In May of 2011, the City of South Lake Tahoe (City) adopted the South Lake Tahoe General Plan Update (Plan). Prior to adopting the Plan, the City determined that certain elements of the Plan were not consistent with the 1987 Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s (TRPA) Regional Plan for Lake Tahoe. Because TRPA was in the process of updating its Regional Plan the City elected to approve the General Plan as drafted with a disclaimer that elements of the Plan that conflict with the 1987 Regional Plan would not be implemented until TRPA’s Regional Plan is updated and TRPA confirms the City’s Plan is consistent with the updated Regional Plan.
In League to Save Lake Tahoe v. City of South Lake Tahoe, Case No. 2:11-cv-01648 -GEB-GGH, 2012 U.S.Dist.LEXIS 6288 (E.D.Cal., Jan. 19, 2012), the League to Save Lake Tahoe (League) filed a lawsuit challenging the City’s approval of the Plan on that grounds that the City’s Plan is inconsistent with the TRPA Compact, the City was required to submit the Plan to TRPA for its approval and because the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared for the Plan failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The City filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that the League lacked standing to bring the federal claims alleged and that the federal claims were not ripe. Specifically, the City argued that because aspects of the Plan that are inconsistent with the Regional Plan would not be implemented, the City’s approval of the Plan could not harm the League. The District Court agreed and granted the City’s Motion for Summary Judgment explaining that the injuries claimed by the League are speculative and that even if the City procedurally erred by failing to obtain TRPA’s approval prior to adopting its Plan, such a procedural error did not threaten to cause serious environmental impacts claimed by the League. Additionally, because the court dismissed all of the League’s federal claims, the court also dismissed the League’s state law CEQA claims without prejudice.
Federal courts are commonly reluctant to hear state law claims, such as CEQA challenges, where all federal claims raised in the plaintiff’s lawsuit are dismissed.
Written by: Tina Thomas and Chris Butcher
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.