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Judge's ruling deals blow to planned Home Depot

Long Beach project's environmental report is deemed inadequate.

December 12, 2007|Deborah Schoch | Times Staff Writer

Plans for a Home Depot in southeastern Long Beach suffered a setback this week when a judge issued a tentative ruling that the project's environmental review did not abide by state laws.

In a Tuesday hearing, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge John A. Torribio asked attorneys to submit more information before he issues a final ruling. He set another hearing for Feb. 1.

The Long Beach City Council had approved the state-required review for a proposed 16.5-acre Home Depot Design Center across Studebaker Road from the 400-acre Los Cerritos Wetlands.

Supporters say the project would improve former industrial land and bolster the Long Beach economy. Critics contend that it would exacerbate traffic problems and threaten the largest privately owned coastal marsh in Southern California.

The Los Cerritos Wetlands Land Trust and the University Park Estates Neighborhood Assn. sued to declare the environmental impact report invalid.

AES Alamitos LLC, which owns a power plant next to the site, is also contesting the report. Attorney Brian Fish, representing AES, said his client believes it is being asked to offset the project's potential effects on public safety -- a responsibility that he says should be borne by the developer.

In his ruling, Torribio faulted the environmental report for its treatment of AES, for insufficient review of Home Depot's potential effects on the burrowing owl and certain plants, and for not analyzing how the project's lighting and noise could affect the wetlands.

Douglas P. Carstens, an attorney for the environmentalists and homeowners, stressed Tuesday that the ruling is tentative, but added "We're optimistic."

Attorneys for the city and for landowner Studebaker LLC defended the report.

"We believe the EIR was lawfully certified by the city, and all the other approvals that relied on the EIR were also valid," said attorney Robert D. Pontelle, representing Studebaker LLC.


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