues all the way to the California Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, including obtaining TROs and preliminary injunctions to stop projects until the courts can consider the merits. Representative litigation includes:

Coalition of Pacificans v. City of Pacifica (San Mateo Superior Court). Court order finding abuse of discretion under CEQA for failure to prepare EIR where expert opinion of significant biological, hydrology, health risk, geomorphology and aesthetic impacts.

EPIC & Sierra Club v. California Department of Forestry, Department of Fish and Game, Pacific Lumber Company, 44 Cal.4th 459 (2008). Supreme Court held that permit and plan related to the Headwaters Forest Deal in Humboldt County violated California’s Forest Practices Act and Endangered Species Act.

California Supreme Court ruled that plan violated the Forest Practices Act by omitting analysis of individual planning watersheds and cumulative impacts of proposed logging on those watersheds. Court further ruled that “take” permit violated California Endangered Species Act by including “no surprises” assurance. Also, court held that CEQA cumulative impact analysis must include consideration of past projects – i.e. consideration of the present project in context of realistic historical account of prior activities which had significant impacts.

Alameda Creek Alliance v. Caltrans (Alameda Superior Court 2011). Gaffney filed suit and secured a TRO and a preliminary injunction preserving the environmental status quo. Subsequently, Caltrans agreed to rescind its project approvals and cancel its construction contract.

Caltrans began cutting trees for its Niles Canyon project (Highway 84) in habitat of California red-legged frog and Alameda whipsnake – without completing an EIR or notifying the public that the project had been approved.

Pacific Rivers Council v. U.S. Forest Service, 689 F.3d 1012 (9th Circuit 2012)

Ninth Circuit ruled that Environmental Impact Statement for U.S. Forest Service plan to increase logging, fires and roads in 11 Sierra Nevada National Forests violated NEPA by failing to analyze significant impacts to multiple fish species.

EPIC & Center for Biological Diversity v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, (N.D. Calif. #C99-4694-CW). TRO enjoined Army Corps’ approved dredging of Humboldt Bay until Corps considered biological impacts of oil spill in a supplemental report and Biological Assessment.

San Bruno Mountain Watch v. City of South Francisco (San Mateo Superior No. 409456). Settlement preserved 40 acres of endangered species habitat planned for development. CEQA challenge to 337-acre Terrabay project in South San Francisco. Settlement reached in which developer set aside 40 acres of endangered species habitat for preservation.

Alameda Creek Alliance v. City of Dublin (Alameda Superior No. RG14718255). Settlement resulted in conservation agreement to protect 313 acres of habitat in the East Bay for the declining western burrowing owl.

Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge v. City of Newark, (2013 WL 3959897). Court set aside the EIR and Development Agreed for up to 1,260 housing units in area of wetlands bordering Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge.

Coalition of Advocates for Lake Merritt et al v. City of Oakland (Alameda Superior Case No. RG06280471) Court set aside EIR for Oak to Ninth project along the Oakland waterfront as the EIR failed to properly analyze cumulative impacts, and held that Development Agreement was flawed. Revised EIR which further addressed cumulative impacts was prepared.

Citizens for Civic Accountability v. Town of Danville, 2009 WL 4761441, also 167 Cal.App.4th 1158 (First Dist. 2008). Court of Appeal ordered Mitigated Negative Declaration set aside and Town to prepare an EIR.

Anderson v. Sonoma County (Sonoma No. SCV-243916) Court held EIR failed to analyze noise impacts under stated significance threshold, and that EIR improperly tiered off previous Aggregate Management Plan.

Black Point Forest Rescue Project v. City of Novato Marin Pleasure Faire site required EIR to consider impacts to oak forest. Trial court setting aside EIR which failed to analyze effect of oak forest removal and zoning change proposed for subdivision development.

Bay Area Land Watch v. County of San Mateo (San Mateo Sup. Ct. No. 391259; Calif. First App. Dist. No. AO73217). Cumulative impacts on endangered butterfly must be analyzed in EIR. Court of appeal held that County’s EIR failed to analyze cumulative impacts on endangered butterfly habitat as required by CEQA.