GrokSurf's San Diego

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Posts Tagged ‘San Diego State University (SDSU)’

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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Clarification on SDSU’s planned expansion into the Adobe Falls Open Space area

Posted by George J Janczyn on April 24, 2010

I’m maintaining updated information on San Diego State University’s Master Plan project to construct residential housing for faculty and staff in Del Cerro’s Adobe Falls Open Space area, and the legal challenges pertaining to the plan’s Environmental Impact Report that dragged on for years.

The ongoing story is here:


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Adobe Falls open space views

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 6, 2010

Fresh pictures from the area. My digital camera (Nikon D5000) has 720p video, but only manual controls and even on a tripod with vibration control turned on it is impossible to get smooth pans and zooms, so it looks pretty amateurish, but overall some nice shots anyway. Enjoy.

Most of the still photos in the video also in this Flickr slideshow.

March 19, 2010: Back in November, I reported that the Fire Department told me the fire at Adobe Falls was probably caused by transients. The video also has a caption to that effect. Today, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that a man was charged with arson in the case. Click here for the full story.

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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]

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SDSU’s expansion project in Del Cerro’s Adobe Falls a step closer to reality

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 4, 2010

Judge issues ruling on case challenging SDSU’s Master Plan EIR

Last July I wrote an article in which I explored Alvarado Creek and its path from La Mesa to Adobe Falls in Del Cerro and on to the San Diego River. Adobe Falls was ultimately to become its own story, though, as I learned more about SDSU’s Master Plan project to build residential housing for faculty and staff in the Adobe Falls area and the ongoing legal challenges that ensued. The story was entitled Alvarado Creek and the future of Adobe Falls.

When I wrote that story there were still unresolved legal challenges to SDSU’s project, specifically the Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and I encountered ongoing obstacles in following the legal developments. Indeed, after writing the story, I wasn’t able to access the casefile any more. That process is documented in my Adobe Falls updates post.

Both of those posts contain detailed background information including links for the EIR, the Master Plan, and more.

Today, I finally made some progress. Although the clerk in the public records office again informed me that the casefile was not available, after I pleaded how long I’ve been trying to get my hands on it she contacted the department and they (reluctantly) agreed to allow me limited access to it, but only in the clerk’s presence.

I had already seen the older casefile documents, but regarding new developments, I was only allowed to see one item — a Proposed Statement of Decision that Judge Thomas P. Nugent issued. I could choose to have the clerk stand over me while I read it or she could make a copy for me. I took the copy!

My informal reading of the major challenges is: 1) the EIR fails to identify, mitigate, and consider alternatives to local & regional traffic impacts; 2) the EIR fails to provide correct or adequate fair share calculations; 3) the EIR fails to adequately identify impacts to or mitigation measures to reduce impacts to area population and housing stock; 4) the EIR fails to provide analysis or description of proposed open space and/or recreational facilities; 5) the EIR fails to adequately identify or mitigate for impacts to Adobe Falls Creek and surrounding riparian wetlands, or to native plant habitat, open space, or visual character.

The judge’s Proposed Statement of Decision was filed on Jan 13, 2010 and essentially dismisses all challenges to SDSU’s 2007 EIR.

One issue that particularly interested me was water (!). The Petitioners argued that SDSU’s EIR did not adequately examine the development’s impacts on the city’s (limited) water supply. The judge ruled, however, that the EIR had specifically addressed both water supply impacts and water delivery infrastructure impacts and that they were adequately addressed and supported by substantial evidence.

In his Conclusion, the judge says “This Proposed Statement of Decision shall become final within fifteen days unless either party files objections thereto pursuant to California Rules of Court, §3.1590(f). Any objections shall be limited to alleged errors of fact or law. Attempts to reargue the case will not be considered.”

I was not permitted to see additional new documents that apparently represent objections to the decision statement. I was told the department is probably going to put together a new volume for the case (it already has 6 volumes); that probably means more paperwork is expected while the new objections are heard. Since the objections can only pertain to errors of fact or law in the decision, though, it seems pretty clear to me that at this point, there’s not much more standing in the way of the project, other than SDSU and CSU finding money to pay for it.

For the long term, I intend to continue following the project after the legal issues are resolved. I’ll keep all further updates in the Ongoing Topics page on the menu bar at the top of this blog.

Added Feb 5: PDF copy of the Proposed Statement of Decision (will open in new tab)

[updated Feb 5 to emphasize the likelihood that there are objections or challenges to the decision]

[Feb 8 – It’s curious that the local mainstream news media hasn’t written a word about the judge’s ruling. I wouldn’t think it’s because it is a proposed statement of decision, because the media had plenty to say when a proposed decision was announced regarding the QSA water transfer business! I don’t care if they mention my blog post or not, but isn’t this a topic of broad importance?]

