Two environmental groups have filed a lawsuit to stall a controversial parking lot project at College of the Canyons that would uproot 34 valley oak trees.
The Santa Clarita Oak Conservancy filed the suit in Los Angeles Superior Court as a last resort, said Cynthia Neal-Harris, a member of the group. The California Oak Foundation joined with the conservancy in the suit, which is requesting a reevaluation of the project and a more detailed study of its effect on the environment.
"We went to the hearings, we wrote letters, we asked for an appeal," Neal-Harris said. "We kept hoping this [legal action] wouldn't happen."
The conservancy contends that the site chosen for the parking lot, just south of the present campus, is one of the last valley oak savannas in Southern California. The group wants the college to complete a more detailed environmental impact report than the one the college submitted. The suit charges that the college failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act by approving the project without a full EIR.
The project, unanimously approved in July by the Santa Clarita Community College District governing board, would provide 1,870 new parking spaces for the growing campus. College administrators contend that the lot is needed to keep up with rising enrollment, which is projected to increase from 10,000 to 15,000 in the next three years.
College spokeswoman Sue Bozman said the college received the lawsuit Monday and was not prepared to issue a statement. She said that the college had planned to begin grading the undeveloped hills for the project this month in order to open the lot by the spring semester.
Bozman said it was uncertain whether the lawsuit would delay the project.