Supreme Court Denies VTA’s Request for Sunnyvale West v. City of Sunnyvale City Council Depublication

The SUNNYVALE WEST NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION v. CITY OF SUNNYVALE CITY COUNCIL Certified for Publication Decision is significant and historic. A big win not only for the Mary Avenue Extension Project (MAEP) residents living nearby, but for all communities in California affected by projects requiring an Environmental Impact Report (EIR)  in compliance with the California Quality Environmental Act (CEQA) law and policy.

The Published Decision is so significant, in fact, seeming to rattle the systems of massive agencies, such as The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) as they led, with an additional 15+ other public agencies and private industry groups, in filing a multitude of Briefs to the Supreme Court with Requests for Depublication this past February.

The VTA’s et al Request to Depublish the SUNNYVALE WEST NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION v. CITY OF SUNNYVALE CITY COUNCIL was denied by The Supreme Court yesterday, April 27, 2011. The case is now closed. 

It’s important to remember that only a handful of Decisions are Certified for Publication.

Congratulations to Attorney Zan Henson and a handful of Sunnyvale residents who challenged the Mary Ave Extension Project (MAEP) EIR and won at both the trial and appellate level resulting in a Published Decision. The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) used hypothetical, projected traffic conditions in the year 2020 as its “baseline” to evaluate the roadway project’s traffic and related impacts. The FEIR did not consider the project’s traffic and related impacts on the existing environment. The Court stated that the City of Sunnyvale City Council must set aside its October 28,2008 approval of the Proposed MAEP and certification of the FEIR.

According to Attorney Pat Meyering “All appellate decisions do NOT begin with ‘Certified for Publication.’ Only a small minority are published. Unpublished opinions can not be used as precedents. They can’t be argued in future cases as a guidepost for how the court should proceed.  Rule 8.1115 (a), California Rules of Court, prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on any unpublished opinion  .  .  .  I think the decision to certify for Publication is based on whether the dispute and reasoning used to resolve it are considered helpful to addressing future anticipated litigation on the same topic.”

The Supreme Court explained: “An approach using hypothetical allowable conditions as the baseline results in ‘illusory’ comparisons that ‘can only mislead the public as to the reality of the impacts and subvert full consideration of the actual environmental impacts,’ a result at direct odds with CEQA’s intent.”

The following list includes names of the public agencies or private industry groups that Requested Depublication of Sunnyvale West and were denied by the Supreme Court: Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, San Francisco County Transportation Authority, Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority, Riverside Metro Line Construction Authority, Orange County Transportation Authority, San Joaquin Hills Transportation Corridor Agency, Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor, the California State Association of Counties, the League of California Cities, the California Building Industry Association, the Metropolitan Water District, South Coast Air Quality Management District, and the two law firms, Remy, Thomas, Moose & Manly, and Bingham McCutheon LLP.

Not one identifiable public interest citizens’ group requested depublication of this significant public interest case.

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