The Los Angeles City Council voted seven to three Wednesday, January 11th, to reject a motion to require Playa Vista to prepare a supplemental environmental impact report (S-EIR) for the Phase I of the development project.
Instead, the council voted nine to one to hire consultants to review studies commissioned by Playa Vista.
Last year, the California Second District Court of Appeal ordered the City of Los Angeles to vacate its approval of the Phase I Methane Prevention Detection and Monitoring Plan.
The judges said city officials could not determine if the groundwater dewatering system approved as part of methane gas mitigation measures would cause environmental impact.
Under court order, the City Council had to decide whether an S-EIR is required to study the dewatering systems.
Dewatering is the process of pumping water away from underground pipes used to vent methane gas.
Environmentalists allege that groundwater could become polluted and polluted water could be pumped into the Ballona Wetlands.
“The City Council’s vote for a peer review was the appropriate action to take concerning the court’s ruling,” said Douglas Moreland, Playa Vista senior vice president of development.
Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents the 11th District, which includes Playa Vista, said developer officials and lobbyists urged the council to disapprove requiring an expensive and lengthy S-EIR.
“Many of the council members have been around the large conglomerate that is creating Playa Vista and they know the developer and some of the lobbyists,” Rosendahl alleged.
Rosendahl presented the motion to require an S-EIR because he believed the process would most adequately address environmental impacts.
“The issue of dewatering may be narrow, but it is significant, far-reaching, and raises questions about public health and safety,” he said.
“A thorough public study such as an S-EIR is in keeping with the Appellate Court decision and the city’s public safety obligations to its residents,” he said.
Rosendahl said he was also disappointed that City Council members did not follow the precedent of accepting recommendations from the councilmember who represents the district in which an issue is located.
Council members Tony Cardenas and Eric Garcetti voted for the Rosendahl motion.
The City Council made its decision one day after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge upheld the city decision to approve The Village, which is the second phase of the Playa Vista project.
The City of Santa Monica, the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, and other plaintiffs sued the City of Los Angeles alleging the environmental impact report for The Village did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act.
Judge William Highberger said Tuesday, January 10th, that The Village EIR provided all relevant information and that city officials had made an informed decision.
“The same environmental issues raised in the first phase were also addressed in the EIR for The Village,” Moreland said. “The City Council and the courts have already looked at these issues and agree that there are no environmental impacts.”
Moreland said an S-EIR for the dewatering system is not necessary because the peer review’s report will be presented in a public forum, which is similar to an S-EIR process.
The City Council has had three public meetings on dewatering since the court’s October ruling, Moreland said, and the City Council did not vote for an S-EIR, based on recommendations from the city attorney’s office.