The California Supreme Court has overturned the environmental impact report for a mixed-use development project, holding that the EIR inadequately explained the human health consequences of significant air pollutant emissions that would result from the development. Sierra Club v. County of Fresno, Cal. Supreme Court Case No. S219783 (Dec. 24, 2018). In so doing,
Claims of significant noise impact unsupported by expert opinion, fact, or reasonable inference did not provide grounds for challenging a negative declaration, the court of appeal held in Jensen v. City of Santa Rosa, 23 Cal. App. 5th 877 (2018).
The project, called the Dream Center, would provide emergency shelter for homeless youth and transitional housing for young adults, as well as counseling, health, education, and job placement services. The center would also provide outdoor recreational activities for residents, including a basketball area, pottery throwing area, and garden. The center would occupy a vacant building formerly used as a hospital. A wooden fence and landscaping separated the rear parking lot from an adjacent residential neighborhood.
The City of Santa Rosa adopted a negative declaration and approved a rezoning and conditional use permit for the project. Conditions of approval limited parking in the rear lot to employees during normal operating hours. The city’s negative declaration relied on a noise study prepared by an engineering firm. The noise study concluded that noise impacts would be less than significant because noise would not exceed standards in the city’s general plan or noise ordinance, and would not increase noise levels more than 5 dBA Ldn above existing conditions. (Ldn is the average day/night noise level.)
The petitioners, who lived near the project, asserted there was a fair argument the project would cause significant noise impacts from vehicles in the rear parking lot and from outdoor recreation activities. The petitioners based their main arguments on their own calculations using data taken from a noise study for a different project in the city called Tower Market, a 24-hour convenience store and gas station.
The court held that no substantial evidence supported the petitioners’ claims.
Continue Reading Negative Declaration Survives Challenge Based on Non-Expert Opinion About Noise Impacts
The court of appeal reaffirmed that a court should not second guess or “micro-manage” the development decisions of municipal governments; rather, the courts are simply charged with reviewing whether there is substantial evidence in the record supporting the city’s decision. Kutzke v. City of San Diego, 11 Cal. App. 5th 1034 (2017).
Findings in a city council resolution that recite language in the city’s municipal code may be sufficient to demonstrate the reasoning supporting the council’s decision. Young v. City of Coronado, No. D070210 (4th Dist. April 4, 2017).
The owners of a small dwelling in the City of Coronado applied for a permit to demolish…