No Environmental Review for Berkeley McMansion

A proposed monster mansion in Berkeley may use an exemption under California’s Environmental Quality Act to avoid producing an environmental impact report for the proposed 10,000-square-foot, the State Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The CEQA guidelines allow for “new, small facilities” including one single family home or a second dwelling unit in a residential area or an urban in-fill development of less than five acres to be exempt from preparation of impact documents, according to the court.

The developer for software mogul Mitch Kapor has sought a permit to build a 6,478-square foot house with an attach 3,394-square-foot garage for 10 cars.

Local residents sued claiming CEQA’s categorical exemption for a single family home should not apply because of the usual size of the house and its location on a steep grade.

The house would be four times the average house size in Berkeley, the plaintiffs claimed.

The state Court of Appeal invalidated the permit citing CEQA but the Supreme Court reversed in a 5-2 decision.

CEQA requires preparation of an environmental review “only if there is substantial evidence that the project may have a significant effect on the environment,” the court said, citing the language of the law.

Indeed, the proposed project that has no significant effect on the environment is not subject to any further CEQA review, and an “unusual circumstances exemption is not applicable, the court said.

Justice Ming Chin wrote the majority, with dissent by Justice Goodwin Liu and Kathryn Werdeger.

Case:  BerkeleyHillside Preservation v. City of Berkeley, No. S201116


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