California’s Third District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s ruling, denying the CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) challenge to the City of Sacramento’s decision to approve a new downtown arena for the Kings.


What did the court say?

The arena project was not approved before the EIR (Environmental Review Report).  The Court of Appeal held that the preliminary nonbinding term sheet with the developer in 2013 was not a “pre-commitment” because it allowed the City complete discretion to review the project, mitigate adverse environmental effects, and to refuse to approve the project.   The Court also rejected the argument that the City’s acquisition of property before the project approval was not pre-commitment, since CEQA allows for eminent domain proceedings before completion of an EIR.

The City had no obligation to analyze a “remodel” alternative. The EIR had analyzed both a “no-project” alternative (keeping the existing facility) and building a new arena at the same site as the old facility.  The Court found that analyzing a “remodel” alternative that would not achieve the City’s objectives to revitalize the downtown area would not have added anything to the analysis.

Riots are not a CEQA impact, and the I-5 analysis was adequate. The Court of Appeal found that there was no showing that crowd safety at the downtown arena was an environmental impact.  The court also rejected claims that the City’s traffic analysis was required to specifically consider impacts on Interstate 5 traffic ranging from Canada to Mexico.

What Next?  The appellate court had already ruled that the statue that modified CEQA was not unconstitutional and the denial of a preliminary injunction was proper. It is extremely unlikely that the California Supreme Court would review the Court of Appeal decision, so this lawsuit is likely to be at an end.

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