Court holds State Lands Commission need not consider alternate public trust use when renewing marine terminal lease; lease renewal as CEQA project does not trigger assessment of claimed impacts of the existing use

Citizens for East Shores Park v. Cal. State Lands Commission

2012 DJDAR 28. A129896 (December 30, 2011)

A citizen’s group challenged the State Lands Commission’s approval of a lease renewal with Chevron for a bayside terminal, claiming the Commission violated the public trust doctrine and CEQA and failed to impose mitigation requirements on Chevron regarding upslope trails.

The Court of Appeal held the State Lands Commission did not have to consider other possible public trust uses, such as recreation, when it renewed a marine terminal lease with Chevron in San Francisco Bay waters near the Richmond refinery. The Commission originally had approved the use in 1949, and at that time approved one type of use, commerce, permitted by the public trust doctrine. Here, the Commission was simply continuing a long-standing and permissible public use that was also supported by an adequate EIR under CEQA. The Commission did not have a separate and additional obligation to consider public trust options outside of CEQA – compliance with CEQA was sufficient.

The Court further held the Commission used the proper baseline for the EIR, which were the existing conditions presented by an existing marine terminal. The Court disagreed with petitioners that the baseline should exclude consideration of present operations and, instead, focus on conditions preceding the 100 year-old terminal due to the alleged ability of the Commission to “eliminate” current conditions by not renewing the lease.

Finally, the Commission correctly declined to assess the impact of the existing terminal on upland trails because any claimed affects were not due to the project -which was simply a lease renewal. For the same reason, the Commission also did not have to consider mitigation for the trails under CEQA.

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