Unpublished Decision Holds that a Comparative Analysis is Required to Support the Conclusion that an Alternative is Economically Infeasible

May 8th, 2012

By: Thomas Law Group



In an unpublished decision, Quartz Hill Cares v. City of Lancaster (2012) 2012 Cal.App.Unpub. LEXIS 2026, petitioner sought a writ of administrative mandate to overturn the City of Lancaster’s (City) approval of a 395,000-square-foot commercial project on land previously zoned for residential use under the Planning and Zoning Law and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  The Second Appellate District Court (Court) held that the City erred in certifying its Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR).  Pertaining to the Planning and Zoning Law, the Court dismissed the petitioner’s procedural issues, holding that the errors committed by the City were not prejudicial.  The Court dismissed all of the petitioner’s substantive issues under the Planning and Zoning Law as well, explaining that the petitioner had failed to carry its burden of providing sufficient evidence to show that the City violated Article 10.6 of the Planning and Zoning Law by rezoning property previously designated for residential uses to commercial uses.  The Court found that the City still had four times the amount of residentially-zoned land to meet its need for low to moderate-income housing.

However, under CEQA, the Court found that the City failed to provide sufficient evidence in its FEIR to support its conclusion that the Reduced Commission Density Alternative (RCDA) was “not economically viable.”  The Court explained that an EIR must include sufficient information about each alternative to allow for a meaningful evaluation and comparison in connection with a proposed project.  While the discussion of alternatives does not need to be exhaustive, it does need to include the “analytic route” the agency took to reach a conclusion on the alternatives.  The Court explained that the FEIR should have included comparative economic data and analysis between the project and the reduced size alternative. Therefore, despite concluding that the EIR included a reasonable range of alternatives, the Court held that the analysis of alternatives lacked sufficient information.

Written By: Tina Thomas and Chris Butcher

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