Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

Superior Court judge rules fast-track law on CEQA challenges unconstitutional

Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch has ruled that a provision of AB 900 is unconstitutional, meaning environmental challenges to certain large-scale development projects must start in the lower courts.

The provision thrown out by Judge Roesch changed the rules for legal challenges to certain developments under the California Environmental Quality Act. Under the law, anyone suing to block a large-scale project that developed renewable energy or met green building standards had to bypass the lower courts and go straight to the courts of appeal. A group called the Planning and Conservation League sued, calling that provision unconstitutional because it limited the public's legal options. In a ruling from the bench last Friday, March 29, Judge Roesch agreed. 

"The Court does not lightly as a Superior Court declare statutes unconstitutional," said Roesch.

The law came about in the first place because politicians were trying to speed up approval of the proposed Farmers Field football stadium in downtown L.A. Other communities complained that was an unfair advantage, so lawmakers wrote another bill to speed up scrutiny for a whole class of large-scale projects.

The ruling leaves in place some time limits and other fast-tracking mechanisms. It will apply to just two projects so far – a new Apple Computer campus in Cupertino and the McCoy solar farm in Riverside County.