The California State Supreme Court will hear the case of Neighbors for Smart Rail (NFSR), a coalition of Westside homeowners, community groups and businesses, against Phase II of the Expo Line. NFSR alleges that the environmental documents for the line were improperly compared because it based traffic on future projections instead of the current status on the street.
Phase II of the Expo Line will eventually connect the existing Expo Line, which runs from Downtown L.A. to Downtown Culver City, all the way to Santa Monica. Construction of the line is already underway.
Two lower courts have already ruled that the Expo Construction Authority (Expo) acted properly basing their traffic studies on future conditions instead of current conditions. However, attorneys for NFSR point to two cases Madera Oversight Coalition, Inc. v. County of Madera (5th District Court of Appeals, 2011) and Sunnyvale West Neighborhood Assn. v. City of Sunnyvale City Council (6th District Court of Appeals, 2010) where state appellate courts ruled that agencies cannot use future conditions as a baseline when evaluating the environmental impacts of proposed projects.
Faced with conflicting opinions, it’s natural for the Supreme Court to want to have the final say in this case and establish case law for similar legal conflicts in the future. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of NFSR, it could require the traffic study for the entire Expo Phase II to be done over.
After a string of legal defeats, NFSR has two wins in recent months. Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission announced they will take a second look at some of the controversial crossings in Phase II.
No timeline has been announced for the appeal. At this point, the Supreme Court is not requiring that Expo halt construction on Phase II.