GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

Legal challenge continues over SDSU’s Master Plan and Adobe Falls development

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 21, 2011

This is to catch up on the multi-year legal maneuvers that involve the Adobe Falls area — undeveloped open space adjacent to Alvarado Creek just north of the I-8 freeeway across from San Diego State University, west of College Avenue. San Diego State University’s Master Plan intends to develop that land with up to 348 residential housing units for faculty and staff.

Alvarado Creek (the green tree belt) crosses to the north side of Interstate 8 near College Avenue. The Adobe Falls cascades wrap to the north and then the creek turns westward.

Beginning with the 2005 Master Plan and then the 2007 Master Plan revision, California State University’s certification of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was challenged in lawsuits by the City of San Diego, Del Cerro Action Council, and other entities.

February 2010: after years in court during which the cases were consolidated into one, the Superior Court entered a judgment in favor of SDSU (for history up to that point click here).

Subsequently, the City of San Diego and its Redevelopment Agency, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) decided to appeal the decision (due to lack of funds, Del Cerro Action Council was unable to join the appeal).

December 2010: City of San Diego and other parties filed opening briefs in their appeal of the Superior Court judgment.

February 2011: CSU filed its brief.

March 17-18, 2011: San Diego [et al.] filed reply briefs.

April 26, 2011: Amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs were filed by California Department of Transportation, League of California Cities, and California State Association.

May 26, 2011: CSU filed responses to the amicus curiae briefs.

Del Cerro is in the background. Alvarado Creek's Adobe Falls, which flows year-round although sometimes at a trickle, is hidden at top right

The issues discussed in the various briefs go into considerable detail. Note that SDSU’s Master Plan includes other development projects in addition to the Adobe Falls proposal, so the mitigation issues discussed in the appeal are much broader. I would characterize the arguments very generally as going back and forth over the following:

1. The City asserts that CSU abused its discretion under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by claiming its financial obligation to ensure mitigation for traffic is limited to requesting funds from the Legislature. If funds were to be denied, CSU would assume no further responsibility.

2. SANDAG and MTS argue that CSU failed to address the impacts that will result from SDSU’s massive increased use of public transit systems to transport additional students, faculty, staff and visitors to and from the SDSU campus” and that CSU should have considered alternate potentially feasible mitigation measures.

CSU argues that it cannot make funding requests for highway traffic improvements, because only Caltrans can do that. CSU says the Master Plan project traffic impacts are just one part of the overall traffic growth picture that Caltrans must plan for. However, CalTrans presently has no plans for highway improvements in the vicinity of the project, so without such a plan, it would be impossible to determine what CSU’s fair share should be. CSU says it can only commit to pay a fair share for traffic improvements when Caltrans develops a plan.

Further, CSU argues that it prepared a traffic analysis that studied impacts to the transportation network surrounding SDSU as required by CEQA; identified significantly impacted intersections, roads, and road segments; negotiated extensively with the City of San Diego and other agencies over the fair-share mitigation amounts; made final fair-share determinations; adopted fair-share mitigation measures specific to both the City of San Diego and Caltrans; and requested fair-share mitigation funds from the Legislature. CSU says it changed its capital outlay budget process to include mitigation of off-campus impacts. CSU also argues that there is nothing in CEQA that requires “alternate potentially feasible mitigation measures” not required by statute or implementing regulations.

Naturally, everybody involved with the case declines to comment because it is ongoing litigation.

What’s next: a clerk at the Court of Appeals indicates that no further hearings have been scheduled, but guesses that it could be September or later before the next hearing.

One of several cascades at Adobe Falls.

 

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