CSU Board of Trustees’ EIR for Campus Expansion was Held as Sufficient, with the Exception of its Analysis on Impacts to Surrounding Parklands
In an unpublished decision, City of Hayward v. Board of Trustees of the California State University, 2012 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 4097, the Board of Trustees of the California State University (Trustees) wished to expand its Hayward campus in order to meet its assigned enrollment ceiling. In 2009, the Trustees approved a master plan to guide campus development for the next 20-30 years. The City of Hayward (City) sued claiming the Trustees’ environmental impact report (EIR) failed to adequately analyze impacts on fire protection and public safety, traffic and parking, air quality, and parklands. The California First Appellate District reversed the trial court’s holding and found that the Trustees’ EIR was adequate, with the exception of parklands. The court therefore modified the writ of mandate ordering the Trustees to revise the analysis of potential environmental impacts to surrounding parklands.
Based on the Trustees’ analysis on fire protection and public services, the court came to four conclusions. First, the court found substantial evidence to support the Trustees’ conclusion that additional and expanded fire facilities will not have a significant environmental impact. Second, the court held that the Trustees did not have to provide mitigation measures for the new fire facilities since they concluded that more fire protection services would not result in significant environmental impacts. Third, the court stated that the Trustees do not need to fund the expansion of the fire department services but rather the city has a constitutional duty to provide such services. Lastly, the court found that the EIR sufficiently analyzed the impact of the campus expansion on the city’s public services and properly came to the conclusion that the “cumulative effect would be less than significant.”
The court next addressed the issue of traffic and parking. The court first held that the Trustees’ analysis of potential sites for faculty housing was sufficient. Since the Trustees prepared a program EIR as opposed to a project EIR, they properly deferred site-specific analysis of possible environmental effects of building faculty housing until a later time. The court next examined the Trustees’ mitigation measures. With the main goal of shifting commuters out of single-occupant cars and into carpools, transit, biking, and walking, the court found “no deficiency” in the way the EIR considered impacts of the master plan on parking and traffic, incorporated mitigation measures, and reached the conclusion that some environmental impacts are unavoidable. Lastly, the City claimed that the Trustees’ EIR failed to include a “mitigation measure … providing for the University to pay its fair share of traffic improvements.” (City of Hayward, 2012 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 4097 at 60.) Since the City did not raise this issue in its opening brief, the court declined to address it and held it as waived.
Pertaining to impacts on air quality, the court supported the Trustees’ EIR. While the EIR concluded that the master plan would produce long-term emissions of pollutants, it presented transportation mitigation measures that would reduce some, though not all, emissions to a less than significant level. The court also explained that since neither the trial court nor the City suggested further mitigation measures the Trustees should consider, then that portion of the Trustees’ EIR was sufficient and did not need to be reexamined.
Impacts on parklands was the one area with which the court agreed with the City and the lower court. The court explained that the Trustees’ reliance on “long-standing use patterns” of the students as opposed to factual evidence was “nominal” and did not prove a meaningful enough analysis to inform or analyze the extent of the impact the master plan was likely to have on surrounding parks. Therefore, the court ordered the Trustees to reanalyze those impacts prior to certifying a revised EIR.
Written By: Tina Thomas, Ashle Crocker and Holly McMannes (law clerk)
For questions relating to this blog post or any other California land use, environmental and/or planning issues contact Thomas Law Group at (916) 287-9292.
The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice by Thomas Law Group, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Readers are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.