Revised SDSU Master Plan

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On the San Diego State University (CSU) fee increase

Posted by George J Janczyn on October 25, 2009

It was bad enough that SDSU (CSU) increased the semester fee, reduced course offerings, and imposed furlough days for classes (9 days per year), but their timing made it worse. When the CSU trustees made their decision on July 21, many students had already paid their fall semester fees in good faith. Last week, those already-enrolled students were receiving notice to send in an additional $336. The notice included this tidbit:

CSU must reserve the right, even after initial fee payments are made, to increase or modify any listed fees, without notice, until the date when instruction for a particular semester or quarter has begun. All CSU listed fees should be regarded as estimates that are subject to change upon approval by The Board of Trustees. [my emphasis]



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SDSU’s alternative to Adobe Falls?

Posted by George J Janczyn on August 1, 2009

Today’s San Diego Union-Tribune’s Craig Gustafson writes that SDSU is exploring the possibility of building student and faculty housing, research facilities and a riverfront park near Qualcomm Stadium.

I wonder if SDSU considers this an alternative to developing Adobe Falls, or if they want to develop both areas?

Posted in Land use | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

Adobe Falls updates

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 30, 2009

A few days ago I wrote about SDSU’s expansion plan to develop Del Cerro’s Adobe Falls area and the lawsuits challenging the plan. Here’s an update:

As I wrote previously, the lawsuits against CSU were consolidated into one case (GIC855643), the combined case was transferred from downtown’s Superior Court to the north county branch in Vista, and some hearings have been held with more scheduled. For the city, the case is being handled by San Diego city attorney Andrea Dixon who serves as counsel to the Planning Commission. 

Echoing events that followed SDSU’s 2005 Master Plan, the latest hearings revolve around plaintiffs’ contention that SDSU’s 2007 Master Plan Update and EIR is invalid, in part, because the university claims that “SDSU, as a state entity, is not subject to local planning directives, such as the City of San Diego General Plan and other community plans, and is subject only to state planning laws.”  Those plans include: 1) City of San Diego General Plan Planned Use Map; 2) College Area Community Plan; 3) Navajo Area Community Plan; 4) City of San Diego Municipal Zoning Code.

The plaintiffs also challenge SDSU’s assertion that it is not financially responsible for a fair share of the cost of environmental mitigation required by CEQA. SDSU allows only that it would seek funds from the legislature for mitigation, but regardless of success in obtaining those funds, SDSU would be under no obligation to pay for mitigation expenses.

Recapping the main reasons cited by Del Cerro Action Council and the City for wanting SDSU’s EIR and Master Plan decertified: 1) the EIR fails to identify, mitigate, and consider alternatives to local & regional traffic impacts; 2) the EIR fails to provide correct or adequate fair share calculations; 3) the EIR fails to adequately identify impacts to or mitigation measures to reduce impacts to area population and housing stock; 4) the EIR fails to provide analysis or description of proposed open space and/or recreational facilities; 5) the EIR fails to adequately identify or mitigate for impacts to Adobe Falls Creek and surrounding riparian wetlands, or to native plant habitat, open space, or visual character.

Coincidentally, I haven’t been able to see the casefile for updates since I published the Adobe Falls story. I’m a brand new blogger with a miniscule readership so I’m sure I have nothing to do with that, but it certainly hinders my trying to follow new developments.


Jul 30: Records for the recent June 10 and July 27 hearings are not yet available
Aug 3: According to Gina Coburn, Communications Director for the City Attorney, the case was transferred from downtown to Vista because none of the CEQA-designated judges in downtown San Diego were acceptable to the parties. Her office will not answer any other questions about the case or subsequent hearings. Additional hearings are scheduled for August 4 and 25, September 25, and October 23.
Sep 28: I asked Matt Potter @San Diego Reader if he could help me learn why the casefiles have been kept off the shelf; he subsequently indicated the Reader’s attorneys were unable to shed more light on the situation
Nov 8: A fire near the falls burned a fair number of palms along the creek along in addition to vegetation:
Nov 9: Since my July update, the case file has still not been available in the Superior Court viewing room (I’ve checked a minimum of once a week). They have no answer when asked why.
Nov 23: Casefile still not available for public viewing. I called the department (Judge Thomas P. Nugent) twice this month and left a message but they haven’t returned my calls.
Dec 1: Casefile still not available
Dec 9: Casefile still not available
Dec 18: Casefile still not available
Dec 28: Casefile still not available


Jan 6: Casefile still not available
Jan 12: Casefile still not available
Jan 25: Casefile still not available
Jan 29: Casefile still not available
Feb 4: All further updates will appear in Ongoing Topics.


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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

Read the rest of this entry »

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