Pfeiffer v. City of Sunnyvale City Council (2011) 200 Cal. App. 4th 1552

May 22nd, 2012

By: Thomas Law Group



After the Sunnyvale City Council (City) approved the expansion of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s medical campus and certified the project’s EIR, Petitioner filed a challenge arguing (1) The project was inconsistent with the City’s general plan; (2) The EIR failed to use a proper baseline for traffic analysis; and (3) The EIR improperly analyzed the project’s impacts of construction noise. The trial court denied the petition. Petitioner appealed to the Sixth District Court of Appeal. Addressing Petitioner’s first challenge, the Court found that an EIR is required only to analyze a project’s inconsistency with a city’s general plan, not a project’s consistency with the plan. In this case, the Court held that there was no inconsistency. Second, the Court upheld the traffic baseline used in the EIR. In Sunnyvale West Neighborhood Assn., et all v. City of Sunnyvale City Council (2010) 190 Cal. App. 4th 1351, a case decided by the same Appellate Court (but a different panel of judges), concluded that the use of future-based traffic impacts as a baseline for EIR analysis was legally inadequate. The Court differentiated this case from the 2010 case by explaining that this EIR included both the proper existing “background” traffic baseline and the future conditions baseline. Therefore, the court held the EIR complied with the requirements of CEQA. Lastly, with respect to the Petitioner’s challenge about construction noise, the Court found that the City’s EIR adequately analyzed and included eleven mitigation measures and alternatives to lessen construction noise impacts. Thus, the Court upheld the lower court’s decision and the City’s approval of the project and certification of the EIR.

Key Points:

An EIR may discuss and use a future-baseline analysis to assist in evaluating the potential traffic impacts of a project, but the the EIR must also disclose and discuss the existing baseline as part of the analysis to comply with CEQA.