L.A. City Councilman Bill Rosendahl was “very disappointed” that seven of his Council colleagues voted against his motiio requiring a thorough environmental review of a controversial element of Playa Vista’s methane mitigation program.
The council voted 7-3 last week to reject Rosendahl’s motion ordering a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) to review an issue that a state appeals court said both the city and the developer had failed to address.
“I am saddened and very disappointed that the Council did not support a thorough, transparent public process to examine this crucial public safety issue,” Rosendahl said. “My motion was the right thing to do, and the right way to go.”
The Council backed another proposal, made by the City Attorney and Playa Capital Inc., that called for a quicker, narrower study that provided for less public participation.
“When there are questions of public safety, we should always err on the side of more, not less study,” Rosendahl said. “When there is a question of process, we should always insist on more, not less public participation.”
At issue was an appeals court decision last year that said Playa Vista’s Phase One approvals lacked any study of how the development would affect its methane mitigation program. The court ruled against Playa Vista and the City of Los Angeles, ordering the city to vacate its methane mitigation program and to do additional environmental review of dewatering at the site.
Dewatering can result in groundwater contamination, threatening the Ballona Wetlands. It can also cause subsidence and soil erosion, jeopardizing the structural integrity of some buildings. The unanimous opinion from the three-person court said the effects of dewatering could result in “new or substantially more severe significant impacts.”
“This is a question of public health and safety, plain and simple,” Rosendahl said.
Rosendahl said he would be “an aggressive watchdog” of the council-approved process.
“I will continue to fight to expand public participation and ensure the health and safety issues are not ignored. If this study turns up anything, I will revive my call for an SEIR.”
The appeals court remanded the case to the superior court, which will have the opportunity to determine whether the City has adequately examined the potentially significant impacts of dewatering.
The text of the Rosendahl motion follows:
“On October 25, 2005, the California Second District Court of Appeals, in the case of Environmentalism Through Inspiration and Non-Violent Action v. City of Los Angeles, et al., (Cal. Court Appeal, 2nd District, No. B174856) unanimously ordered the City of Los Angeles to vacate its approval of the Playa Vista Phase 1 Methane Prevention Detection and Monitoring Plan, for the purpose of determining whether a Subsequent or Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) is required with respect to groundwater dewatering, and directed the City proceed as required by CEQA.
“The Appeals Court found that the City failed to determine whether groundwater dewatering in connection with the approved methane mitigation measures would result in new or substantially more severe significant environmental impacts.
“The issue of dewatering may be narrow, but is significant and far-reaching, raising questions about the public health and safety, in particular subsidence and groundwater contamination. It is imperative that the issue be studied properly, through an open and transparent public process. A thorough public study, such as a SEIR is in keeping with the Appellate Court decision, and the City’s public safety obligations to its residents.
“I therefore move that the City Council adopt the attached Findings relative to preparing and conducting a Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) concerning the issue of dewatering at the Playa Vista Phase 1 development, its impact on the methane mitigation monitoring systems, and the environmental impacts relating to subsidence and groundwater contamination.
“I further move that the City Council request the Planning Department, with the assistance of the City Attorney, prepare and conduct the Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (SEIR) on these issues.
“I further move that the Planning Department and the City Attorney be authorized to report back to Council with any additional Findings they may deem necessary in order to prepare the SEIR.”