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In an unpublished opinion, Ventura Realty & Investment Company v. City of San Buenaventura, 2016 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 7486, the Second Appellate District affirmed the trial court’s rulings and upheld the City of San Buenaventura’s (City) approval of changes to a plan to redevelop a 15-acre hospital district (Hospital Plan) proposed by Community Memorial Health System’s (CMH).

In 2010, the City prepared and EIR and approved the Hospital Plan along with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between CMH and the City. The MOU made the City responsible for the parking structure, but provided CMH with the option to take responsibility for the construction, funding, and maintenance of the parking structure. In 2014, CMH exercised its option, shifting the City’s responsibility for the parking structure to CMH, and proposed to make the structure taller and with more spaces. Using an addendum to the prior EIR, the City approved CMH’s proposed changes to the Hospital Plan that same year.

During the design review for the changes proposed by CMH, the City discovered that the existing general plan designation for the parking structure site was residential. To ensure consistency with the general plan, the City initiated a general plan amendment changing the site designation from residential to commercial and approved the amendment in 2015.

The plaintiff, who wished to obtain spaces in the parking structure for its own commercial project in an adjacent area, filed a petition for writ of mandate, claiming that the City’s approvals violated CEQA. 

First, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the City impermissibly deferred consultations required by Senate Bill (SB) 18, which requires the City to conduct consultation with certain Native American tribes before adoption of a general plan amendment. The court explained that the plaintiff forfeited its SB 18 claim because it had not exhausted its administrative remedies. The court also held that the City’s consultation undertaken after the 2014 approvals, but before the approval of the general plan amendment, would have been permissible even if the plaintiff had exhausted its administrative remedies. According to the court, SB 18 does not impose additional requirements to CEQA.

Second, the court held that the 2014 approvals did not introduce new information requiring a supplemental EIR. The plaintiff argued that the 2014 approvals required a supplemental EIR because an associated ground lease gave CMH discretion to accept or deny requests for parking necessary for nearby development projects, which the plaintiff believed would lead to a parking shortage for future development. The court rejected this argument, because the 2010 MOU discussed CMH’s discretion to take over the parking structure project and no objections were raised. The court also reasoned that the lease set aside 199 spaces as the minimum number of spaces for future developers and that CMH was not authorized to unilaterally reduce the number of such spaces without the City’s consent.

Third, the court held that the general plan amendment did not result in substantial changes to, or new information about, the project. The court also found that the 2014 addendum to the EIR adequately considered the potential for environmental impacts to result from the general plan amendment.

Finally, the court rejected the plaintiff’s contentions that the City violated local and state laws, including the City’s Municipal Code requirements related to parking determinations, the City charter concerning public works contracts, and the Government Code section 53083 relative to economic development subsidies.