Posted on June 1, 2005 by Janell Bogue
“Lately, infill projects have become a hot-topic development strategy, especially in established neighborhoods. In Pocket Protectors v. City of Sacramento (2004) 124 Cal.App.4th 903, the developer proposed an infill project on a long, narrow strip of vacant land subject to a PUD zoning designation. The PUD called for the construction of townhouses in the project area, but the developer instead wanted to build a double row of single-family homes along a private street. Initially, the City was supportive. But even before preparation of the draft Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), neighbors began to complain. They organized a group called “Pocket Protectors” and gathered signatures for a petition in opposition of the new project. Their complaints centered on the project’s inconsistencies with the PUD and city land use policies, which many of them had allegedly relied upon to control growth and development in the area. Pocket Protectors also complained about the aesthetic impacts of the project because it provided minimal setbacks from adjacent landowners, only planned nominal landscaping, and created a “canyon” effect due to the lining of the narrow street with closely placed homes of similar sizes. Subsequently, the Planning Commission denied approval citing many of the same complaints of the Pocket Protectors.
The developer, after changes to the plan prompted by community meetings, appealed to the City Council. Two contentious meetings followed and after lengthy testimony from the developer and neighborhood residents, the City Council approved the project and the MND. The Council said that in its independent judgment that “there [was] no substantial evidence, either individually limited or cumulatively considerable, that the project will have a significant effect on the environment.” Pocket Protectors filed suit claiming that an EIR should have been completed before the Council approved the project.”
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