Thursday, 20 February 2020

Sierra Club files lawsuit over Lowe's project

CLEARLAKE – On Friday, the Sierra Club Lake Group filed a suit against the Clearlake Redevelopment Agency and a developer over the city's recently approved shopping center plan, alleging that the city violated state law by approving the project without a full environmental impact report.


The petition for writ of mandate names the Clearlake Redevelopment Agency, KK Raphel Properties LLC of Danville and 25 unidentified individuals.


The suit challenges the city's Feb. 25 certification of a mitigated negative declaration and project approval for the project – to be located at 6820 and 6828 Old Highway 53, on the site of the now-closed Pearce Field airport – and seeks to have the decision set aside.


During the city's consideration of the project, the Sierra Club Lake Group had urged them to conduct a full environmental impact report (EIR) – as had some other community members and leaders, including county Supervisors Rob Brown and Denise Rushing.


“The community deserves a complete EIR,” said Cheri Holden, chair of the Sierra Club Lake Group. “It's just that simple.”


Mike Raphel, one of KK Raphel Properties' principals, said they had no advance notice of the filing, which he called “unfortunate.”


Clearlake City Administrator Dale Neiman was out of town on vacation this week, and Vice Mayor Joyce Overton said the council hasn't been notified of the action yet.


She added that she wasn't surprised by the action. A Sierra Club letter sent to the council during the project consideration led Overton to believe that might be the outcome.


Overton – who had requested an EIR and voted against the mitigated negative declaration but otherwise voted for the project – said she didn't know why the Sierra Club was taking the action, noting it's “not like it's going in tomorrow.”


KK Raphel Properties is proposing to purchase 15 acres of the airport site, where it will build a shopping center with 154,179 square feet, including about 137,000 square feet for a Lowe's home improvement center, plus other commercial tenants including include sitdown and fast food restaurants, as Lake County News has reported.


The Sierra Club alleges that the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by certifying the mitigated negative declaration in lieu of preparing a full EIR, which the group asserts was required because there is “substantial evidence in the administrative record” that the project will have “numerous significant environmental effects.”


The suit asks that the city's certification of the mitigated negative declaration be set aside, that the effects of the project's approvals be stayed pending the suit's hearings and that the club receive an award of attorney's fees and costs.


Holden said that the suit had to receive approval not just from the Sierra Club Lake Group but from the Redwood Chapter and the state organization.


She said the group felt that the community deserves to see a whole EIR and a complete analysis, along with an indepth study of impacts and mitigations.


However, Raphel said a lot of research already has been done on the project during the three years the city and KK Raphel Properties have worked on it.


Now, he said they'll have to take a look at the suit and speak to Lowe's. The city's plans call for escrow to close on the property by next February.


He said they've been through such suits before, but in this case it's unique, because the city was supportive of the plan, which he said was a top redevelopment goal.


“In the meantime, the financial condition of the city doesn't get any better,” said Raphel, who added, “We got close to the finish line.”


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Follow Lake County News on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LakeCoNews and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lake-County-News/143156775604?ref=mf .

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