First District Court of Appeal Rejects CEQA Challenge to San Francisco Sculpture Removal for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies.
The First District Court of Appeal published its holding in the case Schmid v. City and County of San Francisco (2021) 60 Cal.App.5th 470 on February 1, 2021. This case involved various claims objecting to the City of San Francisco’s decision to remove a bronze sculpture, including claims pursuant to CEQA.
The San Francisco Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) granted a Certificate of Appropriateness (COA) in 2018 for the removal of the “Early Days” bronze sculpture, located in the Civic Center Landmark District. The HPC concluded that removal of the sculpture was categorically exempt from environmental review pursuant to CEQA. Following removal of the sculpture pursuant to the HPC’s determination, a City of San Francisco resident filed a complaint alleging several causes of action. The complaint specifically alleged that the HPC violated CEQA by failing to require an EIR addressing potential impacts to historic resources.
The trial court concluded that the CEQA claim was barred due to failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The First District, reviewing the decision de novo, agreed with the trial court determination. Specifically, the petitioner failed to appeal the HPC’s categorical exemption determination to the Board of Supervisors, as required by the CEQA and the San Francisco Administrative Code. While the petitioner presented its claims to the city Board of Appeals, this body had no jurisdiction over CEQA determination. Thus, the CEQA claims were forfeited.
John Wheat contributed to this article.