Rachel Mansfield-Howlett is a public interest environmental attorney. She represents environmental and citizen groups throughout the State in public interest cases concerning land use laws and the enforcement of California Environmental Quality Act including emergent issues in climate change and water.
Friends of Rattlesnake Island, Sierra Club, Friends of Historic Hangtown, Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development, Committee for Green Foothills, Friends of the North Fork of the American River, Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions, Save San Juan Valley, Citizens for Adequate Review, Guiding Sustainability, Latinos Unidos, Martinez Fair and Responsible Growth Coalition, Maacama Watershed Alliance, Ross Creek Neighbors, Friends of Markleeville, Citizens for Preservation of Marysville Parks, Santa Rosa Creek Coalition, and Fountaingrove Ranch Master Association.
Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions v. City of Healdsburg (2012) 206 Cal.App.4th 988. The California Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District decided a novel fee recovery case brought under the private attorney general doctrine and the California Environmental Quality Act in Citizens favor. The court of appeal affirmed the trial court's fee award and ruled that a member of a community organization is not barred from recovering attorney fees under CCP section 1021.5 so long as the attorney meets the requirements of the private attorney general doctrine.
Los Gatos Citizens for Sustainable Development successfully challenged the Town of Los Gatos' approval of a MND for the proposed Netflix Headquarters, a mammoth 20-year phased office and residential project. MND rejected, writ issued. The Court required preparation of an EIR to fully assess the Project's impacts relative to aesthetics, biology, direct and cumulative traffic, and inconsistency with area plans. (Los Gatos Citizens for Sustainable Development v. Town of Los Gatos, 2012)
Placerville street realignment and replacement of the historic Clay Street Bridge at Hangtown project MND rejected, writ issued. The Court required an EIR to be prepared and found Friends presented a fair argument of impacts in the areas of Traffic, Parking, Urban Decay, Biological Impacts, Cultural and Historical Resources; Toxic Impacts; Aesthetic Impacts; Growth Inducing Impacts; and Inconsistency with Area Plans and Policies (Friends of Historic Hangtown v. City of Placerville, 2012)
Sonoma County Sutter Hospital Return to Writ rejected. Petitioners, Sierra Club, Transportation Defense and Education Fund, and the California Nurses Association objected to the Return to Writ prepared by the County of Sonoma for the Sutter Hospital and office project because the EIR failed to consider, and the County failed to impose, enforceable measures to mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) impacts, and failed to ensure enforcement of the County's General Plan regarding Public and Quasi-Public Land Use. The Court concurred and required the County to return again when its approvals conform to the judgment and the law. (Sierra Club v. County of Sonoma, 2011)
Los Gatos streamside development Return to Writ rejected. (Ross Creek Neighbors v. Town of Los Gatos, 2011) The Court found the EIR failed as an informational document because it did not identify toxics issues as a potentially significant environmental concern; the EIR failed to analyze and discuss the toxic substances associated with past agricultural uses on the site as described by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control and failed to adequately respond to comments made by the Department; and the Town's findings were not supported by substantial evidence in the record with regard to toxic substances.
Healdsburg resort project EIR rejected. Court required analysis of ridgeline development and consideration of alternatives that would reduce project impacts.
(Healdsburg Citizens for Sustainable Solutions v. City of Healdsburg, 2010)
The Saggio Hills luxury resort and residential project represented the largest project ever proposed for Healdsburg. The writ required the City to set aside the EIR and project approvals, review the aesthetic impact of hillside development on an adjacent public park, analyze omitted water demand, and to consider a reasonable range of feasible alternatives.
"The environmental community is heartened by the Court's decision in Saggio. Protection of scenic public vistas is an important public benefit, and the Court's decision ensures a Fountaingrove-style omission will not occur in Healdsburg. The decision also requires a consideration of alternatives that reduce the project's environmental impacts."
- Bill Kortum, supporter of Citizens' group
Court required EIR for Streamside development in Los Gatos
, writ issued. (Committee for Green Foothills, Ross Creek Neighbors v. Town of Los Gatos, 2009)
The Court ruled the MND was not in compliance with CEQA because it failed to properly consider impacts to biology, riparian habitat, and hydrology and flooding. The court set aside the project approvals and required preparation of an EIR.
"Prevailing in this case has ensured the preparation of an EIR for the project, established the applicability of the Guidelines and Standards for Land Use Near Streams, recognized the validity of expert opinion, and revealed data about the extent of the Ross Creek flood plain that was previously withheld from the public."
- Ross Creek Neighbors
EIR for San Benito highway expansion overturned. Court required further consideration of farmland mitigation and flooding impacts in the San Juan Valley.
(Save San Juan Valley v. Caltrans, 2009)
The Court set aside the EIR for the project, stating Caltrans failed to adequately analyze hydrology and flooding impacts and the Court also required further analysis of special status species and mitigation to farmland loss. Caltrans was enjoined from all activities related to this expansion until CEQA compliance is met. "The win was particularly beneficial since our citizen's group had previously exhausted all informal avenues of communication and dialogue. We therefore turned to the court as our last hope for avoiding such damage to our county's quality of life and economic health."
- Save San Juan Valley
EIR required for former Masonite Plant site in Ukiah prior to further development of Mendocino Crossings Mall project.
(Citizens of Adequate Review v. County of Mendocino, 2008) Ms. Mansfield-Howlett represented petitioners Citizens for Adequate Review in a CEQA action challenging a major development project. The parties reached a settlement requiring the County of Mendocino to conduct an environmental review prior to the onset of construction and approval of a commercial mall project.
"As a result of Ms. Mansfield-Howlett's skill and expertise, the County and Real Parties agreed to enter into a settlement agreement that required the preparation of an EIR for the project prior to any further construction, thus fully obtaining the benefits of the litigation without having to expend the costs of a full trial. The settlement ensured and established the need for environmental review prior to further construction."
-Citizens for Adequate Review