Update on SDSU expansion and Adobe Falls

(This summary is reprinted from GrokSurf’s San Diego blog following this issue at http://groksurf.com/ongoing-topics/adobe-falls-and-sdsu-expansion/. Additional links to related stories can be found on that page).

San Diego State University’s Master Plan foresees thousands of additional students and many more faculty members in the future and proposes to accommodate them in part through various building projects in various locations on property owned by the university.

One project proposed to construct up to 348 residential housing units for faculty and staff on a parcel of university property immediately adjacent to Del Cerro’s Adobe Falls Open Space area, located to the north of SDSU across Interstate 8 just west of College Avenue.

Legal challenges by the City of San Diego, Del Cerro Action Council, and other entities pertaining to the Master Plan’s Environmental Impact Report dragged on for years.

My coverage of this story initially began with a July 2009 post Alvarado Creek and the future of Adobe Falls. I later wrote a number of followup stories, which are listed at the bottom of this page.

The most prominent issue seemed to be whether SDSU is financially responsible for paying a fair share of mitigation called for in the Environmental Impact Report. SDSU insisted its responsibility was only to ask the state legislature for those funds, but if the state were to deny those funds, SDSU asserted it had no further responsibility. The City’s position was that SDSU is responsible for its fair share of expenses even if the legislature declined to provide special funding.

Another major issue was whether all environmental impacts on traffic and transit systems had been adequately addressed.

In February 2010, the trial court ruled in favor of SDSU and against the City:

  • Read the Feb 11, 2010 Statement of Decision here.
  • Read the Mar 26, 2010 signed Judgment here.

The City of San Diego and the Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Diego then initiated an appeals process with a Notice of Appeal on May 25, 2010. Del Cerro Action Council was unable to join in the appeal due to the expense.

After numerous hearings, on December 13, 2011, the Court of Appeal published its judgment. The Court agreed that CSU cannot assert that it only needed to make a request to the state legislature for funding to pay its fair share of mitigation expenses with no further responsibility regardless of the legislature’s decision. The Court also indicated that the amount of CSU’s fair share needed to be examined more closely.

Further, the Court agreed that CSU did not adequately address the ability of existing traffic and transit infrastructure to accommodate the increased number of students anticipated, what improvements might be needed, and what the environmental impact of those improvements would be.

The Court did side with CSU, however, on other more technical arguments that were made in the appeal (you can read the details in the judgment; there’s a link to it beneath the Disposition quoted below).

The Court’s Disposition states as follows:

“The judgment is reversed in part and affirmed in part, and the matter is remanded to the trial court with directions to enter a new judgment granting in part and denying in part the petitions for writs of mandate consistent with this opinion. The court shall issue a writ of mandate ordering CSU to void its certification of the FEIR and adoption of the Findings and to void its approval of the Project based on noncompliance with CEQA as set forth in this opinion. The trial court shall also issue an order that the Project may be considered for re-approval by CSU if a new, legally adequate EIR is prepared, circulated for public comment, and certified in compliance with CEQA consistent with the views expressed in this opinion. Appellants are awarded costs on appeal.”

So the issue now goes back to trial court and ultimately CSU will be permitted to prepare a new EIR for the Master Plan, if it so wishes. If CSU decides to do so, it could be years going through that process. Click here to read the entire judgment.


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