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Woodward Park Homeowners Ass'n v. Garreks, Inc.

Citation: 30 ELR 20308
No. No. F032200, 92 Cal. Rptr. 2d 268/(Cal. Ct. App., 01/20/2000)

The court holds that the city of Fresno, California, must prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for a corporation's already complete construction of a car wash in a residential neighborhood. A homeowner's association challenged the city's approval of the car wash project and a trial court directed the city to prepare an EIR. However, while the order to prepare the EIR was on appeal, the corporation completed the car wash project. The court first holds that completion of construction did not render the case moot. This case does not present a situation where a ruling by the court can have no practical impact or not provide the parties relief. A decision directing the preparation of an EIR could result in modification of the project to mitigate adverse impacts or even removal of the project all together. Additionally, it would not be sound public policy to allow the corporation to avoid CEQA by continuing with construction of the project in the face of litigation, delaying preparation of a court-ordered EIR pending appeal, and then arguing the case is moot because the project has been completed and is operating. The corporation's decision to complete and operate the project, despite the pending litigation, in no way provides an exemption to CEQA. The court next holds that there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the homeowners' assertion that the project conflicts with adopted environmental plans and community goals and, as a result, may have a significant adverse environmental impact. The project is not located in a planned unified shopping center at least five acres in size as is required by city regulations. Additionally, there was no guarantee by city planners that the project would fit into the residential pattern of development and create no architectural conflicts. The court further holds that the corporation's equal protection rights under the United States and California constitutions were not violated when the court did not order the preparation of an EIR for a different car wash project being challenged by the homeowners. Finally, the court holds that the corporation waived the imposition of a less onerous remedy by not raising the request before the trial court.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (28 pp., ELR Order No. L-170).

Counsel for Plaintiff
Robert J. Rosati
Law Offices of Robert J. Rosati
2055 San Joaquin St., Fresno CA 93721
(559) 256-9800

Counsel for Defendants
Walter W. Whelan
Law Offices of Walter W. Whelan
7433 N. First St., Ste. 102, Fresno CA 93720
(559) 437-1079