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Posts Tagged ‘Alvarado Creek’

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.


Posted in Adobe Falls, Environment, Government, Land use | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Judge signs final decision; SDSU expansion may proceed along Alvarado Creek and Del Cerro

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 2, 2010

The local news media dropped its coverage of this in 2007, perhaps thinking it was over then, but now it’s really done. San Diego State University has a green light to proceed with its strongly contested Master Plan which envisions a 120-room hotel near Alvarado Hospital and the development of a large complex of residential housing for SDSU faculty and staff in the open space area at scenic Adobe Falls on Alvarado Creek near Del Cerro.

The final decision on the long-standing lawsuits challenging SDSU’s 2007 Revised Master Plan Environmental Impact Report was made by Judge Thomas P. Nugent. He signed the final decision on Feb 11, 2010, finding the revised EIR valid.

Check the Ongoing Topics page for future developments]

The lawsuits had been filed by Del Cerro Action Council, the City of San Diego, and others after the revised EIR was issued in 2007, consolidated into a single case, and argued since then until a proposed decision was issued on January 13, 2010. The most disputed issues were SDSU’s (CSU’s) responsibility for paying for mitigation of the environmental impacts (there’s apparently little obligation), and whether the Navajo community plan had been taken into account (it had, but doesn’t matter). Following the proposed decision, objections to it were made and heard, and now this final decision is the last word on the case. Background information is documented on this blog’s Ongoing Topics page. I won’t attempt to relate the variety of other details covered in the lawsuits, but I obtained a copy of the judge’s decision and reproduced it below.

Now that the Adobe Falls project appears ready to proceed, one open question regards the number of units to be built. Presently there is only one road providing access to the site (via Del Cerro Blvd.). If no alternate access can be provided to the site, a maximum of 172 homes will be developed. If an additional alternate access can be provided, up to 348 homes could be developed on the site. The only viable alternate access would be through property owned by the Smoke Tree Adobe Falls Homeowners Association which has vehemently opposed the new development.

Going forward, my interest is in understanding the fate of the Adobe Falls open space area and the city’s only year-round cascading waterfall. I will report new developments as I learn about them.

[Update Mar 4: In response to my question whether an appeal will be filed, Gina Coburn, Communications Director for the San Diego City Attorney’s office wrote me: “Given the pendency of litigation, we are limited by what we will comment on. We will point out, however, that the City and Redevelopment Agency will appeal the Court’s denial of our writ. The lawsuit only addressed SDSU’s Campus Master Plan Expansion, and did not address any other separate redevelopment projects in the area.” She added that her office will not comment on specifics of the appeal and that it cannot comment on what any other parties in the lawsuit might do]

Posted in Adobe Falls, Environment, Land use, Water | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

San Diego’s Alvarado Creek and the future of Adobe Falls

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 26, 2009

There’s only one place remaining where you can tell that Alvarado Creek is a creek anymore.  That place is Adobe Falls, a steep, pretty (but graffiti-ridden), rocky cascade in Del Cerro. It has the status of being the only waterfall within San Diego city limits that runs pretty much year-round. A small portion of the falls is owned by the city as open space with historical significance, and a larger portion of the surrounding land belongs to San Diego State University (SDSU) just across the freeway to the south. Even during the hot, dry month of July, the creek is flowing despite the long absence of precipitation because of urban irrigation and Lake Murray reservoir runoff. Adobe Falls’ undeveloped status is eventually going to change, however, as I’ll discuss shortly.

AdobeFalls (6)View

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Posted in Adobe Falls, Environment, Land use, Videos, Water | Tagged: , , , | 8 Comments »