SAN JOSE — A California appeals court partially reversed a trial court’s decision but upheld subsequent approvals in a dispute over a plan to expand aviation facilities at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.
On May 24, the California Sixth District Court of Appeals ruled that the City of San Jose’s two April 2013 resolutions that authorized the City Manager to negotiate and execute a lease and operating on the Airport should be set aside, stating that it was improper to approve the project without first preparing and considering an addendum to the Airport environmental impact report (EIR).
The dispute came about after the San Jose City Council awarded Signature Flight Support Corporation a contract and a lease to construct a “fixed based” operation (FBO) on the west side of the airport.
SJJC Aviation Services LLC contested the city’s approval of Signature’s proposal, alleging that, among other things, that the proposal was not consistent with the city’s Airport Master Plan and that the city allegedly failed to timely prepare an EIR under the proper provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
The city conducted an EIR of the proposed FBO under CEQA provisions “where a project already has been subject to initial CEQA review,” according to court filings.
“But it did so only after… the city council adopted resolutions unconditionally authorizing the city manager to negotiate and execute a 50-year lease and operating agreement with Signature for the construction and operation of FBO facilities,” the appeals court said in its decision.
SJJC argued that the city should have conducted an EIR under CEQA provisions for new projects that have not previously had an EIR.
SJJC also contended that the review should been done before the city “granted any approvals related to Signature’s proposed FBO development.”
The trial court, however, ruled against SJJC. But the company appealed.
The appeals court partly agreed with SJJC, ruling that the city should have prepared and considered “an addendum to the… EIR before the city council initially decided in April 2013 to award the lease and operating agreement for development of general aviation facilities to Signature.”
The city “failed to proceed in a manner required by law and thereby abused their discretion under CEQA,” the appeals court said in its decision.
The decision has entitled SJCC to set aside the city’s 2013 resolutions that approved the agreement and amended the city’s zoning ordinance to allow for Signature’s proposed plan. However, the appeals court also ruled that no new action from the City or Signature is required, because the City Council subsequently reconsidered those two approvals in light of a Tenth Addendum to the EIR , prepared in October 2013, that evaluated the Signature project based on detailed engineering drawings to ensure consistency with the findings of the Airport EIR. The appeals court therefore decided that the Tenth Addendum complied with CEQA, and left in place the City’s subsequent approval of the project and a zoning ordinance amendment in December 2013.