California Native Plant Society v. City of Santa Cruz

(2009) 177 Cal.App.4th 957

The Sixth District Court of Appeal upheld the City of Santa Cruz’s approval of a master plan for Arana Gulch, a City-owned greenbelt property. The EIR for the master plan acknowledged that the project would have a significant effect on the habitat of the Santa Cruz tarplant due to the chosen alignment of a multiuse trail; however, the City determined that overriding considerations, including making the trail accessible for wheelchair users, warranted approval of the project as proposed. The court confirmed that the permissible considerations for a finding of infeasibility include whether an alternative is impractical or undesirable from a policy standpoint. Citing City of Del Mar v. City of San Diego (1982) 133 Cal.App.3d 401, the court concluded that the City was legally justified in rejecting environmentally superior alternatives as “infeasible” on the basis of its determination that the alternatives were undesirable from a policy standpoint because they failed to achieve what the City Council regarded as primary objectives of the project, and because substantial evidence supported this finding. Further, the court addressed the applicable standard of review for challenges to the adequacy of an EIR’s alternatives analysis, holding that the relevant question is whether CEQA’s informational requirements have been met. If they have been met, then a dispute over whether the type or amount of information provided is adequate is a factual determination subject to the “substantial evidence” prong of Public Resources Code section 21168.5, rather than a question of whether the agency failed to proceed in the manner required by law. [RMM Counsel of record: James G. Moose .]