McKinley Village Update

On April 9, 2015, the Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento, denied a petition challenging the city’s approval of the McKinley Village housing project as violating the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”), and simultaneously expressed concern about environmental hazards that may impact future residents at the development.

As the court described it, the McKinley Village project “will place 336 new residential units on land encircled by a major freeway to the north and railroad tracks to the south, and adjacent to a former landfill. Residential units will be sited as close as 250 feet from the landfill, less than 60 feet from the freeway, and less than 90 feet from the railroad tracks.” Although the court denied the petition, the court acknowledged that ESPLC had “raised serious concerns about the wisdom of approving a residential development sandwiched between an active railroad, a former landfill, and a congested freeway.” Nonetheless, the court explained that it was constrained, in light of prior court decisions, to conclude that CEQA only requires the city “to identify the significant effects of a proposed project on the environment, not the significant effects of the environment on a proposed project.” The court, however, agreed with ESPLC that there “may be sound policy reasons why agencies should be required to analyze how the existing environment may adversely affect the future occupants of a project,” as “it may make little sense to require analysis of the health risks to residents when a freeway is built next to them, but not to require analysis of the exact same risks when new homes are built next to an existing freeway.”

Thus, although the court determined that, based on the law as it currently stands, the city did not violate CEQA by approving the project without considering the impacts of certain significant environmental hazards, serious questions remain about the impacts those hazards may have on the health and safety of future residents of McKinley Village.

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