Environmental Law

Envt'l Law News Spring 2018, Vol. 27, No. 1

Coming Full Circle in the Fifth—Revisiting the Concept of "Urban Decay" and Its Increasingly Limited Role in CEQA

by Martin P. Stratte* and Jonathan E. Shardlow**

For the past decade or so, many of the environmental impact reports (EIRs) prepared for commercial projects have included an analysis of a project’s potential to cause the phenomenon known as "urban decay."

Many attribute the presence of these urban decay analyses to the holding of Bakersfield Citizens for Local Control v. City of Bakersfield, 124 Cal.App.4th 1184 (2004) ("Bakersfield Citizens").

There, the California Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District, held that the EIRs that had been prepared for two large shopping centers violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because the lead agency had failed to analyze the projects’ potential to "cause urban/suburban decay by precipitating a downward spiral of store closures and long-term vacancies in existing shopping centers."1

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