Caltrans has delayed work to close the El Campo Road and Highway 101 crossing after the parent company of a local winery filed a lawsuit on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the family of a Cal Poly student killed at the crossing in October 2018 is calling for a boycott of the winery in response.
Caltrans was expected to begin work to stop left-hand turns at that intersection and three others in rural Arroyo Grande next week, after a community effort pushed for the dangerous crossing to be closed.
Sacramento Superior Court documents show Vintage Wine Estates filed a petition Tuesday challenging the plan, which would include the intersection in front of Laetitia Winery. Vintage Wine Estates purchased Laetitia earlier this year.
In a news release Friday evening, Caltrans said the project was “suspended until further notice.”
“This is due to a legal challenge filed in a Sacramento County court against the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to stop the project,” Caltrans said. “The assigned judge has ordered a temporary stay while the merits of the case are litigated. It’s uncertain how long this project will be suspended.”
Caltrans spokesman Jim Shivers said the organization will have no further comment on the lawsuit at this time.
In its request for a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief, Vintage Wine Estates asked for the judge to compel Caltrans to “properly analyze, disclose and mitigate the significant adverse environmental impacts” of the project.
VWE claimed Caltrans violated the California Environmental Quality Act by “improperly relying on the emergency statutory exemption to CEQA, failing to prepare an environmental impact report and/or mitigated negative declaration for the project, failing to provide adequate notice of the project and opportunity for public comment and review, failing to adopt feasible mitigation measures, failing to analyze alternatives to the project, and approving the project on the basis of findings that are not supported by substantial evidence.”
“The project’s approval is motivated by political interest,” read the lawsuit.
VWE added that the project will have “potentially significant environmental impacts.”
Beside Caltrans, Papich Construction Co., which was chosen by Caltrans to complete the highway work, was named as a party in the lawsuit.
The decision to stop left turns onto the highway at these intersections comes largely as a result of a grassroots campaign by the parents of Jordan Grant, who was killed in a crash at the El Campo Road crossing in October 2018.
Jordan, an 18-year-old Cal Poly student, was heading southbound on the highway when a car pulled out from El Campo Road, hitting his motorcycle. He was declared dead at the scene.
Grant’s father, James Grant, told The Tribune in an email Friday night that he intends to launch a boycott of Laetitia Winery memberships and wines, as well as boycotts of any other Vintage Wine Estates brands, in response to the lawsuit.
He also intends to picket in front of the local winery next week, beginning around May 15, to “let the world know they have blood on their hands, for past and future accidents and deaths at these crossings.”