Acres v. Beaumont

Decision Date16 February 2011
Docket NumberNo. E049651.,E049651.
Citation118 Cal.Rptr.3d 182,190 Cal.App.4th 316
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesCHERRY VALLEY PASS ACRES AND NEIGHBORS et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CITY OF BEAUMONT, Defendant and Respondent; Sunny-Cal Egg & Poultry Company, Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

Rogers Joseph O'Donnell, Robert C. Goodman, Ann M. Blessing, and D. Kevin Shipp for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Aklufi & Wysocki and Joseph S. Aklufi for Defendant and Respondent.

Best Best & Krieger, Michelle Ouellette and Fernando Avila for Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

OPINION

KING, J.

I. INTRODUCTION

Defendant City of Beaumont (the City) approved a specific plan, the Sunny-Cal Specific Plan (the SCSP or project), to build 560 residential units on a 200-acre site long used for agricultural purposes and located in an unincorporated area north of the City known as Cherry Valley. In August 2007, the City certified an environmental impact report (EIR) and adopted a statement of overriding considerations for the SCSP pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code, § 21000 et seq.), 1 and took related actions approving the SCSP. Plaintiffs Cherry Valley PassAcres and Neighbors and Cherry Valley Environmental Planning Group petitioned the trial court for a writ of mandate setting aside the City's certification of the EIR, adoption of the statement of overridingconsiderations, and related actions approving the project. The trial court denied the petition, and plaintiffs appeal.

Plaintiffs claim the EIR is legally inadequate as an informational document and the City therefore abused its discretion in certifying it because it failed to properly address the project's significant impacts on area water supplies and agricultural land uses. They first claim the EIR relied upon an improper baseline or environmental setting in assessing the project's impacts on local and regional water supplies and also failed to demonstrate a reasonable likelihood the project would have sufficient water supplies over the long-term. Second, they claim the EIR failed to adequately consider mitigation measures and alternatives for reducing the project's impacts on agricultural land uses. Third, and finally, they claim the findings the City made in adopting the statement of overriding considerations are not supported by substantial evidence. We find each of these claims without merit and affirm the judgment denying the petition.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND 2

Cherry Valley is an unincorporated area of Riverside County located north of the City and east of Interstate 10 in the San Gorgonio Pass area. The 200-acre SCSP site is in the western portion of Cherry Valley, and consists of rolling terrain with elevations ranging from 2,400 to 2,600 feet above mean sea level. The SCSP site is roughly rectangular in shape and is bordered by Cherry Valley Boulevard to the north, Brookside Avenue to the south, and Beaumont Avenue to the east. A 631-acre area of Cherry Valley with rural residences, livestock pens, outbuildings, and small farm/ranch operations is located east of the SCSP site.

Beginning in the early 1960's through late 2005, members of the Manheim family, through their company, real party in interest Sunny-Cal Egg & Poultry Co. (Sunny-Cal) operated an egg farm on the 200-acre SCSP site. The egg farm housed over 1.5 million chickens and supported over 100 structures, mostly chicken coops. Sunny-Cal closed the egg farm in late 2005 after determining it was no longer economically feasible. Before 1959, the 200-acre project site was used for low intensity agricultural purposes.

During the early 1950's, a professional wrestler known as " Gorgeous George" purchased a house and began operating a small turkey ranch on the SCSP site, just east of the portion of the site where Sunny-Cal later operated the egg farm. Much of the area north of the project site and north of Cherry Valley Boulevard consists of a 240-acre area known as the "Danny Thomas Ranch" and includes a home once owned by the famous producer, actor, and comedian.

As finally approved in August 2007, the 200-acre SCSP is a smaller version of a larger scale SCSP that Sunny-Cal proposed in December 2004. As originally proposed, the SCSP was to encompass 323.3 acres, including approximately 120 acres of the Danny Thomas Ranch, and was to include 110,000 square feet of commercial retail and service properties and 907 residential units. The 323.3-acre project area, together with the adjacent 631-acre area of Cherry Valley east of theproject area, were to be annexed to the City's sphere of influence. In December 2004, a notice of preparation was issued for the original SCSP and the annexation. In early 2005, the draft EIR was circulated for the original SCSP and the annexation.

In July 2005, the City's planning commission held a public hearing and suggested changes to the project, principally to reduce its size and scope. The original SCSP was then modified to eliminate all commercial properties and higher density residential units, to reduce the number of residential units from 907 to 597, and to exclude the 120-acre portion of the Danny Thomas Ranch, thus reducing the size or footprint of the SCSP from 323.3 to 200 acres. Further, in order to coordinate land uses on the 200-acre SCSP site with development in the 631-acre area east of the project site, a community plan, the North Brookfield Community Plan, was proposed for the entire 831-acre area, and the sphere of influence was revised to include this expanded area.

