If you're thinking about developing a property in California, you need a great deal of legal guidance. Unlike many other states that have looser regulations, California operates much like its own country in many ways, with an entirely separate set of standards and regulations that every developer must abide by.
One of the most common regulations that practically all developers in California must face is the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). In broad strokes, the act requires anyone taking an action that would significantly impact the environment to assess that impact and look for ways to lessen the impact if at all possible.
Of course, no one wants to harm the environment, but the vague nature of the act can become quite a stumbling block for developers, especially if someone uses it against them.
Unfortunately, it is common for some party or another to use the CEQA to stall a project or use it as leverage to negotiate some unrelated aspect of the development. For instance, if your contractor wants better pay, he or she may file a very broad suit about environmental impact under CEQA. It can be very difficult to navigate these issues and also give the CEQA the deference it deserves.
Ultimately, it is always wise to enlist the guidance of an experienced development attorney as early in the process as possible so that you can avoid or divert many or all of these kinds of issues. Proper legal counsel can help ensure that your rights as a developer remain protected while you comply with various regulations and negotiate fair, competitive deals with your partners.
Source: California Natural Resources Agency, "CEQA: The California Environmental Quality Act," accessed April 26, 2017