Thursday, May 2, 2013

Comparing the Perris Valley Line lawsuit with the Villages of Lakeview case

Two Metrolink locomotives.California Environmental Quality Act: 'Yes' to a clean environment, 'No' to abuse.

Last year, Superior Court Judge Sharon Waters ruled that a CEQA-mandated environmental report for a massive development in the town of Lakeview failed to address potential pollution and increased traffic congestion; the judge therefore invalidated the project's EIR.


The Villages of Lakeview project called for the development of 11,000 residential units and 500,000 square feet of commercial space. Inland Empire commuters well know that the I-215 and 91 Freeways certainly do not need 11,000 households worth of cars in these already congested corridors. The plan also had the potential of disrupting Lakeview's agricultural and farming sectors and balanced job-to-housing ratio. Since the Villages of Lakeview did in fact create potential negative impacts toward the environment and traffic congestion, the court rightly agreed that this traffic impact presented in court had enough merit to warrant the invalidation of the project's EIR.

The Metrolink Perris Valley Line extension faces a similar judgement through the same court, through the same judge. It's quite clear that four of the five environmental points ruled against RCTC will have very little impacts toward the environment in the long term; however loopholes in CEQA law have allowed for such a negative judgement against the transportation agency:
Track lubricant usage, pedestrian safety, train wheel noise pollution, and construction related noise.

As mentioned, the safety of hikers is irrelevant to environmental protection; however, to be fair, the illegal trespassing into an active rail right-of-way needs to be policed better. The environmental questions the state legislature can address and make retroactive are: How much total noise in decibels are passing trains allowed to make through quiet zones? Are contracted firms who disrupt the environment during the construction phase being held accountable?

This leaves in question the last point RCTC must address: Will the construction of the Perris Valley Line really disrupt a natural ecosystem of toads? If a small percentage of the affected toad population can be safely migrated away from the tracks without damaging the ecosystem, RCTC should be able to address this without having to redo its entire EIR at the cost of the taxpayer. The state government needs to continue its debate on amending CEQA law to protect the environment from unchecked urban sprawl while closing loopholes to prevent its abuse by NIMBY's just because they oppose it.

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