On April 1, 2015, Citizens for Positive Growth & Preservation filed a petition for a writ of mandate in Sacramento Superior Court seeking to invalidate the City of Sacramento’s (City) recent adoption of its 2035 General Plan.
After a “major overhaul” of its 1988 General Plan and adoption of the 2030 General Plan in 2009, the City released a draft of its proposed 2035 General Plan and supporting EIR in August 2014. The City scheduled a hearing for March 3, 2015 to consider adopting the 2035 General Plan and issued several supplemental changes to the 2035 General Plan on February 23, 2015. Despite petitioner’s request to recirculate the EIR in light of the changes, the City adopted the 2035 General Plan as scheduled and issued a Notice of Determination.
The 31-page complaint alleges seven causes of action for violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and state and local planning laws.
Petitioner first alleges the EIR is deficient because the EIR fails to properly analyze the impact on traffic and other impacts related to traffic. The EIR measured traffic impacts using Level of Service (LOS), which uses a grade from A to F (with F meaning failing) to measure vehicle delay on roadways. According to petitioner, the EIR defines LOS F as acceptable and LOS F is not an acceptable LOS for any street in the state. Petitioner claims the City should have classified this as a significant impact and proposed mitigation to reduce the impact. Petitioner also contends the increase in traffic delays on roadways will affect cyclists, who are forced to choose between more congested roads or riding on sidewalks, and air quality due to increased vehicle emissions while idling––none of which the EIR analyzed or attempted to mitigate.
Additionally, petitioner contends the supplemental changes revised several portions of the 2030 General Plan and the City failed to consider the impacts of any of these late additions. By failing to analyze the impacts of the 2035 General Plan and its supplemental changes on air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and cyclists, petitioner argues the EIR violates CEQA because the project description is inadequate. The final portion of the first cause of action claims the EIR is deficient because it failed to consider any alternatives to the 2035 General Plan in a meaningful way.
The second cause of action contends the City violated CEQA by adopting the 2035 General Plan without recirculating the EIR. Petitioner argues the supplemental changes proposed on February 23 constituted “significant new information” that created new environmental impacts and/or increased the severity of the 2035 General Plan’s impacts, requiring revision and recirculation of the EIR under CEQA Guidelines section 15088.5. Petitioner specifically identified several changes as “significant” including: modifying vehicle LOS exception areas, eliminating requirements for mass transit, and eliminating requirements that the City review flood control impacts, among others.
The third cause of action contends the City’s adoption of a Statement of Overriding Considerations was invalid because it does not reflect the actual impacts of the 2035 General Plan as approved. According to petitioner, the impacts of the supplemental changes and oral modifications at the hearing were not considered when the City adopted the Statement of Overriding Considerations and therefore it is invalid.
The fourth cause of action argues the 2035 General Plan is unlawful because the City failed to give meaningful and adequate notice of the 2035 General Plan’s terms to the public. Petitioner points to a portion of the 2035 General Plan that purportedly allows the City to approve projects even if the projects are incompatible General Plan policies. Petitioner contends this deprives the public of a meaningful understanding of the 2035 General Plan because the public has no way to know the nature and extent of development that is approved if the City granted itself the authority to approve projects inconsistent with the General Plan policies.
The fifth cause of action claims the City violated CEQA by failing to evaluate and respond to the public’s comments on the Draft EIR. This procedural violation alleges the agencies did not get the required 10-day notice prior to the City certifying the Final EIR on March 3.
The sixth cause of action alleges violations of state planning and zoning laws. Petitioner claims the 2035 General Plan conflicts with Government Code section 65300.5, which states “the general plan and elements and parts thereof comprise an integrated, internally consistent and compatible statement of policies for the adopting agency.” Petitioner specifically points to a section of the 2035 General Plan that purports to give the City sole discretion to determine if a project is consistent with the General Plan and allows the City to “use its discretion to balance and harmonize policies with other complementary or countervailing policies.” In addition, petitioner also alleges Figure M-1 in the 2035 General Plan violates the Office of Planning and Research’s Guidelines by failing to clearly delineate the boundaries of the City’s “Core Area” such that the public is not able to determine where failing traffic conditions will be allowed.
Finally, in the seventh cause of action petitioner seeks a judicial declaration as to whether the City has complied with CEQA, the City’s General Plan, and California planning law.
In addition to the declaratory relief sought in the seventh cause of action, petitioner seeks a stay and writ of mandate setting aside the City’s adoption of the 2035 General Plan until the City complies with state and local planning laws.