City of Fresno files lawsuit against county over general plan

The city argues, in part, that the county has violated CEQA because the environmental impact review for the general plan was inadequate.

The City of Fresno is suing Fresno County over the county’s general plan, arguing that it ignores and avoids key issues such as water usage, housing, protection of farmland, transportation and air quality. 

The council voted 4-3 in closed session on Thursday to authorize the lawsuit. Councilmembers Miguel Arias, Garry Bredefeld, Luis Chavez and Nelson Esparza voted in favor of the lawsuit. 


The backstory: Every county in California is required to adopt a general plan to govern development, providing direction for the future of land use. 

  • General plans are required to address items such as land use, transportation, housing, conservation of natural resources and open space, among others. 
  • General plans are also subject to review by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). 

The big picture: The city alleges that the county has violated CEQA by certifying an environmental impact review (EIR) that was inadequate. 

  • Specifically, the city argues that the EIR did not include mitigation measures to ensure new developments would not worsen the overdraft problems of groundwater, per the North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Plan. 
  • The city also takes issue with the county’s plan to “encourage” the state to update its Important Farmland Map, saying it is “aspirational and not enforceable,” effectively not protecting the county’s farmland. 
  • Fresno argues that the general plan does not identify urban sites for additional housing to comply with the county’s state mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA). 
  • Fresno also argues that the county violated state planning and zoning laws by lacking the mechanisms to enforce its goals in the general plan surrounding water usage and sustainability, housing and sprawl, protection of farmland and air quality. 

Go deeper: The League of Women Voters of Fresno also filed a lawsuit against the county over the general plan, similarly arguing that the county violated CEQA by not addressing all significant adverse impacts of the general plan in the EIR. 

What they’re saying: “The City of Fresno was forced to file this litigation to preserve our claims,” said Fresno City Attorney Andrew Jans. “The deadline to legally challenge the County’s General Plan EIR was Friday March 22, 2024. It is our position that the County’s environmental report is wholly insufficient and fails to address critical issues affecting City of Fresno residents including water usage and sustainability, housing and sprawl, protection of farmland, transportation, and air quality. If the City of Fresno is required to play by the rules, then so should the County of Fresno.”

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