CEQA Hearing for Regents Road Bridge

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Commentary Louis Rodolico

On January 11, 2018 the San Diego Attorney’s Office and the Citizens For The Regents Road Bridge (CFTRRB) were heard by a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Judge, the Honorable Katherine Bacal, to argue the fate of the Regents Road Bridge.

The City Attorney for San Diego attempted to bankrupt The Citizens for the Regents Road Bridge (CFTRRB) with a legal sleight of hand. The City Attorney now contends that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) the city filed was never required to remove the Regents Road Bridge from the Community Plan. Filings Link pdf page 106 line 12 “Therein lies the basic flaw fatal to Petitioner’s (CFTRRB) lawsuit: the City’s decision to remove the roadway improvements from the Community Plan is not a “project” subject to CEQA because the “Project” (the Amendment) will not result in a physical change to the existing environment”. On the contrary, CEQA requires an EIR for any change to a Community Plan. EIR pdf page 2 Environmental Determinations.  Investments in the city are made based on the completion of planned items. How can a municipality extract Development Impact Fees and guide development based on improvements that will never occur?

CEQA Statute Chapter 1-21000(g) “It is the intent of the Legislature that all agencies of the state government which regulate activities of private individuals, corporations, and public agencies which are found to affect the quality of the environment, shall regulate such activities so that major consideration is given to preventing environmental damage, while providing a decent home and satisfying living environment for every Californian”. The “E” in CEQA is for Environmental which in an EIR includes all things that impact humans. The City Attorney and others opposed to the bridge conflated; Environmental with Conservation, buying into the logic that not building the bridge would be an act of Conservation. An EIR protects humans and the needs of humans cannot be set aside.

The City Attorney was in effect saying “oops” we were only kidding about the need for an EIR, sorry about that. The City Attorney sent the community and CFTRRB down a CEQA rabbit hole only to declare in the end that an EIR was not necessary. The city’s response begins with the Filings link on pdf page 101. The city claims that they should not be punished for providing a document that was there only to inform the public. Filings pdf page 3 line 10 covers the cities filing for the EIR. But in its EIR filing, the city left out allot of information that the public had asked for and an EIR required. For example, there is no information on how not building the bridge affects ambulance and fire service times. How would the additional time it takes for an ambulance to get to a house and then get to an emergency room affect death and injury rates? The city has all the records to give us the death rates, why the secrecy? What about delays with fire trucks, the loss of life and property? What about the increased mortality rate for emergency personnel due to the additional stress because of the uncompleted roads? What about the reduction in the number of exits out of the community in a conflagration? What about the touted Climate Action Plan, why is the city removing bike and pedestrian routes, why have automobiles idling unnecessarily in University during rush hour because only one of the three main roads in South UC have been completed? What about all the un-mitigatable items in the EIR Executive Summary? See PDF page 508 in the EIR

The purpose of the CEQA hearing was to determine if the EIR was complete and honest. The city now says CEQA does not apply and if the judge agrees the city will have found a path of litigation that can ignore public comment and safety concerns at all levels of legislative and judicial review.

Judge Bacal will have to determine if an EIR is required when removing something from a community plan. If an EIR is required the judge will schedule an additional hearing. If the judge rules an EIR is not required, this would set a new legal precedent and would have ramifications throughout California. Investors and developers could no longer rely on cities building the infrastructure they promised and collected fees for.

The Judge could also rule that the city would have to pay CFTRRB their legal fees since the city now claims that filing an EIR was unnecessary. It is uncertain when these rulings will become public.

Louis Rodolico has been a University resident since 2001

When reviewing these documents it is important to understand that “The Project” is the Removal of the Regents Road Bridge and Widening of Genesee. Having “The Project” as the removal of something from the plan has been confusing.

 

Links:

CEQA California Environmental Quality Act

http://resources.ca.gov/ceqa/more/faq.html

EIR Environmental Impact Report

https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/ucp_amendment_final_peir.pdf

Filings (To Tentative Ruling)

Citizens For The Regents Road Bridge & City of San Diego Filings

Planning Commission Oct 27th Audio Only 1:14:25 Times

“The quicker we can get there the better off the patient will be”

“Bridge improves response times 30 seconds”

http://granicus.sandiego.gov/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=8&clip_id=6816