The Respondent City of Berkeley and Real Parties (Kapors) filed their joint Reply Brief on the Merits in the California Supreme Court in a much-watched categorical exemption case, Berkeley Hillside Preservation, et al. v. City of Berkeley, et al. (No. S201116).  The case arose from the City’s approval of a large, single-family hillside home as categorically exempt from CEQA notwithstanding project opponents’ contention that an exception to the exemptions applied due to the project’s potential for significant environmental impacts. (See my initial post on May 23, 2012 [“Supreme Court Will Review Categorical Exemption Exception in Berkeley Hillside Preservation Case”], and follow-up posts on August 2, 2012, and October 25, 2012.)

The case will (hopefully) ultimately resolve numerous important issues, including the standards of review applicable to CEQA Guidelines section 15300.2(c)’s “unusual circumstances” exception to categorical exemptions; whether that section’s “unusual circumstances” language has independent significance or is surplusage; and whether the exemption and exception scheme of the Guidelines is consistent with and authorized by the statutory language of Public Resources Code § 21084(a), which directed the Resources Agency to determine that certain categories of projects do not have significant environmental effects and are thus exempt from CEQA.

Now that merits briefing by the parties is complete, interested amici curiae may weigh in on the merits of the matter and submit applications and proposed amicus briefs within 30 days of the reply.