Riverside County's general plan and zoning guidelines allowed only one residence to be built on one acre in the 831-acre area, but the North Brookfield Community Plan envisioned that the 831-acre area would include as many as 1,543 residential units, with 597 in the 200-acre SCSP. The 597 units were to be built on 158.9 "net acres," with landscape buffers, parks, roads, trails, paseos, and open space acres constructed on the other portions of the 200-acre SCSP area. The draft EIR was revised to reflect these changes and was recirculated in May and June 2006. The revised EIR assessed the environmental impacts of the revised 200-acre SCSP on a project level and the impacts of the newly proposed North Brookfield Community Plan on a programmatic level.

According to the revised EIR, the area surrounding the 200-acre SCSP site and proposed North Brookfield Community Plan, or the entire expandedsphere of influence area, was undergoing substantial growth and development. The 631-acre portion of the North Brookfield Community Plan consisted mostly of long-vacant residential lots and "dozens" of parcels owned by "dozens" of individuals, but the Beaumont Unified School District was building a high school on 50 acres in the southwest portion of the 631-acre area. Two new subdivisions with approximately 2,000 homes were under construction southeast of the 200-acre SCSP site within the existing boundaries of the City. A PGA golf course and several more residential developments in various stages of development, including a proposed Oak Valley Specific Plan with approximately 6,000 residential units, was located across Interstate 10 and west of the SCSP site. The 120-acre portion of the Danny Thomas Ranch in the original SCSP had been sold and was proposed to be annexed to the City of Calimesa and developed for residential uses. The revised EIR concluded that the Cherry Valley community had "supported mainly rural and agricultural uses for many years," but it and surrounding communities, including the City, were "experiencing growth pressure from new homes and businesses."

The City requested and received comments on the revised EIR and addressed these and other comments in the final EIR, issued in May 2007. Additional comments were later received and addressed in June 2007. Plaintiffs and persons living in and around Cherry Valley submitted various letters criticizing the EIR's analysis of the project's impacts on area water supplies and agricultural resources.

At a public hearing in July 2007, the city council directed the City's staff and Sunny-Cal to abandon the North Brookfield Community Plan and to make additionalchanges to the SCSP. The North Brookfield Community Plan was then abandoned, and the SCSP was amended to reduce the number of its residential units from 597 to 560. In August 2007, the City certified the EIR, adopted the statement of overriding considerations, and took additional actions in approving the 200-acre SCSP (the project approvals). These included the annexation of the 200-acre SCSP site into the City and the amendment of the City's general plan to include the 200-acre SCSP site. In September 2007, plaintiffs petitioned the trial court for a writ of mandate setting aside the City's actions. The trial court denied the petition, and plaintiffs appealed.

III. STANDARDS OF REVIEW

In reviewing a writ petition challenging the legality of a lead agency's actions under CEQA, our role is the same as the trial court's. We review the agency's actions, not the trial court's decision, and we apply the same standards of review the trial court applied.( Vineyard Area Citizens, supra, 40 Cal.4th at p. 427, 53 Cal.Rptr.3d 821, 150 P.3d 709.) Our inquiry is limited to whether (1) substantial evidence supports the agency's factual determinations, and (2) the agency proceeded in a manner required by law. (§§ 21168, 21168.5; Woodward Park Homeowners Assn., Inc. v. City of Fresno (2007) 150 Cal.App.4th 683, 705, 58 Cal.Rptr.3d 102 ( Woodward Park ).) The agency abuses its discretion in certifying an EIR as complying with the requirements of CEQA if substantial evidence does not support the agency's factual determinations or if the agency has not proceeded in a manner required by law. (§ 21168.5; Vineyard Area Citizens, supra, at p. 426, 53 Cal.Rptr.3d 821, 150 P.3d 709.)

We apply the substantial evidence...

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  • California Register, 2018, Number 04. January 26, 2018
    • United States
    • California Register
    • Invalid date
    ...v. South Coast Air Quality Man- agement Dist. (2010) 48 Cal.4th 310; Cherry Valley Pass Acres & Neighbors v. City of Beaumont (2010) 190 Cal.App.4th 316.) The Resources Agency proposes to update this section to be consistent with those cases and to ensure that environmental analyses provide......

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