As promised, Neighbors for Smart Rail (NFSR) is appealing the decision of Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Thomas McKnew to dismiss their lawsuit alleging that the Expo Construction Authority violated state environmental law when doing their studies of the future light rail lines route. The appeal was filed nearly two weeks ago, on September 15, to the California Court of Appeals
“NFSR is looking to prevent West L.A. gridlock by protecting access to the 10 freeway through West L.A.,” writes president Terri Tippett in a press statement. “Trains blocking Overland and Westwood 24 times per hour will have a devastating impact on the existing area traffic, and all evidence shows that Expo didn’t properly study it.”
At first glance, their legal filings don’t appear to be much different in substance than the arguments McKnew rejected earlier this year so NFSR isn’t arguing anything new, just that McKnew erred in ordering the case dismissed last year. Their main point is that the recently decided Sunnyvale West Neighborhood Association v. City of Sunnyvale City Council shows that traffic studies should examine the impact a new project will have on current conditions, not on conditions at the end of the “life of the project.” In Sunnyvale, a state superior court ruled that the city’s environmental review of a road extension violated state law because it based it’s review on traffic projections for 2020 instead of current conditions.
In other words, NFSR is arguing that the Expo Construction Authority should be using conditions between 2007-2010 for its traffic modeling instead of modeling of what conditions should be in 2030. McKnew rejected this argument last February ruling that the two cases are apples and oranges.
Meanwhile it could be months before we know the fate of this appeal.
Expo’s Response to the Appeal is due October 17 but could be extended to November 1 if the agency requests. Then NFSR has another three weeks to reply to the Authority’s brief. Sometime in the 90 days after the filing of the last brief, the court will hear oral arguments before making it’s decision, sometime in the 90 days after that. All in all, it could be mid-May before a final ruling is issued.
In the meantime, the Authority is continuing work on the line as McKnew’s decision allowed. If NFSR is successful in stopping the project until a new environmental study is completed, it could lead to Expo actually deconstructing portions of the line. (Update: Bart Reed points out that if the lawsuit is completed by May, then almost no construction will actually be underway, so there’s very little that would happen if the judge ruled for NFSR and gave a cease work order.) McKnew also ordered that NFSR pay the legal fees for the Construction Authority related to this case. That ruling is also under appeal.
Neighbors for Smart Rail is is supported in part by West of Westwood Homeowners Association, Westwood Gardens Civic Association, Cheviot Hills Homeowners Association, and Tract 7260 Homeowners Association, and other community based organizations mainly located in West Los Angeles.