Over the last three decades, the California legislature has passed several important laws intended to protect the environment from unwarranted and ill-considered construction projects. A group of San Diego residents is now relying on the California Environment Quality Act (CEQA) to halt the re-construction of Del Mar Heights High School, and thus far, the residents have been successful.
The City of San Diego granted a coastal development permit for the reconstruction of Del Mar Heights High School, and for the second time, a superior court judge granted an injunction blocking further construction activity. The lawsuit is predicated on those provisions of the CEQA that require an extensive scientific review of the project and its impact on the nearby environment.
A nonprofit citizens’ group called Save the Field commenced a lawsuit under the CEQA, alleging that the School District failed to perform an adequate review of the school construction project before granting the coastal development permit. The Save the Field group then moved the court for a preliminary injunction claiming that further construction activity threatened the environment with destruction and pollution.
The group claims that the School Board relied on an outdated negative declaration that it had previously published and on a focused environmental impact statement that failed to discuss the entire range of effects that the project caused. The citizen’s group was required to post a bond of $60,000 to indemnify the school district for costs that the delay caused.
The school board’s response
As happens with many citizen challenges to a proposed development, a spokesperson for the school board accused the citizens’ group of using the environmental laws for selfish purposes and not in the public interest.
In obtaining these temporary injunctions, the Save the Field group has achieved significant if temporary victories. The citizens’ group may decide to press for a trial on the merits of their environmental allegations, or they may attempt to negotiate a settlement with the school district that will mitigate the claimed environmental damage while permitting construction to proceed.
Solid advice from an experienced attorney
Anyone who finds themselves embroiled in a similar dispute may wish to consult experienced trial attorneys to commence an appropriate lawsuit and, if necessary, to take the matter to trial.