First District Upholds EIR for Project to Redevelop Former Naval Station on Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands

In a decision published July 7, 2014, the First District Court of Appeal upheld the EIR for a project designed to transform a former naval station on San Francisco’s Treasure Island into a vibrant mixed-use community. The project is a comprehensive plan to redevelop Naval Station Treasure Island, which ceased operations in 1997.  The project will be constructed over 15 to 20 years. It includes up to 8,000 new homes (with at least 25 percent designated as affordable units available at below-market prices); 500 hotel rooms; commercial, retail, and office space; and 300 acres of parks, playgrounds, and open space. The project also includes restoration and re-use of historic buildings, public utilities, bike and transit facilities, updated infrastructure, and a new Ferry Terminal and intermodal Transit Hub. Because the project will be built over time, with changing market conditions, it includes flexible parameters for certain project elements. All told, the project is expected to cost around $1.5 billion.

The City and County of San Francisco, along with the Treasure Island Development Authority, certified the EIR for the Treasure Island / Yerba Buena Island Project in June 2011. A group called Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island challenged the decision, claiming the environmental documents violated CEQA on several grounds. The trial court denied the petition in its entirety. On appeal, the First District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

The petitioner’s main argument on appeal was that the lead agencies abused their discretion by preparing a “project” EIR instead of a “program” EIR. Essentially, the petitioner argued that the project was too “flexible” and uncertain to support project-level review.  The court disagreed, noting that the question under CEQA case law is not whether a particular type of EIR is prepared, but rather whether the EIR meets CEQA’s mandate to adequately identify and address the environmental impacts of a project.

The court also upheld the EIR’s project description, analyses of hazardous substances and historic resources, and its discussion regarding conformity with the “Tidelands Trust.” In addition, the court held that the draft EIR did not need to be recirculated.

RMM partners Whit Manley and Chip Wilkins, along with associates Jennifer Holman and Jeannie Lee, represented Real Party in Interest Treasure Island Community Development, LLC, in the case. (Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island v. City and County of San Francisco, Case No. A137828, can be read here.)