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Local group sues to stop park construction

CARDIFF-BY-THE-SEA — The saga of building a park on the Hall property has taken another twist with the filing of a lawsuit Nov. 25 seeking to overturn permits issued two months ago.
City Council cleared the way for construction of five lighted sports fields at the Hall property during a packed meeting Oct. 22. The 3-2 vote reverses the Planning Commission’s denial of the project.
Councilwomen Teresa Barth and Maggie Houlihan opposed the motion to set aside the commission’s concerns about the impacts of traffic and lighting at the 43-acre park site on the surrounding neighborhood. Barth said she was unable to approve the appeal, brought by the Parks and Recreation Department, because of the inclusion of 90-foot light poles in the plan. Houlihan agreed, adding that traffic issues had not been properly mitigated.
Gerald Sodomka signed the suit filed in Superior Court on behalf of the group Citizens for Quality of Life. The move comes as no surprise to many as the group publicly pledged to challenge the council’s reversal of the planning commission’s decision in court.
“The city messed up with the cleanup of the property and got sued,” Cardiff-by-the-Sea resident Julie Mangor said. During the initial removal of debris in 2003, the city was sued by Citizens for Quality of Life for failing to conduct an environmental review of the land that had been the site of a nursery for decades. The court ruled in the group’s favor, saying that the California Environmental Quality Act required the analysis.
The current suit contends that the environmental impact report is insufficient and should be redone. Among other issues in the lawsuit it states the report does not adequately address the potential impact on community character, groundwater and runoff from the sports fields, noise and light pollution and increased traffic on narrow neighborhood streets. It also states that the permits issued do not comply with municipal code.
Houlihan said she had not yet read the lawsuit. “We could have had a win-win,” she said. “But the council majority disregarded the Planning Commission’s thoughtful analysis regarding lights and traffic impact. I think the Planning Commission did an excellent job of evaluating intensity and lighting impacts at the park.”
Houlihan said she was surprised to read that one of the objectives of the environmental impact report was to maximize sports fields. “When I raised this issue publicly I was told that staff created these objectives and that’s not what the public was told would happen in 2001 when we purchased the property,” she said.
Sodomka also filed an appeal to the Coastal Commission on Nov. 14 focusing on broad issues regarding the park. The appeal states that the park plan approved by the council does not provide a balance between open space and recreational opportunities, as is envisioned by the city’s coastal zone policies.
Established by voter initiative in 1972 through Proposition 20, the commission was solidified as a permanent agency in 1976 through the Coastal Act. As an independent, quasi-judicial state agency, the commission considers matters affecting the use of water and land in the so-called coastal zone.
The commission will take up the appeal along with another one filed by resident Peter Stern at its meeting Jan. 7 in San Diego according to staff members.