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SCOPE v. Santa Clara, City of

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20106
Nos. BS132487, (Cal. Super. Ct., 04/29/2013)

A California court ordered a city to set aside its approval of a development project until it complies with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The environmental impact report for the project failed to summarize documents incorporated by reference in violation of CEQA guidelines. This failure to properly explain how certain decisions were reached—failing to "show one's work"—fatally obscures the decisionmaking process. CEQA is not about "taking shortcuts," as was done here. In addition, the city abused its discretion in analyzing the biological and non-biological effects of the 0.3 square mile project against the entirety of the 1,620-square-mile watershed to conclude that there were no significant environmental impacts or consequences. At least 71% of watershed is undeveloped, and much of it is remote. Using such a large area as the base for comparison for this project constitutes a fundamental flaw in analysis. The comparison must instead focus on the area that will be affected by the project.