By Peter Loeb, Riptide Correspondent
The second half of the hearing of Pacificans for a Scenic Coast’s (PSC) legal challenge to the Caltrans Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on the Highway 1 widening project concluded August 29 in Judge Marie Weiner’s courtroom in Redwood City.
PSC’s attorneys Brian Gaffney and Celeste Langille completed their oral arguments, continued from the first hearing August 22. Then City of Pacifica attorney Kevin Siegel presented his oral argument, followed by Caltrans attorney Derek van Hoften with his reply. Finally, PSC’s attorneys rebutted.
Gaffney and Langille argued that the project was described as one thing in the draft EIR, but became a much bigger project in the final EIR, with huge retaining walls and massive excavations.
They also claimed that Caltrans failed to do a legally required analysis of the project's visual impacts. And they charged that Caltrans did not analyze the project's greenhouse-gas impacts. They also argued that Caltrans improperly limited its analysis of the project's environmental impacts to only the project's footprint, without including impacts on surrounding areas.
Judge Weiner challenged each of the attorneys on some of their points, but it seemed that she saw the merits of at least some PSC complaints about the FEIR's inadequacy.
At least 22 PSC supporters attended the hearings. Judge Weiner thanked them for being well-behaved during the hearings. The judge has 90 days after the hearing to deliver her ruling, so the outcome may not be known until the end of November. But a ruling could come much sooner than that.
If the judge decides that some of the issues raised by PSC have merit, she may require Caltrans to go back and redo the analyses that were found missing. It’s possible that her ruling could require Caltrans to revise and recirculate the EIR, take public comments again, and then respond to those comments in another final EIR.
The PSC lawsuit is unlikely to stop the project, but a second group, Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PH1A), is doing a variety of things to stop the project, including trying to get the city to apply for grant money to hire a traffic consultant to evaluate all alternatives for reducing traffic, raising the issue in the current City Council race, and considering a referendum or initiative on the project.