Higher Court Sides with Trial Court, Upholds Plan Bay Area
The California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, on June 30, 2016 upheld an Alameda Superior Court decision that rejected claims by a group known as Bay Area Citizens and the Pacific Legal Foundation citing deficiencies in Plan Bay Area with respect to requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Both appellate and trial court decisions sided with MTC and ABAG on their approach to developing and adopting Plan Bay Area, a groundbreaking long-range regional transportation and housing plan for the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area adopted in 2013.
According to the decision, Bay Area Citizens’ claims “would lead to the absurd conclusion that the Legislature created an elaborate process—involving the [California Air Resources] Board’s appointment of an expert Advisory Committee, that Committee’s development of target recommendations to the Board, the Board’s consideration of these recommendations, the MPOs’ development of their own recommendations and the Board’s consultation with each of the MPOs, extensive analyses by the Board in the formulation of targets for each region, extensive planning and public participation procedures by each MPO, and a CEQA analyses of each of the resulting plans—only to allow the MPOs in the end to simply cite the reductions expected from the pre-existing statewide mandates and take little or no further action.” The Appellate decision affirmed that ABAG and MTC had fully complied with CEQA requirements and other state statutes and regulations.
Two other legal challenges filed against Plan Bay Area in 2013 have settled out of court. A fourth lawsuit, filed by a group known as the Post Sustainability Institute, failed at the trial court level. That suit is pending before the California Court of Appeal and awaiting oral argument See below for further information.
Shortly after its adoption in July 2013, four legal challenges were filed against Plan Bay Area — the region’s first long-range transportation and housing blueprint adopted by MTC and ABAG. The suits, based on the California Environmental Quality Act and other California laws, were filed in August and October, 2013. All four suits have been settled out of court or failed at the trial court level:
- In July 2014, a suit filed by Bay Area Citizens in conjunction with the Pacific Legal Foundation failed in Alameda Superior Court. The judge upheld the Plan and EIR. Bay Area Citizens has appealed.
- In June 2014, MTC and ABAG settled with the Sierra Club and Communities for a Better Environment. Both agencies agreed to disclose to the public progress in getting housing built in city and county priority development areas and to explain how the plan measures and accounts for pollution reductions, among other things. Read the settlement agreement. View materials prepared in accordance with the settlement agreement.
- In March 2014, MTC and ABAG agreed to settle with the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area, committing to monitor regional development patterns and types, along with issuance of building permits. The agencies also committed to a process that invites and discloses public comment when developing new strategies for the 2017 update to Plan Bay Area. Read the settlement agreement. View materials prepared in accordance with the settlement agreement.
- In February, 2015, a suit filed by the Post Sustainability Institute failed in Alameda Superior Court. The judge upheld the Plan and EIR and denied declaratory and injunctive relief. The Post Sustainability Institute has appealed.