City of Marina v. Board of Trustees

Decision Date31 July 2006
Docket NumberNo. S117816.,S117816.
Citation138 P.3d 692,46 Cal.Rptr.3d 355,39 Cal.4th 341
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
PartiesCITY OF MARINA et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents, v. BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, Defendant and Appellant.

McDonough Holland & Allen, Harriet A. Steiner and Kara K. Ueda, Sacramento, for City of Davis as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Respondents.

Law Offices of Donald B. Mooney, Donald B. Mooney, Davis; Law Offices of Marsha A. Burch and Marsha A. Burch, for San Joaquin Raptor Rescue Center, Protect Our Water and Central Valley Safe Environmental Network as Amici Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Respondents.

Norma Turner, Mary-Alice Coleman, Sacramento, and Jeffrey A. Diamond, West Sacramento, for West Davis Neighbors as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiffs and Respondents.


[138 P.3d 345]

The Fort Ord Reuse Authority (FORA) challenges an environmental impact report (EIR) prepared by the Board of Trustees of the California State University (Trustees). The EIR concerns the Trustees' plan to expand a small campus into a major institution that will enroll 25,000 students. The planned expansion will have significant effects on the physical environment throughout Fort Ord, the former Army base on which the campus is located. While the Trustees have agreed to mitigate effects occurring on the campus itself, they have disclaimed responsibility for mitigating some effects occurring off campus. In particular, the Trustees have refused to share the cost of certain infrastructure improvements proposed by FORA, the base's new civilian governing authority. FORA challenges the Trustees' decision to certify the EIR despite the remaining, unmitigated effects as an abuse of discretion under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code, § 21000 et seq.) (CEQA). Like the superior court, we conclude the Trustees have abused their discretion and thus reverse the Court of Appeal's contrary decision.

[138 P.3d 346]


Fort Ord is a former United States Army base on the Pacific Coast, about five miles north of Monterey and 125 miles south of San Francisco. The base lies on the northern end of Monterey Bay, an important tourist destination known for its scenic beauty and historic sites. In 1994, the Department of Defense formally closed the base and transferred 27,000 acres (over 42 square miles) to a variety of governmental entities and local organizations. The closure created both problems and opportunities for the region. On one hand, the loss of one of the nation's largest military installations threatened to disrupt the local economy. On the other hand, valuable land that for over 75 years had been exclusively controlled by the Army became available for civilian economic development.

To provide a government for the former base and to manage its transition to civilian use, the Legislature enacted the Fort Ord Reuse Authority Act (Gov.Code, § 67650 et seq.) (hereafter the FORA Act or the act). Effective May 9, 1994, the act authorized FORA's creation and conferred upon it governmental powers and duties within the former base that prevail over those of any other local governmental entity. (Id., § 67657, subd. (c).) FORA's general statutory purpose is "to plan for, finance, and carry out the transfer and reuse of the base in a cooperative, coordinated, balanced, and decisive manner." (Gov.Code, § 67652, subd. (a).) The act also charges FORA with the more specific policy goals of "facilitat[ing] the transfer and reuse of the real and other property [of the base] . . . with all practical speed," "minimiz[ing] the disruption caused by the base's closure on the civilian economy and the people of the Monterey Bay area," "maintain[ing] and protect[ing] the unique environmental resources of the area," and accomplishing these tasks "in ways that enhance the economy and quality of life of the Monterey Bay community." (Id., § 67651, subds. (a)-(d).) The 13 members of FORA's governing board are appointed by local governments neighboring the base—Monterey County and the Cities of Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Marina, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Salinas, Sand City and Seaside. (Id., § 67660.) Also on the board are 10 ex officio, nonvoting members, including one appointed by the Chancellor of the California State University. (Id., § 67661.)

The charter for Fort Ord's future use and development is the statutorily mandated Base Reuse Plan (hereafter Reuse Plan), which FORA adopted on June 13, 1997. (See Gov.Code, § 67675 et seq.) The plan addresses land use, transportation, conservation, recreation and capital improvement in Fort Ord until the year 2015. (See id., § 67675, subd. (c).) Pursuant to the plan, FORA will make land available over time for a wide range of civilian uses, including residential housing, business, light industry, research and development, visitor services, recreation and education. All such development will require improvements to the infrastructure the Army left behind. Recognizing this, the Legislature gave FORA the power and duty to prepare the base's infrastructure for civilian development. In the words of the act, FORA "shall identify those basewide public capital facilities . . . that serve residents or will serve future residents of the base territory" (Gov.Code, § 67679, subd. (a)(1)) and "shall undertake to plan for and arrange the provision of those facilities, including arranging for their financing and construction or repair, remodeling, or replacement" (ibid.; see also id., § 67675, subd. (c)(5) [Reuse Plan must include capital improvement plan]).

FORA has, as the Legislature directed, prepared a capital improvement plan identifying public facilities that need construction or improvement and projecting future expenditures for that purpose through the year 2015. (See Gov.Code, § 67675, subd. (c)(5).) The facilities FORA has identified include elements of Fort Ord's infrastructure for transportation (mainly roadways), water supply and distribution, wastewater management, drainage, and fire protection, among other things. FORA plans to improve these facilities over the life of the Reuse Plan, as increasing land use necessitates the improvements and as funding becomes available. Funding is not expected to come through legislative appropriations. Instead, the Legislature has directed FORA to arrange its own financing as it sees fit (Gov.Code, § 67679, subd. (a)(1)), employing any of several funding methods authorized in the FORA Act. FORA may, for example, "levy assessments, reassessments, or special taxes and issue bonds" under existing laws governing public finance (id., § 67679, subd. (d)),1 "levy development fees on development projects within the area of the base" (id., § 67679, subd. (e)) pursuant to the Mitigation Fee Act (id., § 66000 et seq.), sell or lease land (id., § 67678, subd. (a)), and "seek state and federal grants and loans or other assistance" (id., § 67679, subd. (c)). FORA and its local-government member agencies (id., § 67660) may also provide by contract for the transfer of tax revenues (id., § 67691) and/or adopt programs of local revenue sharing (id., § 67692).

In order to determine the long-term financial viability of the Reuse Plan, FORA has prepared a Comprehensive Business Plan setting out assumptions about projected revenue and expenditures. As part of this exercise—one obviously subject to numerous contingencies given the long planning horizon—FORA has projected that it will spend $249.2 million to improve Fort Ord's infrastructure over the 20-year life of the Reuse Plan, i.e., from 1996 to 2015. FORA projects that the largest part of its operational revenue over the same period will derive from the sale of land and from a one-time special tax under the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982 (Gov.Code, § 53311 et seq.). Other revenue is expected to come through local development fees, water and sewer fees, a grant from the federal Economic Development Administration, and the annual dues of FORA's members.

The California State University (CSU) is the largest university system in the United States. Governed by the Trustees, CSU's 23 campuses across the state collectively enroll 405,000 students and employ 44,000 faculty and staff. CSU Monterey Bay (CSUMB), which occupies 1,370 acres transferred by the Army to CSU in 1994, is presently the main user of the base. CSUMB opened in 1995 with 633 students, using existing military buildings, and now enrolls approximately 3,800 students, 2,600 of whom live on campus. From this modest beginning the Trustees plan to expand enrollment at CSUMB greatly over the next few decades, eventually reaching the target enrollment of 25,000 full-time equivalent (FTE2) students in the year 2030. On May 13, 1998, the Trustees approved a Campus Master Plan (hereafter Master Plan) to guide CSUMB toward this target. Under the Master Plan, CSUMB's resident population of students, faculty, staff and...

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