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Neighbors for Smart Rail v. Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20090
Nos. No. B232655, (Cal. Ct. App. 2d Dist., 04/17/2012)

A California appellate court held that a local board's environmental impact report (EIR) for the construction of a light rail line connecting downtown Los Angeles with Santa Monica complies with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). A coalition of homeowners' associations, community groups, and citizens sought to have the board's EIR and other project approvals set aside, arguing that the board used an improper baseline for analyzing the impacts of the project on traffic, air quality and greenhouse gas emissions. According to the coalition, the board should have used baseline conditions that existed sometime between 2007, when the notice of preparation of the project was filed, and 2010, when the board certified the final EIR. They argued that the use of hypothetical future conditions as the baseline for analyzing the environmental impacts of the project violates CEQA. But an agency's use of a projected future baseline, when supported by substantial evidence, is an appropriate means to analyze the traffic and air quality effects of a long-term infrastructure project. Here, the use of projected future conditions as a baseline for analyzing environmental impacts was proper. The lower court, therefore, properly denied the coalition's petition for a writ of mandate.