The Third District Court of Appeal issued a partially published decision in the case Chico Advocates for a Responsible Economy v. City of Chico (40 Cal.App.5th 839), which address an EIR prepared for a Walmart Expansion Project. In the published portion, the court addressed the EIR analysis of urban decay impacts and methodology used therein. The court upheld the City’s statement of overriding considerations for significant and unavoidable traffic impacts in the unpublished portion.

On appeal, the petitioners argued that the EIR analysis of urban decay impacts was deficient because the EIR did not consider impacts resulting from the loss of “close and convenient shopping.” Specifically, petitioners argued that the Walmart expansion would decrease the quality of life in the community. The Third District rejected this argument, explaining that CEQA only considers environmental impacts. Thus, the psychological or social impacts cited by petitioners must only be studied if these impacts result in physical changes to the environment. The Third District applied independent review to address argument, characterizing it is as a predominantly legal question based on the California Supreme Court’s decision in Sierra Club v. County of Fresno (2018) 6 Cal.5th 502.

The Third District also addressed petitioner’s challenge to the City’s methodology used in the EIR for urban decay analysis. Petitioners argued that the technical study supporting the EIR urban decay section included material flaws. However, the Court concluded that these arguments amounted to a “battle of the experts,” and applied the substantial evidence standard of review to reject this challenge.