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cannabis legalizationFollowing cannabis legalization in California, municipalities are beginning to face difficult decisions related to land use and planning. The challenge in siting industrial and residential uses, often in conflict, is not new for cities and their planners. But the new twist of cannabis growing and processing, treated as an industrial use in most cities, adds an added layer of complexity to land use decisions where lack of housing is also an issue.

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iStock-157310650-money-construction-264x300Most construction loans contemplate multiple advances or disbursements of funds at various stages of the construction project. The construction loan agreement will set forth the conditions that the borrower must satisfy to receive each advance of funds. Given that a construction loan concerns an active construction project, there is a risk that a lender could lose its lien priority in an advance (secured by the insured mortgage) to a mechanic’s lien. This post addresses how a title insurance policy and endorsements can insure against such a risk. Continue reading

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On May 9, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia issued a significant ruling in Kahl v. Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. The Court of Appeals addresses (i) whether Yorie Von Kahl is a public figure for First Amendment purposes; and (ii) if so, whether he has produced sufficient evidence of actual malice by the Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA) to overcome BNA’s motion for summary judgment.

Some of these issues may play a role in a defamation lawsuit that is now before the local District of Columbia courts, Michael Mann v. Competitive Enterprise Institute, which concerns the hotly debated topic of climate change and global warming. On December 22, 2016, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals held that a jury could reasonable conclude that articles published in the National Review magazine “were false, defamatory and published with actual malice.”

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On May 4, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a “Deepwater Horizon” ruling in Center for Biological Diversity v. Zinke. The Center for Biological Diversity’s (Center) claims concerns the Department of the Interior’s (Department) ongoing review of its “categorical NEPA exclusions” with respect to offshore oil and gas operations, which are subject to the Department’s scrutiny. The District Court dismissed the Center’s lawsuit, holding that the Center was unable to prove that the Department failed to take an action that is both discrete and mandatory under the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). Also, the District Court’s review of the pertinent Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) regulations indicated that the rule, as properly construed, does not require agencies to complete their review of the National Environmental Policy Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4321-4370h (NEPA), procedures even after they have embarked on such a review.

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Federal government records, including business records submitted to the government, are subject to disclosure under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). However, FOIA exempts nine categories of government records from this disclosure obligation. A May 9 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in AquAlliance v. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation discusses the scope of Exemption 9. Exemption 9 provides that there is no duty to disclose “geological and geophysical information, data, including maps, concerning wells.”

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Company records and communications are typically subject to disclosure in government investigations. They may be protected from disclosure if they are protected by the attorney client privilege or attorney-work product doctrine. However, invocation of these privileges is not automatic, as confirmed in a May 4 ruling by the U.S. States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. In EEOC v. BDO USA, LLP, the Court of Appeals issued a ruling clarifying the use of a privilege log to invoke the protections of the attorney-client privilege when responding to an agency’s request for documents as part of an investigation of employment discrimination claims.

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iStock-519917363-coastal-real-estate-300x203Climatologists predict that sea levels will continue to rise in the coming years and that temperatures will increase, causing the frequency and intensity of hurricane-like storms to grow. These scenarios present challenges for waterfront buildings and residences—both existing and new construction.

New properties are still being built along coastal areas. Some developers are marketing homes and buildings that are designed to withstand major storms. Property owners are taking costly measures to protect existing properties. In fact, in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, numerous companies now offer various flood protection measures for both residential and commercial buildings, such as paneling, barrier systems, gates, removable stop logs and raised foundations. Continue reading

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The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2017 authorized appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2017. This large and copious bill provides funding for all Federal agencies for this fiscal year. The Congressional committees included many environmental policy statements and directives to these agencies.

Section II, Division G—The Departments of the Interior, the Environment and Related Agencies

Within 60 days, the Department of Interior (Interior), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Forest Service (Service) are directed to provide the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations with a detailed Equal Access to Justice report which will make their litigation costs transparent.

Regarding new Executive Order 13783, the Committees expect Interior and EPA to keep the committees fully appraised of any actions taken to comply with this new Order affecting domestic energy resources.

The Committees expect the departments and agencies to provide their Inspectors General with timely access to all appropriate agency records as needed.

The departments and agencies are reminded that there can be no lobbying of Congress with appropriated funds.

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The California Contractors State License Board issued notice of its upcoming Legislative Committee Meeting:

Friday, May 19, 2017, 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 am
(or until the conclusion of business)
Contractors State License Board HQ, John C. Hall Hearing Room
9821 Business Park Drive, Sacramento, CA 95827

At the meeting, the CSLB is expected to discuss:

  1. A.B. 710 (Wood) Department of Consumer Affairs: Board Meetings
  2. A.B. 996 (Cunningham) Contractors Licensing Board Web Site: Search Function
  3. A.B. 1005 (Calderon) Professions and Vocations: Fines: Relief
  4. A.B. 1070 (Gonzalez) Contractors (“solar energy system disclosure document”)
  5. A.B. 1162 (Bocanegra) Electrical Contractors: Local Permits
  6. A.B. 1190 (Obernolte) Department of Consumer Affairs: BreEZe System
  7. A.B. 1278 (Low) Contractor Licensing: Final Judgments
  8. A.B. 1357 (Chu) Home Inspectors: Roofing Contractors: Roof Inspections
  9. S.B. 27 (Morrell) Professions and Vocations: Licenses: Military Service
  10. S.B. 486 (Monning) Contractors State License Law: Letter of Admonishment
  11. S.B. 715 (Newman) Regulatory Boards: Removal of Board Members
  12. S.B. 721 (Hill) Contractors: Decks and Balconies: Inspection
  13. S.B. 800 (Business, Professions & Economic Development) Professions & Vocations

This meeting will be open to the public except when specifically noticed otherwise. Members of the public are permitted to address the Committee during the public comment session; however, the total time allocated for public comment may be limited at the discretion of each Committee Chair.

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Though Brexit may seem far removed from the strategic concerns of many of those in the construction and real estate industries, for those large construction operations, developers and suppliers that are either already in the UK/EU or expanding their operations into those areas, every development is worth tracking. In Next Steps toward Brexit, The EU sets out its stall for the looming withdrawal negotiations with the UK, Pillsbury attorney Tim Wright discusses the European Commission’s recent publication of its Brexit mandate, which indicates a clear focus on “citizens’ rights, the financial settlement and new external borders” and the Commission’s chief Brexit negotiator’s plan to “pay great attention to Ireland during the first phase of negotiations.” The EC’s mandate is just one of the many Brexit developments that global players in all industries will need to keep an eye on as the situation unfolds.