A state appeals court Thursday ordered a halt to construction on the estimated $1.1-billion final phase of the Playa Vista development, ruling that the project's environmental impact report was flawed.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal found that the city of Los Angeles' approval of the final phase of the controversial mixed-use project near the ocean was based on an environmental review that was "deficient in its analysis of land-use impacts, mitigation of historical archaeological resources and wastewater impacts."
Joe Geever of the Surfrider Foundation, one of the organizations that sued the city shortly after it approved the project phase in 2004, said, "We're ecstatic. We think it sends a strong message to the city that they have to take the law more seriously and to fully inform citizens of the impact of these massive projects on the environment before they go on approving them."
A Playa Vista spokesman said project managers would evaluate whether to appeal to the California Supreme Court, but vowed that the development would be completed.
"The bottom line is Playa Vista is well along in its evolution," spokesman Steve Sugerman said. "There are 5,000 residents who live there, and hundreds of people who work in offices there."
He said the second and final phase of the project, known as the village, "will be built and the vision will be achieved."
The village envisions 2,600 additional housing units and 250,000 square feet of office and retail space on 111 acres.
Playa Vista's first phase involved 3,246 housing units and more than 3.2 million square feet of office and retail space.
The appeals court ruling does not affect continuing work on first-phase construction.
Sugerman said significant amounts of grading work and some infrastructure work have been competed on the final phase, but that little other final-phase work is underway.
Opponents of the project, whose total cost variously has been estimated at $4 billion to $7 billion, filed suit in November 2004, shortly after the Los Angeles City Council approved the final phase. The opponents, which included the city of Santa Monica, the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust and representatives of the Tongva/Gabrieleno Native Americans, challenged the decision on environmental grounds.
Last year, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger ruled that the city and Playa Vista had followed the law and the project's environmental impact report was adequate. It was that ruling that was overturned Thursday by the Court of Appeal.