Sierra Club sues Pismo Beach over Spanish Springs proposal

clambert@thetribunenews.comJuly 22, 2013 

The local chapter of the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit Monday against the city of Pismo Beach over the environmental documents approved for a controversial residential project proposed in Price Canyon.

In a complaint filed in San Luis Obispo Superior Court, the Sierra Club argues that the environmental impact report prepared for Spanish Springs fails to adequately address how the developers would handle increased traffic, provide an adequate water supply or protect threatened species.

“The environmental analysis essentially leaves the details to be figured out later,” Andrew Christie, director of the Santa Lucia chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a news release. “The citizens of Pismo Beach deserve a full analysis, clearly stating and mitigating this project’s harmful environmental impacts.”

Roy A. Hanley, Pismo Beach’s assistant city attorney, said Monday evening that he had not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment on it. However, he noted that the Pismo Beach City Council has not approved the Spanish Springs proposal.

The environmental impact report and some amendments to the city’s general plan, which guides long-term growth, were approved at the council’s June 18 meeting. The council delayed action on other documents — including a specific plan and development agreement — needed to move the proposal ahead.

“The EIR is the document that everything else comes from and is approved on the basis of,” Christie said in a telephone interview Monday. “You really have to get it right.”

The Spanish Springs proposal includes 416 single-family homes, 73 apartments or condos, 120 senior units, a 150-room hotel, a 10,000-square-foot conference center, a nine-hole golf course, parks and vineyards on 961 acres off Price Canyon Road, outside city limits.

A week ago, local residents opposed to the proposal filed a referendum petition to try to force the city to either rescind its vote on the general plan amendments or put the issue before local voters. If there are enough valid signatures on the petition, the issue will go before the City Council on Sept. 3 for direction.

The Sierra Club suit argues that the report omits a management plan for a proposed nature preserve, inadequately mitigates carbon pollution emissions and fails to protect wildlife.

It also claims that an assessment completed by the city of its water supply didn’t objectively analyze the reliability of the city’s existing water supplies and its ability to meet the needs of current and future residents.

The Sierra Club requests that Pismo Beach be required to set aside and invalidate its approval of the environmental documents and general plan amendments; that the judge find the city’s actions in approving the EIR unlawful; and for a temporary restraining order, and preliminary and permanent injunctions stopping any actions based on the EIR.

The lawsuit also names limited liability corporation BHT II Pismo as a real party in interest. The LLC acquired three properties that make up the Spanish Springs proposal in late 2010 and early 2011, Stephen Hester of West Coast Housing Partners said in a previous interview.

Reach Cynthia Lambert at 781-7929. Stay updated by following @SouthCountyBeat on Twitter.

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