Paul Wellman (file)

101 Widening Opponents Lose Legal Challenge

Judge Thomas Anderle acknowledged the environmental analysis prepared for Caltrans’s freeway widening plan contained some unexplained omissions, but even so, he rejected a legal challenge filed by a trio of Padaro Lane residents upset the plans do not include provision for a sound wall to protect their neighborhood. “Perfection is not required,” Anderle wrote of Caltrans’s environmental document, “only that it be adequate.”

The trio of appellants — Lawrence and Sharon Grassini and Mark Schwartz — contended Caltrans understated how much additional noise the wider freeway would generate and used outdated cost-benefit data to justify its refusal to provide a $1 million sound wall. Anderle concluded the widened freeway would generate an additional decibel of noise at most, dismissing the difference as all but “imperceptible.” He did, however, fault the report for failing to include any cumulative analysis of the freeway widening’s noise impacts with other known and foreseeable projects. Also lacking, Anderle found, was any explanation why that information was not provided. In rejecting the appeal, Anderle concluded the document included sufficient information about noise impacts for decision makers to render an opinion.

The Grassini appeal is one of two legal challenges mounted against the environmental analysis. The other, far broader in scope, contends the environmental review failed to acknowledge the increased congestion that would allegedly be caused at 15 downtown intersections by the widening, let alone identify the mitigations and alternatives legally required. Anderle is schedule to rule on that challenge, backed publicly by Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and Councilmember Bendy White, December 15.

Fernald Point residents Mark and Linda Schwartz have donated $10,800 to the congressional campaign of 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal; as a result, Carbajal is prevented from participating as a member of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG) in any closed-session discussions about any of the litigation involving the freeway widening. SBCAG is a co-proponent of the freeway widening project.

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