The City of Riverside has sued the City of Los Angeles regarding a Port of Los Angeles expansion that Riverside officials say will add to existing inland railroad congestion. The lawsuit contends the Board of Harbor Commissioners did not adequately address or mitigate rail impacts on Riverside that would result from port expansion.
Los Angeles officials said the environmental impact report for the China Shipping terminal expansion is legally adequate and they would defend it in court.
Frustration with train traffic from ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach has been growing in inland cities for years. Riverside has 26 at-grade railroad crossings, and as many as 128 trains a day roll through town. According to the city's lawsuit, those crossings are tied up by trains for three to six hours per day. The result, according to the city, is air pollution, traffic congestion, dangerous driving conditions and emergency responses that are delayed by three to 21 minutes.
Riverside argues that the terminal expansion approved in December 2008 would add at least six trains per day, providing a significant and cumulative impact for which the port offers no mitigation. During the port's consideration of the EIR, Riverside asked for fair-share contributions to grade separation projects. The EIR does not require those contributions. Riverside is currently implementing a $300 million program to provide a series of eight underpasses and overpasses.
This is not the first lawsuit over the China Shipping terminal project. In 2001, environmentalists and San Pedro homeowners sued the city for approving the project based on two earlier environmental documents. An appellate court found the city had violated CEQA and halted the project. (Natural Resources Defense Council v. City of Los Angeles, (2002) 103 Cal.App.4th 268; see CP&DR Legal Digest, December 2002.) Los Angeles settled that litigation in 2003 when it agreed to spend $60 million on air pollution control and aesthetic improvements.
The latest case is City of Riverside v. City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles County Superior Court case No. BS119161.
Beaumont is the second city in the San Gorgonio Pass area to lose a California Environmental Quality Act case because of an inadequate water study.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Mac Fisher in late February ruled that the EIR for the 2,868-unit Legacy Highlands project lacks sufficient proof of water availability. Fisher's ruling came in a suit filed by Cherry Valley Acres and Neighbors, and the Cherry Valley Environmental Planning Group, which have continually challenged local growth decisions. The EIR's water analysis was based largely on a promise of water service by the Beaumont Cherry Valley Water District, which relies heavily on imports from the State Water Project.
Concerns about water availability and the economic downturn have dramatically slowed housing development in the San Gorgonio Pass area between San Bernardino and Palm Springs (see CP&DR Local Watch, April 2008). Last year, a different judge rejected the City of Banning's water analysis for the 1,500-unit Black Bench project.
Development of Fanita Ranch in the San Diego suburb of Santee received a minor setback in February, when a San Diego County Superior Court judge gave Santee six months to revise a fire safety plan for the 1,380-home project. However, Judge Linda Quinn did not reject the environmental impact report, as requested by three environmental groups opposed to the development.
The site of numerous proposals over the last 30 years, Fanita Ranch remains undeveloped, and environmental groups say it should remain that way because it provides habitat for three rare species (see CP&DR In Brief, February 2008; Local Watch, September 1999). The project approved by the city in late 2007 calls for houses on half-acre lots, a small commercial center and leaving half the site as open space. Developer Barratt American filed for bankruptcy in 2008, but the Fanita Ranch project was not included in the reorganization.
Santa Barbara County supervisors have approved a wind farm on 3,000 acres of agricultural land southwest of Lompoc. Acciona Energy proposes erecting 65 400-foot-tall turbines that will generate more than 1 megawatt of energy apiece.
Concerned about noise and aesthetic impacts, neighboring property owners appealed the county Planning Commission's approval of the project. Meanwhile, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) appealed because of the turbines' potential to kill birds and bats. But DFG dropped its appeal when Acciona agreed either to provide a 164-acre conservation easement and a $50,000 endowment for management, or to provide $450,000 to the California Wildlife Foundation for bird and bat habitat programs.
Supervisors rejected the appeal of the neighbors, who own a 425-acre parcel that would be bordered on three sides by the wind farm. The neighbors, George and Cheryl Bedford, indicated they might sue.
The wind farm would be the first of its kind in Santa Barbara County.
East Bay Regional Park District and Citizens for East Shore Parks have sued the City of Richmond, a developer and an Indian tribe for allegedly violating a 2006 settlement that allows the Navy to expedite the transfer of land at the former Point Molate Naval Fuel Depot to the city.
Richmond, Upstream Investments and the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians propose a large casino, hotels, entertainment and convention facilities and waterfront housing on 85 acres at the base of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge (see CP&DR Local Watch, February 2005). Harrah's was part of the project but has apparently dropped out. Environmentalists sued over the project, but that suit was settled when the city and other parties agreed to complete an environmental impact report before the city makes any decision to approve the project or hand over the land to Upstream. Although the Navy's land transfer is nearly complete, the EIR has been delayed.
Last year, Citizens for East Shore Parks won a trial court ruling against Richmond over its 20-year deal permitting the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians to develop a casino elsewhere in town. That decision is on appeal.