Friday, November 21, 2014
C.A. Rejects Challenge to Law Expediting CEQA Litigation Over Basketball Arena
By KENNETH OFGANG, Staff Writer
This undated artist rendering released by the Sacramento Kings shows an artist’s rendering of a downtown Sacramento arena they hope to open for the start of the 2016-17 NBA season.
A law expediting environmental litigation relating to construction of a new Sacramento Kings basketball arena does not violate the state Constitution’s separation of powers, the Third District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
“[W]e reject [petitioners’] constitutional challenge because [Public Resources Code] section 21168.6.6 does not materially impair a core function of the courts,” Justice Andrea Hoch wrote. “Moreover, CEQA review does not implicate any constitutionally granted right. Consequently, even if the deadlines set forth in section 21168.6.6 are short, they are not unconstitutional.”
Then-Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, authored SB 743, a year-old law that amended the California Environmental Quality Act by, among other things, adding §21168.6.6. The section, which applies solely to the Sacramento sports arena project, requires that “actions or proceedings, including any potential appeals therefrom, be resolved, to the extent feasible, within 270 days of certification of the record of proceedings.”
Several legal challenges have been brought to the arena, including one by a group of citizens led by Adriana Gianturco Saltonstall, the former head of Caltrans. The Saltonstall group sued for, among other things, an injunction to block demolition of a shopping mall for the project and sought a writ of mandate barring enforcement of §21168.6.6, claiming it impairs the ability of the courts to function.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley denied the petitioners relief, even though he agreed with them that “the time frames are extremely (perhaps overly) aggressive.” He said he was “not persuaded that this renders the statute unconstitutional, because the statute does not purport to divest the court of jurisdiction for failing to adhere to [the limits.]”
Frawley also emphasized that the 270-day limit is somewhat flexible, since the statute applies it “to the extent feasible.”
Demolition of the shopping mall began over the summer after the preliminary injunction was denied.
Justice Andrea Hoch, writing for the Court of Appeal, agreed with the trial judge.
Noting that there are no penalties for failing to decide the case within 270 days, she wrote:
“Because the 270-day timeline for review is suggestive, we reject Saltonstall’s contention that section 21168.6.6 materially impairs the core function of the courts. In short, Saltonstall has not shown section 21168.6.6 crosses over the line from reasonable regulation to a material impairment of the courts’ exercise of power to adjudicate this case.”
The Saltonstall group, she added, failed to show that it would suffer irreparable harm as a result of being denied injunctive relief.
Legal challenges still remain on the project. Saltonstall’s group is pressing its merits appeal under CEQA and a separate group, the Sacramento Coalition for Shared Prosperity, is continuing to challenge the City Council’s decision to spend $255 million in public money on the project.
That case is set to go to trial in the spring, the Sacramento Bee reported. An October 2016 target date has been set for the opening of the arena.
The case is Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento (Sacramento Basketball Holdings, LLC), C077031.
Copyright 2014, Metropolitan News Company