A Santa Monica Superior Court has denied a petition of three environmental organizations and a Native American chief that oppose the environmental impact report for Playa Vista’s second stage of development as well as its zoning entitlements.
The petition by the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust, the Surfrider Foundation and Anthony Morales, a chief in the San Gabriel Gabrielino Tongva tribe, challenging the environmental impact report for the Village, Playa Vista’s commercial and retail venture, was rejected by Judge John A. Torribio Jan. 13 and filed with the court Jan. 21.
“The court finds that there is substantial evidence in the record to support the conclusion that the respondent (Playa Vista) has complied with the court’s orders,” the judge wrote.
The Village, which will feature 2,600 residential units, 175,000 square feet of office space, and 150,000 square feet of retail space, was first approved by the Los Angeles City Council in 2005. In 2007, a state appellate court overturned a lower court ruling and halted the project due to its deficiencies in three areas: land use impacts, mitigation of impacts on historical archaeological resources and wastewater impacts. Climate change impacts were later added.
The council voted to approve the Village again last spring after Playa Vista recirculated those three sections of its original EIR for review by the council and the abovementioned impacts were addressed.
Morales and the two environmental groups argued that the environmental analysis was a “post hoc rationalization.” But the court found that the city’s responses to the recirculated portion of the report represented “a good faith, reasoned analysis.”
The Ballona Ecosystem Education Project, another petitioner, also had its challenge to the writ of mandate on the upzoning of the project rejected by the court.
“Contrary to (the petitioner’s) contention, the revised and recirculated sections of the EIR accurately describe the project’s upzoning, evaluates land impacts of that upzoning and concludes that the impacts would be less than significant,” Torribio wrote.
Playa Capital Co-President Patti Sinclair said in a statement that the verdict again shows that the development group took very seriously the legal environmental requirements for the project.
“The court decision confirms that the environmental analysis of the Village at Playa Vista complies with the California Environmental Quality Act and the Court of Appeal’s direction in 2007,” Sinclair said. “In short, the ruling says we and the city of Los Angeles did what we were supposed to do and that the environmental analysis was properly completed.
“The entire team at Playa Vista is extremely gratified by today’s Superior Court ruling.”
Rex Frankel of the Ballona Ecosystem Education Project took issue with Torribio’s ruling.
“I think the judge was wrong and we will be filing an appeal,” he said.
Sinclair appeared to anticipate the possibility of another round of legal actions.
“Given their history, we would not be surprised if the longstanding opponents of Playa Vista appeal the ruling,” she said. “We stand ready to defend Playa Vista vigorously in the event they do.
“We are looking forward to completing the Playa Vista vision.”