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Orange County

Juaneno Suit Against Athletic Site Is Dismissed

September 24, 2003|Dave McKibben | Times Staff Writer

A lawsuit by the Juaneno Indians to block construction of athletic fields at the new Junipero Serra High School in San Juan Capistrano has been dismissed by an Orange County Superior Court judge.

Juaneno leaders, environmental activists and some anthropologists had contended that development on the 29-acre site would disturb an ancient Native American burial ground.

The suit argued that the city of San Juan Capistrano violated the California Environmental Quality Act by changing the site's zoning from office and commercial use to public and private institutional use without assessing environmental consequences. But Judge Ronald Bauer ruled that since the zoning change was prompted by a voters' initiative, an environmental assessment of the change was not required, said John Shaw, San Juan Capistrano's city attorney.

"We would hope -- but I doubt it -- that this will end the protests," Tim Busch, president of JSerra, said. Juaneno Indians and others have staged protests across the street from the campus, near Interstate 5 and Junipero Serra Road.

Susan Brandt-Hawley, a Sonoma County-based environmental attorney who filed the suit, said she might appeal.

"The irony is that there's been no environmental review or public process," she said. "The initiative petition stated that this issue was to go before the voters. The city, by adopting [the requested zone change], precluded the participation of the public."

The site, which sits across the street from JSerra High, is still subject to the city's design and review process, which requires an environmental impact report. Busch said he expects the review process to continue for six months.

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