Shopping Center Plan Blocked

A state appeals court has blocked plans for a 234-acre regional shopping center on agricultural land at the edge of Woodland saying the city’s measures to mitigate resulting downtown urban decay from the project were insufficient.

The Third District Court of Appeal Tuesday sided with a local environmental group, the California Clean Energy Committee, in its challenge to the city’s certification of a final environmental impact report approving the project.

The court issued the decision as a precedent-setting case on environmental law, publishing order issued Feb. 28.

The group argued that the Gateway project at the edge of the small town north of Sacramento, conflicted with the city general plan, that too little was done to protect downtown from business losses to the competing shopping center and tat the environmental report did not sufficiently review energy impacts.

“We conclude the city’s mitigation measures for alleviating the anticipated urban decay in its downtown and at a local shopping mall are inadequate under [California Environmental Quality Act,]” the court said.

The city failed to properly assess mixed-use alternatives and did not do the required assessment of transportation and energy impacts from the shopping center.

In 2002, Woodland city council announced it planned to revitalize the downtown district in the heart of the city.

Then in 2006, the first 49-acre phase of the Gateway shopping center created retail and commercial use of farmland near the Highway 5 and the Yolo County Road.

After it began leasing space at the end of construction, the developer began phase two in 2007, applying to build a regional shopping center on 154 acres of farmland and have it rezoned fro agricultural to general commercial.

It would include over 800,000 square feet of retail space, three hotels with 100 rooms each and 20,000 square feet  of restaurant space and three fast-food restaurants, with an added 100,000 square feet of office space.

The draft environmental statement concluded that the project could threaten the economic health of Woodland’s downtown through loss of sales and increased vacancies.

In 2011, the city approved the project while acknowledging the deleterious effect on the city’s downtown.  The council did state that mitigation of urban decay would be required but listed no specifics.  The city also did not require mitigation of  energy use and transit considerations.

The final environmental impact report violates CEQA, according to the court.  The panel ordered the trial court to vacate the award of costs in the case to Woodland and ordered the city to rescind its approval of the EIR certifying the project.

Case:  California Clean Energy Committee v. Woodland, No. C072033



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