Third District Court of Appeal Upholds EIR for Freeway Improvement Project
In an unpublished decision filed on October 24, 2017, the Third District Court of Appeal upheld a trial court’s denial of a CEQA challenge to a freeway interchange and arterial roadway project. The case, Eureka Village Homeowners Association v. City of Rancho Cordova (C082276) considers whether the EIR prepared by the city analyzed a reasonable range of alternatives and whether the EIR properly analyzed and disclosed air quality and noise impacts.
The project at issue in this case involves construction of an interchange connection on U.S. Highway 50 in the Sacramento area. The NOP was originally completed in 2005, and a draft EIR was released in April 2014. The draft EIR considered fifteen potentially feasible alternatives, of which the City ultimately rejected thirteen for either being infeasible, failing to meet project objectives, or failing to avoid significant environmental impacts. However, comments on the DEIR suggested that the City consider additional alternatives.
After the City approved the Project and certified the EIR, project opponents filed a writ of mandate, which the trial court denied. On appeal, the Third District rejected petitioner’s argument that the EIR failed to consider a reasonable range of alternatives. Specifically, the court rejected the argument that the EIR was deficient for failing to consider any alternative other than the Project and the no-project alternative. The court explained that CEQA does not require a set number of alternatives which must be analyzed, and an EIR is not required to consider infeasible alternatives. In this case, the petitioner’s failed to demonstrate that the City declined to consider a potentially feasible alternative in the EIR. The court noted that comments in the final EIR adequately responded to alternatives suggested by the public (in addition to concerns raised regarding air quality and noise).
While not citable precedent in litigation, unpublished cases can provide important real-world examples for practitioners to learn from. This unpublished case serves as a reminder of the importance of writing thorough responses to public comments.