Court Rules on Parking Reduction & CEQA Impact
Confirms Reduction in Parking Considered Social Impact Rather Than Environmental
The Second Appellate District Court of Appeal has upheld approval of a recreational improvements/ecological restoration project despite the fact that the project would reduce parking space availability. The appellate court rejected a claim that the environmental impact report violated the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to sufficiently analyze impacts of reduced recreational parking. (Save Our Access-San Gabriel Mountains v. Watershed Conservation Authority (Cal. Ct. App., Aug. 19, 2021, No. B303494) 2021 WL 3673902 (“Save Our Access”).).
The trial court had invalidated the project approval, finding that the project would create or exacerbate an existing parking shortage without adequate analysis of impacts related to the reduction in available parking. The appellate court reversed the decision, evaluating in detail the two leading cases on parking and CEQA: San Franciscans Upholding the Downtown Plan v. City & County of San Francisco and Taxpayers for Accountable School Bond Spending v. San Diego Unified School District. The court concluded that, under both of those cases, a project’s unique circumstances are determinative when it comes to environmental impacts potentially resulting from parking deficits or reductions.
In Save Our Access, based on the nature of the wilderness area improvement project before it, the court held “the parking reduction here may have an adverse social impact for those who must recreate elsewhere, but it will prevent further adverse physical impacts on the environment.” The court further observed that the plaintiff failed to identify “any secondary adverse environmental effects of reduced parking, such as on traffic or air quality at the project site.”
Save Our Access confirms that reduction in parking is considered a social impact rather than an environmental impact unless, based on the circumstances of the project, a reduction in parking would result in specific significant secondary effects on the physical environment.
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