• Land Use Attorney Capitola

NEW CEQA CASE: “Flexible” Traffic Standards Under General Plan Do Not Establish Level Of Significance Criteria For Purposes of Environmental Analysis.

In East Sacramento Partnership for a Livable City v. City of Sacramento, (2016) 5 Cal.App.5th 281, petitioners challenged the City of East Sacramento’s certification of an EIR for a 336–unit residential development with a community recreation center and three parks on a 48.75–acre site.  The Court of Appeal held that: the EIR adequately disclosed development agreement; the project description was not defective; the EIR did not engage in improper piecemealing; BUT, the EIR provided an inadequate explanation for its conclusion that traffic impacts were not significant.

On the traffic issue, the EIR concluded that the traffic impacts would not be significant because they complied with level of service (LOS) thresholds contained in the City’s general plan.  These were “flexible” standards, which permitted very low levels of service during peak hours.  The Court of Appeal rejected that rationale in light of the evidence that the traffic impacts would actually be significant for CEQA purposes.  It explained as follows:

“The general plan alone does not constitute substantial evidence that there is no significant impact. “[T]he fact that a particular environmental effect meets a particular threshold cannot be used as an automatic determinant that the effect is or is not significant. To paraphrase our decision in Communities for a Better Environment, ‘a threshold of significance cannot be applied in a way that would foreclose the consideration of other substantial evidence tending to show the environmental effect to which the threshold relates might be significant.’

Because the EIR fails to explain or provide substantial evidence to support the finding of no significant traffic impact at these intersections, we must reverse the trial court’s denial of ESPLC’s petition for a writ of mandate….”

©2017 Miles J. Dolinger

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