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California Legislature

A key change to a major state environmental law again misses a deadline

A rendering of a proposed Frank Gehry-designed development at 8150 Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles is shown. (Visualhouse)
A rendering of a proposed Frank Gehry-designed development at 8150 Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles is shown. (Visualhouse)

California lawmakers keep passing bills to ease the burden of environmental lawsuits against big developments. And they keep ignoring the fact that the deadline they set for the end of the litigation is never met.

Starting in 2011, state legislators have allowed projects with a price tag of at least $100 million that meet a host of environmental and labor standards to get speedier trials under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, the state’s primary law governing development. Under the law, which was renewed for the third time this year, any CEQA litigation against such projects is supposed to be wrapped up within nine months. Lawmakers supporting the measures have argued that these developments are too important to the state’s economy to wait.

But one project is now waiting longer than it should: a Frank Gehry-designed, mixed-use development at 8150 Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles. Neighborhood activists sued over the project, arguing that its environmental review was insufficient and questioning plans to demolish a Midcentury Modern bank building on the site.

The nine-month deadline expired earlier this month. The case, however, remains in the California 2nd District Court of Appeal. Both sides are asking appellate court judges to overturn parts of the trial court’s ruling.

This isn't the only time a case has taken more than nine months to be resolved. In fact, the deadline never has been met.

Eight projects have so far qualified for the streamlined legal review process. Some, such as the new Apple headquarters in Cupertino, weren’t sued. Others, such as a football stadium in San Diego, were never built. The other project that was sued, the under-construction arena for the Golden State Warriors in San Francisco, is another case that missed the deadline.

A spokesman for Townscape Partners, the developer of 8150 Sunset, declined to comment. Laura Lake of the activist group Fix the City said that even though the case has taken longer than nine months to resolve, she’s seen the courts move quicker than they otherwise would have in a CEQA case.

“It rushes everything,” Lake said.

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FOR THE RECORD

Oct. 26, 2:44 p.m.: This article states that two projects that qualified for expedited legal review were sued. Three were sued. An initial ruling in a lawsuit against the third project, proposed solar farms in rural San Diego County, occurred within the deadline, but the entire case took longer than nine months to finish.

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