The new year brought a legal challenge to Sonoma’s recent approval of the Gateway project, a proposed mix of 33 residential units and 3,100 square feet of commercial space.
The project would be built at the long-abandoned Sonoma Truck and Auto site on Broadway at MacArthur. The suit was filed by a newly-formed group dubbed ”Friends of the Broadway Corridor” in Sonoma County Superior Court on Jan. 2. The suit challenges the Sonoma City Council’s failure to prepare an environmental impact report (EIR) before approving the project.
On Dec. 3, the council voted 3-1, with Councilmember Amy Harrington abstaining, to deny an appeal to the Planning Commission’s approval of the project. The commission had approved the project on May 10, but it was appealed to the council by Sonoma residents Victor Conforti and Bill Willers.
The only name in the filing associated with Friends of the Broadway Corridor is Sonoma resident Lou Braun, who resides at 871 First St. W., a block from the project site.
In a press release sent to the Index-Tribune on Jan. 2 announcing the filing of the suit, Braun said the group is demanding an Environmental Impact Report be conducted on the project.
An EIR is needed, said Braun, “so that the Gateway Project can be revised for a feasible project that reduces adverse impacts and meets our city’s adopted mandates for development on the Broadway Corridor near our historic Plaza.”
The press release was issued on behalf of the group by attorney Rachel Mansfield-Howlett.
The lot in question falls within the so-called “Broadway Corridor,” as defined in the city’s zoning map. The corridor extends south down Broadway from the Plaza for a block in either direction almost to the city limits, near Clay Street.
The suit is asking the court to “require the city to comply with CEQA and its own plans and policies designed to protect the historic integrity and future legacy of the Broadway Historic District,” according to Mansfield-Howlett’s press release.
It adds that a public EIR process includes “consideration of environmental impacts and the feasibility of project alternatives and mitigation measures.”
Mansfield-Howlett told the Index-Tribune that Friends of the Broadway Corridor’s suit is necessary to guarantee proper environmental review of projects.
“Since CEQA is a citizen-enforced statute,” said Mansfield-Howlett, “it is groups like Friends who act in the public interest to bring such challenges to an agency’s decision.”
Should a court support the Friends of the Broadway Corridor’s suit, it would require the city to void all approvals of the Sonoma Gateway project, prevent further work and preparation for the project, require an adequate Environmental Impact Review (EIR) and adopt feasible alternatives and mitigations, and pay all of Friends’ costs and attorney fees.
As of press time, Sonoma had not been served with the suit, according to Veronica Nabb of the city attorney’s office, who had no comment.
Scot Hunter, representing the Gateway project developers Broadway and MacArthur LLC, had also not been aware of the suit prior to a call from the Index-Tribune.
Said Hunter: “We are extremely disappointed that one individual, along with anonymous members of a newly formed opposition group, filed a lawsuit to block our mixed use, infill housing project – a project that is 100 percent compliant in every respect with the city’s land use and zoning standards, and provides critically needed market rate and affordable housing for our community.”
This story originally appeared on SonomaNews.com, also part of the Sonoma Media Investments network.