A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has tentatively ruled that the city of Los Angeles can’t build a new sewer main from Venice to Playa del Rey through county-owned Marina del Rey because the California Public Utilities Code (PUC) would be violated.

Judge John A. Torribio has upheld the county’s claim that the city has no authority to build a new 54-inch sewer main because a route already exists on Pacific Avenue in city-owned property.

The judge also ruled against the county’s claim that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) had not been complied with by the city when project environmental impact reports were certified.

The ruling stated that under the PUC, the city of Los Angeles doesn’t have an “absolute” right to use the county’s streets and if the two entities are unable to agree on terms, the city must take the matter to court for a final determination. The city didn’t proceed in the manner required by law, according to the ruling.

In January 2010, the county Board of Supervisors directed county counsel to file a writ in Superior Court challenging the city of Los Angeles’ approval of the Venice Pumping Plant Dual Force Main Sewer Project slated for construction through county-owned Marina del Rey property. The proposed line would run from the Venice Pumping Plant to Via Marina and Marquesas Way in the Marina, ending at the Hyperion Treatment Plant in El Segundo.

“Supervisor (Don) Knabe remains absolutely opposed to the route of this project and is interested in exploring the strongest legal options the county has available, including possibly filing a lawsuit to block it,” Knabe spokesman David Sommers told The Argonaut in February 2010. Knabe represents the Fourth District, which includes Marina del Rey.

“The city has chosen to route this project not in a way that makes the most sense, but rather, route it in a way that has minimal impact on city residents and maximum impact on the residents and businesses in Marina del Rey. That is an unacceptable solution,” said Sommers.

The existing pipeline is now 50 years old and runs underground along Venice Beach.

“In the event of leakage or a complete break in the old pipeline, a number of communities would be affected by the outcome,” Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl told The Argonaut at that time. “The sewer pipeline serves Malibu, Topanga, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, parts of Culver City and all of the Marina, with the county and other communities relying heavily upon it.

“Supervisor Knabe, my friend and colleague, and I have agreed to disagree,” said Rosendahl.

Torribio, in his ruling, noted that according to an engineering report by the city, the Via Marina route was 300 feet longer and would cost $1 million more. He also stated that the city’s contention of greater impacts on parking if Pacific Avenue was used affected only three parking spaces.

A city spokesman said the city would review its options over the next few weeks.

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