Here’s the good news. The judge doesn’t care what the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety (LADBS) says about the earthquake studies submitted Millennium Partners, LLC. Judge Chalfant determined that the City violated CEQA when it disregarded the concerns of Caltrans,
pursuant to Pub. Res. Code sections 21080.4(a) and 21092.4, and Guidelines section 15096(b )(2).
Per Judge Chalfant’s ruling, an order was issued directing the City and City Council to vacate and set aside the actions approving the FEIR, Project approvals, and all land use entitlements. An injunction was issued enjoining the City from granting any authority, permits, certificate of occupancy, or entitlements for the Project pursuant to the City’s prior actions, and enjoining Millennium from undertaking construction on the Project pursuant to the set aside approvals.
STMH requested and was granted Judicial Notice (asked the Court to allow documents showing an indisputable fact) in relation to Exhibit C (Nov 6, 2014 CGS Map depicting the location of Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Zones and Seismic Hazard Zones within the Hollywood Quadrange) and Exhibit D (Nov 5, 2014 CGS Supplement Fault Investigation Report).
Judge Chalfant says: “the City knew that CGS was studying the area, yet never changed the statements in the DEIR that the Project site was not in an Alquist-Priolo zone. The public should have been informed of this fact, and CGS’ s subsequent action reinforces that conclusion.
“Exhibit C is a map released by CGS on November 6, 2014 depicting the location of Alquist-Priolo Earthquake Zones and Seismic Hazard Zones within the Hollywood Quadrange. Exhibit D is a Supplement to a Fault Investigation Report issued by CGS on November 5, 2014 to support its adoption of Exhibit C.”
“Exhibits C and D did not exist at the time of approval, and they corroborate Petitioners’ position. Nonetheless, they are inadmissible to challenge the City’s approval of the FEIR and the Project entitlements.”
Judge Chalfant said that we were right but because of the technicalities of the rules of evidence he could not consider the State Geologist’s findings at the trial.
Our legal team is working on the second portion of our lawsuit and this should be exciting. Stay tuned.
Here’s a statement from attorney Robert Silverstein:
The fact remains that the most independent scientists who have looked at the Millennium project are at the California State Geological Survey. Those geologists have said the Millennium property is crossed by an active earthquake fault. Nor have the state geologists flip-flopped on this point, unlike the city’s geologists who maintained for the longest time there was no fault on the Millennium property and later, faced with incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, grudgingly conceded there is a fault on the property. Now their fallback argument is that the fault is not active.
To the best of our knowledge, it is unprecedented for a city to override the California State Geological Survey on a matter like this.
The City’s decision is disappointing but ultimately not surprising. City Hall’s pro-developer culture is so well-entrenched it would be hard to imagine city officials reaching any decision other than one that sided with the developer. Remember: the City’s Department of Building and Safety CEO, Raymond Chan (now LADBS gen. mgr.) was overseeing his agency’s review of the earthquake issue on the Millennium property even as his son was working as a paid intern at the law firm of Sheppard Mullin, the developer’s chief lobbyist at City Hall.
City Hall’s controversial and dishonest history of reviewing the Millennium project is what forced the opponents to challenge this project in the courts. In that unbiased judicial forum the opponents have obtained a ruling that the city’s approvals of the project and its EIR were inadequate and illegal. More specifically the judge ruled that the EIR improperly analyzed the proposed Millennium project’s traffic impact on the 101 Freeway; that Millennium illegally disregarded CalTrans’ request for a traffic analysis of the 101 Freeway impacts; that the EIR improperly analyzed the project’s cumulative impacts; that the project description was improper and amorphous; that the city improperly adopted zone changes to facilitate the project; and that there were other significant flaws in the city’s review process.
As a result of the judge’s ruling, the Millennium project cannot go forward with the invalidated approvals it has now.
It should also be recalled that the Millennium developer sought to challenge the state geologist’s findings (active fault on the property) but then limited access by state geologists to its trenching work and barred them from taking notes, making drawings or taking photos inside the trench. The developer’s trench was a travesty, a cover-up. The developer’s actions were so egregious that the California State Geological Survey’s final Fault Evaluation Report (FER) of Nov. 2014 included a separate list (Appendix B) of all the times and events when Millennium’s geotechnical consultant Group Delta barred the state geologist’s team from having access to its (Group Delta’s) data and information. Millennium’s failure to cooperate was unprecedented. Likewise, Appendix B was an unprecedented sign of the state’s extreme displeasure with Group Delta’s refusal to cooperate.
Finally, Millennium had ample opportunity to share its so-called rebuttal evidence with the state geologist but failed to do so. Ultimately, based on the best scientific evidence, the state agency appropriately rejected Millennium’s challenge. Now, it appears that the city may have simply accepted a re-hash of the developer’s half-baked, earlier challenge that failed to convince the independent scientists at the California State Geological Survey. The developer’s latest false argument is that a third party performed a “peer review” of Group Delta’s findings – and okayed them. But what good is that when this third party is also on the developer’s payroll?
Again, the most trusted, neutral party that has addressed the earthquake issue on the Millennium property has been the California State Geological Survey – whose findings have been flatly ignored by the city.