Will Harrington Challenge Hotel on CEQA Grounds?

Posted by David Greenwald : davisvanguard – excerpt

Three weeks ago the Davis City Council tentatively approved the Hotel-Conference Center along Richards Boulevard, and they did so making a Mitigated Negative Declaration arguing that the impacts of the project and the “recommended mitigation measures reduce any potential environmental impacts to less-than-significant levels.”

However, in a letter delivered Tuesday afternoon from Attorney Don Mooney on behalf of Michael Harrington, he argues that “approval of the project would violate the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), Public Resources Code, section 21000 et seq. as substantial evidence in the record of proceedings supports a fair argument that the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center Project may have significant environmental impacts to traffic and other matters such as historical resources.”

“The Initial Study must provide the factual basis and the analysis for the determination that a project will not have a significant impact on the environment,” Mr. Mooney writes. They then present an “expert opinion” provided by Dan Smith of Smith Engineering & Management, who argues that “a ‘fair argument’ exists that the Project may have significant impacts regarding traffic and circulation.”

Mr. Mooney continues, “Mr. Smith identifies significant flaws in the Transportation Impact Study for the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center. Mr. Smith’s comments result in conflicting claims regarding the Project’s impacts to traffic and historic resources. It is the function of an environmental impact report, not a negative declaration, to resolve these conflicting claims.”

City Attorney Harriet Steiner said they have gone over the issue of using a “Neg Dec” versus an “EIR.” She said, “Staff went through an initial study to determine what impacts this project would cause based on the baseline. As we went through that and as we did the analysis we did not feel that there was a fair argument that the project itself would cause an impact that required preparation of the EIR. That is why staff recommended and the city went forward with a ‘Neg Dec.’”… (more)

We are noticing a lot of negative impacts of traffic showing up in arguments against projects. We also are hearing about a shift in attitude by so-called “moderate democrats” who are starting to fight back against the continued use of transportation funds on non-transit and anti-car projects. Appeals cases that reach the high courts are also denying projects based on these arguments.

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