HCN defends CEQA against attack from local agencies
A quick update on the HCN lawsuit against UC's Hill Campus Vegetation Plan. HCN won our suit against UC, but UC decided to appeal the loss to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Both sides filed multiple briefs, with the expectation that at some point the 9th Circuit would consider this matter.
A couple of days ago we were advised that a number of local agencies had filed amicus briefs on behalf of UC. Seems that UC was concerned enough that they would lose the appeal that they employed all their institutional strength and relationships with other powerful agencies to attempt to use this influence to affect the outcome of the case.
The result is that CalFire intends to file an amicus brief, while the League of Cities has filed a brief, and East Bay MUD, East Bay Regional Park District, Napa County, and the Marin Wildfire Prevention Authority all signed on to a separate amicus brief. Basically, UC managed to get 6 local agencies to all submit briefs in support of their case.
Is is very disturbing that these agencies agreed to support UC in its attempt to push through an EIR that is so vague that it's impossible for citizens to know what the actual plan is (the Claremont Canyon Conservancy joined HCN in suing UC over this very issue).
What is clear here is that these agencies all see CEQA as an annoyance. That the need to consult with the citizens they purport to serve is nothing but a problem. If UC is successful in its attempt to do an end run around the clear intent of CEQA, this would be a precedent for other agencies who also would prefer to not be bound by this law.
The bottom line is this. If UC is successful in this case, we believe that CEQA will be substantially weakened, and that other agencies bound by CEQA will do what UC is attempting to do.... ignore the intent of CEQA by publishing EIRs that give then near-total autonomy, with zero opportunity for the public to have a voice in the process.
So, while this started out as a lawsuit by HCN (and CCC) against UC for an intentionally vague plan/EIR, a suit that UC rightfully lost, UC is determined to win this on appeal. If they do, we believe that other agencies will feel similarly empowered to ignore the concerns of the citizens they serve....a truly awful precedent.
As this struggle continues, legal bills continue to mount, and your financial support becomes increasingly important. Please support HCN as best you can. This is really important.