Breaking: In Split Decision, California Supreme Court Gives Expo the O.K.

California Supreme Court on NFSR v Expo

It’s official, Neighbors for Smart Rail is out of legal options. Earlier this morning, the California Supreme Court upheld rulings by every other court that has looked at the case and ruled that the Expo Construction Authority and Metro did not intentionally violate California environmental laws when creating the environmental documents for Phase II of the Expo Line.

“We are gratified that the California Supreme Court has affirmed the lower court rulings. Today’s decision is a win for taxpayers and the future riders who will soon benefit from a direct connection between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica,” said Expo Construction Authority CEO Rick Thorpe. “We remain focused on finishing the Expo Line on-time and on-budget in 2015.”

The ruling is doubtless a frustrating one for NFSR. The Supreme Court agreed with their contention that the Expo Construction Authority should have used baseline traffic conditions, not projected future conditions, in its traffic study. However, it also ruled that there was “no prejudice” in the decision to use future conditions and the study provided enough information for the proposed rail line’s environmental documents to be approved.

Although we conclude the EIR fails to satisfy CEQA‟s requirements in the first respect claimed, we also conclude the agency‟s abuse of discretion was nonprejudicial. Under the particular facts of this case, the agency‟s examination of certain environmental impacts only on projected year 2030 conditions, and not on existing environmental conditions, did not deprive the agency or the public of substantial relevant information on those impacts. (Environmental Protection Information Center v. California Dept. of Forestry & Fire Protection (2008) 44 Cal.4th 459, 485-486.) We will therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal, which affirmed the superior court‟s denial of Neighbors‟s petition for writ of mandate.

Expo Phase II is an eight mile extension of the Expo Line from its current terminus in Culver City to near the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica.

Two lower courts and the California Public Utilities Commission ruled that the Expo Construction Authority (Expo) acted properly basing their traffic studies on future conditions instead of current conditions. However, attorneys for NFSR pointed 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, 2010where state appellate courts ruled that agencies cannot use future conditions as a baseline when evaluating the environmental impacts of proposed projects.

With the last legal dispute seemingly setteled, backers of the Expo Line are hoping that both sides of the issue can now come together to make Expo the best light rail it can be.

“I am hopeful now all parties can work cooperatively to find fair ways to mitigate reasonable concerns regarding construction impacts and enhance station design, the bike path, and other remaining issues,” writes Dana Gabbard, a Board Member for the Southern California Transit Advocates and contributor to Streetsblog Los Angeles.

For its part, Metro/Expo seemed unconcerned about the court case. While the Supreme Court refused to order a construction stay while it deliberated, Metro was so unconcerned it hired everything from general contractors to artists to complete the rail line.

Streetsblog will continue to update this story as reaction comes in from today’s Supreme Court decision and the actual decision becomes available for public review.

  • Juan Matute

    Is NSFR’s CEQA/Railway lawyer stimulus package finally over? Good thing BHUSD has their own stimulus package to keep the profession afloat.

  • HighNoon

    Don’t worry NFSR, you can continue to block access to local freeways with your personal vehicles, so things won’t change too much. Same as it ever was!

  • Alek F

    Finally!
    And the NFSR lunatics & NIMBY’s will have to kiss it up. I also hope NFSR will pay a hefty amount for all the court fees. Shame on NFSR!
    And congratulations to the Expo Line!

  • Dan Wentzel

    Great. Build this sucker ASAP! As soon as it goes online the community will wonder how they ever lived without it.

  • Poop

    Haha I hope they are stuck with a huge legal bill

  • Anonymous

    Is this going to set a precedent for the lawsuit against the Westside Subway extension? And can NFSR still take this up the legal food chain?

  • John Mirisch is a clown

    On to Beverly Hills and South LA! We NIMBYs shall ride with Damien Goodman and John Mirisch to the death, using race-baiting to impede progress and prolong our pathetic political ‘careers’! Impossible is nothing!!! Save the childrens!

  • Booyah

    No way the Supreme Court hears this. They are done. 100% done. God bless America!

  • John Mirisch is a clown

    On to Beverly Hills and South LA! We NIMBYs shall ride with Damien Goodman and John Mirisch to the death, using race-baiting to impede progress and prolong our pathetic political ‘careers’! Impossible is nothing!!! Save the children!!

  • Irwin Chen

    The legal issue in Expo II is a very narrow one so it has no precedent relevant to Westside subway.

    And no, the legal gravy train (ha!) for the lawyers ends here. The US Supreme Court will not be interested in this case whatsoever.

  • There is no reason for a federal court to hear this case. The project is funded locally and it’s a state environmental law being discussed.

  • Anonymous

    w00t!

    As an aside, I love how “smart” has become a code word for “no”. Neighbors for Safe Rail -> Neighbors for No Rail, Santa Monicans for Smart Growth -> Santa Monicans for No Growth, etc.

  • The Knowing One

    WOW. Something good happened. What did these people think? They bought homes next to friggin rail tracks.

  • Erik Griswold

    C’mon now! Those tracks have only been there since 1875! How could they know about them?

  • floydpink

    Exactly! I grew up in Santa Monica. When my Father built our house near the Santa Monica Airport He knew the airport had been there since the 1920’s. No surprise there. It’s called taking responsibility for one’s own decisions.

  • RollingAlong

    Would like to hear from Streetsblog about the financial effects of the ruling. NFSR is now legally on the hook for Metro’s bills. But will Metro waive off collecting? Juan Matute comment is funny but probably true; this was merely a plum package of several hundred hours of legal billing for NFSR’s law team, regardless of outcome. NFSR spread the litigation costs over many homeowners, who I imagine didn’t mind writing smaller checks to the benefit of a few legal firms collecting the big total check.

  • The case was dismissed without prejudice. I believe that means that neither side will be paying the other’s legal bills.

  • wakakwak83

    Why is LA so against rail. i just dont get it. SF is just as prone to earthquakes and they dont seem to have these legal bs. Build the dam things already.

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NFSR Is Not Done with the Supreme Court Yet

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Neighbors for Smart Rail, the group of homeowners that has fought the Expo Line running through their community, isn’t quite done yet. Despite Streetsblog’s proclamation after the California Public Utilities Commission gave the Expo Line the green light that the appeals were over, NFSR is now appealing the Supreme Court ruling. The initial Supreme Court ruling […]