LB Unified School District Files Legal Action Alleging Flawed Airport EIR...BUT Will Ask Court To Stay Proceedings Until Oct. 24 While LBUSD Engages In Negotiations/Discussions With City Officials In Effort To Resolve Issues
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Action Is Meant To Preserve LBUSD's Legal Options, School District Says
(July 21, 2006, with court filing attached) -- As a result of a June 20 City Council vote (5-3) certifying an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on nearly doubling the size of LB Airport's permanent terminal area facilities, despite appellants' citation of multiple alleged EIR flaws, and the Council's subsequent July 11 refusal (4-5) to rescind the certification, the LB Unified School District is filing a legal action today (July 21) challenging the EIR.
However, in a simultaneous filing, LBUSD indicates it will ask the Court to stay the action (put it on hold) through Oct. 24 as discussions/negotiations continue between EIR appellants (LBUSD as well as separate appellants) and City Hall to address EIR-related issues.
The LBUSD filing -- a Petition for Writ of Mandate & Complaint for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief -- alleges violation of the CA Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and inconsistency with the City's General Plan.
News of the filing was reported first in LB media by LBReport.com...and we have posted the filing in full (without attachments) in pdf form. To view it, click here (1.6 MB).
LBUSD Public Information Director Chris Eftychiou says the School District is filing the action to ensure preservation of the District's rights without relying on the City Council's July 11 vote (7-2) extending statutory time deadlines to file suit.
Negotiations will now proceed between the EIR appellants (LBUSD along with other separate appellants) and LB City Hall in an effort to negotiate/resolve several issues...with a report to the Council on their status by September.
City Attorney Bob Shannon has separately indicated to LBReport.com that meetings between representatives of the City and representatives of the appellants are expected to begin shortly.
Mr. Eftychiou notes that LB City Hall has agreed to join LBUSD in Court to ask a judge for the stay through Oct. 24 (coinciding with the Council-voted time extension permitting further talks between EIR appellants and city officials).
But in cold legal language, LBUSD's complaint indicates the seriousness the School District attaches to the matter...which was similarly underscored when LBUSD's July 13 hearing testimony was delivered personally by then-School Board president, now 2nd district Councilmember, Suja Lowenthal.
LBUSD's legal filing states in pertinent part:
[T]he Airport [under the proposed project] will nearly double in size from 56,320 square feet to 102,850 square feet. The project threatens significant and far-reaching environmental impacts, including, among others, air quality and noise impacts.
...The School District submitted comments [to the draft EIR regarding facilities improvements]...that will accommodate increased numbers of airline flights...The School District suggested specific, feasible mitigation measures to address the Project's noise impacts. Finally, the School District invited the City's staff to work collaboratively with it to address health and safety impacts raised by the Project.
...On May 4, 2006, after discovering that the City's responses to comments on the Draft EIR failed to address the School District's concerns, the School District submitted another comment letter...
On May 11, 2006, a representative of the School District appeared before the Planning Commission...In response to the School District's stated concerns, one Planning Commissioner said, "Hey, I'm a CEQA lawyer, and that's real gobbledygook, ma'am. Let's cut out, you know, all the rigamarole."
...On June 20, 2006, the City Council denied the appeals [49 total appellants] and sustained the Planning Commission's certification of the EIR, adoption of a statement of overriding considerations, mitigation and monitoring plan, and, with minor revisions, approval of the project...
[Complaint states several grounds for EIR allegedly violating CEQA and inconsistency with City's General Plan, see filing.]
Mr. Eftychiou stated some key points in non-legalese for LBReport.com:
The school district is filing legal action now to preserve its options...Although we appreciate the city's gesture of extending the deadline to file legal action, we have some reservations about whether the city has
the legal authority to do so. The question is whether the extension ultimately would hold up in court, and we don't want to take any chances.
Our school district is still very much interested in seeking an agreement outside of court and will continue to pursue that avenue. To that end we are asking the court to issue a stay on the district's legal action to allow the city and the district time to negotiate a solution, and the city is cooperating in that effort. We remain hopeful that we
can work out any differences among ourselves. Further legal action would be a last resort.
The school district has no position regarding the airport modernization project as a whole. Our interest is much narrower. We want an opportunity to work with the city to examine and address the issue of
noise and how it impacts our schools and students. Historically, the school district has not had an opportunity to address this issue.
Our latest action is not an attempt to block the project but to make
certain that noise issues are addressed should the project move forward.
The Councilmembers who voted on June 20 to certify the EIR were Bonnie Lowenthal, Jackie Kell, Laura Richardson, Tonia Reyes Uranga and Val Lerch...the bare five minimum required. [If any of these Councilmembers had voted "no," certification would have been withheld.] [Dissenting were Councilmembers Frank Colonna, Patrick O'Donnell and Rae Gabelich]
The Councilmembers who voted on July 11 not to rescind certification of the EIR were Bonnie Lowenthal, Frank Colonna, Jackie Kell, Laura Richardson and Val Lerch. [Dissenting were Councilmembers Suja Lowenthal, Patrick O'Donnell, Tonia Reyes Uranga and Rae Gabelich.]
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