The mayor says the ruling â€œtotally vindicates the city.â€ The head of Santa Monica Baykeeper, which filed the lawsuit, says the decision is â€œalmost as disappointing as the Legacy Park project itself.â€
A three-judge state appellate panel issued a unanimous opinion Tuesday againstÂ Santa Monica Baykeeperâ€™sÂ legal challenge of theLegacy ParkÂ project. The ruling by the panel from the Court of Appeal's 2nd District affirms a December 2009 decision by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Thomas I. McKnew Jr. to dismiss the lawsuit.
Baykeeper had challenged the project and its environmental impact report shortly after theÂ City CouncilÂ approved both in March 2009. The nonprofit alleged the project, which is part of the cityâ€™s effort to curb storm water pollution, did not do enough to protect water quality and actually would be harmful.
â€œIn summary, the record before us demonstrates that the net effect of the Legacy Park project will be to improve, rather than harm the environment,â€ wrote Presiding Justice Norman L. Epstein in an opinion also signed by Associate Justices Nora M. Manella and Steven C. Suzukawa.
Mayor John Sibert said the decision â€œtotally vindicates the city.â€ He said this was a lawsuit that should never have been filed.
â€œSome of the other lawsuits [filed against the city by Baykeeper] at least had questionable issues, but this one should have been clear,â€ Sibert said. â€œIt was astonishing to me that they filed the lawsuit.â€
The mayor said he was surprised Baykeeper continued to pursue the suit once construction of Legacy Park Â began in September 2009 and finished nearly 13 months later. The 15-acre parkÂ is located along Pacific Coast Highway from Webb Way to Cross Creek Road.
Liz Crosson, Baykeeperâ€™s executive director, said the decision was â€œclearly disappointing.â€
â€œI would say this decision is almost as disappointing as the Legacy Park project itself, and unfortunately the court did not see the serious flaws in the environmental impact report for this project,â€ Crosson said. â€œSanta Monica Baykeeper will continue to put pressure on the city of Malibu for its storm water and wastewater issues because itâ€™s important to all who live, work and play in Malibu.â€
The opinion was certified for publication, which means it could be used as precedent when similar cases are heard in a California court.
Baykeeper could ask the panel to reconsider the case, a request that is rarely granted. It could also petition the Supreme Court to review it, another move that is not usually successful. Crosson said Tuesday afternoon that she had just read the decision and had not spoken to Baykeeperâ€™s legal team, so it was too early to decide on the next move.