An appellate court has ruled against a citizens group that had protested Placer County's handling of an application for a 22-unit lodge at Lake Tahoe. The Third District Court of Appeal ruled that the citizens group had no standing to bring a lawsuit based on alleged violations of the California Environmental Quality Act because the group did not seek county Board of Supervisors' review of the negative declaration approved by the Planning Commission. The unanimous three-judge panel rejected the argument that raising CEQA issues during the Planning Commission hearing was adequate to preserve judicial standing. The court also held that the CEQA issue was never properly before the Board of Supervisors even though a staff report to board — which considered an appeal of parking requirements for the lodge — referred to the negative declaration and supervisors adopted the negative declaration. In late 1997, the owners of Vista Shores Resort on Highway 28 along the northwest shore of Lake Tahoe applied for a conditional use permit to redevelop their property. The owners sought permission to replace an eight-unit motel with a two-story, 22-unit lodge of mostly two- and three-bedroom units. In June 1998, the Placer County Planning Commission approved a negative declaration and conditional use permit for the project. Neighboring property owners Larry and Sharon Kramer immediately filed an appeal with the Board of Supervisors, claiming that the 26 proposed parking spaces were inadequate. The Board of Supervisors considered the appeal in August. The planning department's staff report said the appeal was "of the Planning Commission's action to approve a Negative Declaration and Conditional Use Permit. …The reason for the appeal was cited as insufficient parking on the site." During the appeal hearing, no one questioned the negative declaration. Supervisors decided to require 10 additional parking spaces but voted unanimously to deny the appeal, adopt the negative declaration and find that the project complied with a "parking demand table" approved by the county and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. The Kramers and others then filed a lawsuit claiming that the county should have completed an EIR and that the project violated both the parking demand table and the North Tahoe Community Plan. Placer County Superior Court Judge James Garbolino found that the project opponents failed to exhaust their administrative remedy by not appealing the negative declaration to the Board of Supervisors. He also found that the project complied with parking requirements, and he issued summary judgement for the county. On appeal, the project opponents argued that a section of CEQA (Public Resources Code §21177) does not require that every issue be raised at every hearing, or even at the final hearing, before a lawsuit is filed. They also said CEQA was in fact an issue before the Board of Supervisors. The Third District disagreed. "[P]laintiffs appeal placed only the conditional use permit before the Board of Supervisors and only with regards to parking," Justice George Nicholson wrote. "The appeal form provided a specific notation by which plaintiffs could have appealed the Planning Commission's approval of the negative declaration, but plaintiffs did not specify they were appealing the Planning Commission's decision on that point. Such a failure to raise an issue in an administrative appeal after raising the issue in the first public or administrative hearing constitutes a failure to exhaust administrative remedies and prevents the issue from being raised in a subsequent judicial action." The trial court should not review an issue that was not raised before the administrative body with final decision-making authority, the court held. The appellate court also said the title of the staff report was irrelevant and that county code required the board to adopt "all findings necessary to implement its approval of the project," including the negative declaration. In an unpublished portion of the opinion, the court held that "substantial evidence supports the County's finding that the project complied with the Parking Demand Table." The Case: Tahoe Vista Concerned Citizens v. County of Placer, No. C032876, 00 C.D.O.S. 4736, 2000 Daily Journal D.A.R., 6273, filed June 13, 2000. The Lawyers: For Concerned Citizens: Rose Zoia, Brandt-Hawley & Zoia, (707) 938-3908. For the county: Scott Finley, Placer County Counsel's office, (530) 889-4044.