United States of America
Damages, Specific Performance, Air pollution, Evidence, Permits, Property, Civil, Remedies, Standing, Jurisdiction
In this case the First District Court of Appeal reviewed the adequacy of a revised EIR certified by the City of Oakland to address a project’s seismic risks. The EIR was prepared for a project that proposed to convert 64 acres of maritime and industrial land along Oakland’s waterfront into residential, retail/commercial, open space and marina uses It incorporated revised mitigation measures that, among other things, required a) the preparation of building-site specific geologic reports and b) compliance with all building code requirements, including special requirements where warranted by soil or other conditions, and implementation of all recommendations from the soil reports. Petitioner first argued that the EIR failed to properly evaluate the risk of seismic damage to structures as a Project impact. Specifically, petitioner contended that the EIR failed to analyze damage to structures and provide mitigation that would allow for immediate re-occupancy of buildings following an earthquake. Instead, the EIR focused on whether the Project structures could be designed to a life safety standard that would protect against the substantial risk of loss, injury or death. Petitioner next argued that the City did not have substantial evidence to support findings that mitigation measures requiring compliance with state and local code requirements reduced seismic impacts to a less-than-significant level, and that the City improperly deferred mitigation of the Project’s seismic impacts. The trial court found the revised EIR adequate and discharged the writ. The Court of Appeal affirmed, finding that the revised EIR’s discussion of seismic impacts provided sufficient standards of performance, adequately committed the project to compliance with statutory schemes and site- specific mitigation measures, and did not defer mitigation. In affirming the lower court’s decision, the Court rejected arguments advanced by the project opponents that a project would have significant unavoidable seismic impacts, as a matter of law, “unless buildings could be repaired and ready for occupancy after a major earthquake.” The Court further rejected an argument that novel, performance-based seismic design guidelines should be mandated in lieu of reliance on current building standards. The EIR had concluded that with the application of current building standards, combined with site-specific mitigation measures to be developed following additional geologic testing, constituted adequate mitigation. The Court agreed and held that it was not an abuse of discretion for the City to elect to rely on existing building standards.