Sunroad Enterprises and the city will be heading back to court to fight yet another lawsuit over the developer's Sunroad Centrum development in Kearny Mesa. The city will be right alongside, defending their decision to allow Sunroad to proceed with major changes to the Centrum project without public review.
On May 8, Cory Briggs, the attorney for San Diegans for Open Government and CREED-21 (Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development), filed a lawsuit challenging the approval of large-scale changes to Sunroad Centrum, such as a reduction of 704 parking spaces, an increase in building height, and fewer feet of open space. In addition, claims the lawsuit, the developer will be allowed to go from a studio-oriented residential development to a multifamily residential building.
City staff first approved of the changes, without conducting any additional environmental studies, in January of this year. Since then, Briggs, on behalf of his clients, has made the rounds, appealing the decision to the planning commission last month, to no avail, and then to the city council, again to no avail.
The complaint states city staff and the planning commission, both non-elected entities, violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by giving final approval to what amounts to a complete redesign of the development.
Controversy has surrounded the Sunroad Centrum project since May 2013, when the developer gave the city $100,000 in exchange for two nine-foot-wide strips of city-owned property adjacent to a Kearny Mesa park. The donation, received by then-mayor Bob Filner, came to light in a memo from the city attorney's office and soon made headlines and has since landed both the city and Sunroad in court.
That's where the two parties will remain, forcing the city attorney's office to direct additional time (read: taxpayer money) to defend giving away public land and allowing a developer to make substantial changes to a project at the last minute.
"There is no substantial evidence in the record demonstrating that the Fire Department has reviewed the project's changes to assure that fire trucks and other emergency vehicles will have adequate access to and throughout the revised project site," reads the complaint. "If any such evidence exists, it was not provided to the decision-maker or to the public, including petitioners who specifically asked for all documents being relied upon by the Planning Commission."
"There is no substantial evidence supporting the conclusion that the Project does not require more park space than is being provided. The General Plan Recreation Element requires population-based parks at a minimum ratio of 2.8 useable acres per 1,000 residents. Swapping studio apartments for three, two, and one-bedroom apartments increases the population at the site, but no additional park space is being created and, in fact, park space is being reduced."