Hearing set for school district vs. the city of Lincoln lawsuit

By: Carol Percy, Reporter Lincoln News Messenger
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Three floors in the city hall building and two points of view divide the city of Lincoln and the Western Placer Unified School District—a difference of opinion that led in December 2012 to the district filing a lawsuit against the city. The fracas between district and city centers on how future housing developments could adversely impact Lincoln’s environment and its future student populations.


In December, three months after filing the lawsuit, Western Placer Unified School District’s attorney said the district and the city will face off in court sometime in November.


“The only update I can provide . . . at this time on the Western Placer v. City of Lincoln matter is that parties have agreed to a hearing date in November.  I can't comment on anything further at this time due to the litigation,” said Megan Macy of Lozano Smith, a Sacramento-based law firm.


Lincoln City council voted unanimously Jan. 8 to authorize city attorney Jon Hobbs to defend the city.


Lincoln city manager Jim Estep said in an email Monday that the city, the school district, and the developer (Lake Development-Lincoln LLC) have participated in court-required settlement meetings but no resolution has been reached at this time.


At the crux of the disagreement between the two entities is a statute known as

the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a law that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if possible.

Most proposals for property development in California are subject to CEQA. Every development project needing governmental approval requires at least some environmental review, according to the California Natural Resources Agency website.

Heather Steer, facilities planner for the Western Placer Unified School District, said the district filed the lawsuit because it is concerned about the environmental impact of future housing projects.


“The Western Placer Unified School District, as an agency, felt that the environmental documents are inadequate in addressing all of the school district’s needs and so therefore, our only option in order to have those needs addressed was to file a CEQA challenge,” Steer said.


On Dec. 28, 2012, Western Placer Unified School District filed a 99-page lawsuit in Superior Court against the city of Lincoln, Lincoln City Council, Planning Commission and Lake Development-Lincoln LLC. The district wants a judge to order the city and the developer to adequately address environmental impacts to schools, according to a Jan. 9, 2013 article in the News Messenger.



In lodging the lawsuit, Western Placer Unified School District seeks to hold the city and developers accountable. The city is being asked to state in environmental documents how future students coming from new housing developments will be provided for.


In particular, how will planned housing developments such as Village I and Phase I of Village I, which will generate an large influx of new students into the Western Placer Unified School District, impact current student populations--where will these new students attend school and how will current schools be impacted by a sudden dramatic increase in enrollments?


 For example: the Village I Specific Plan area, located east of Auburn Ravine, includes property on both the north and south sides of Highway 193. The plan area includes 1,832 acres and extends southeast to Sierra College Blvd and Stardust Lane on Highway 193.


Lake Development, the first phase of Village I, includes 290.2 acres located east of Auburn Ravine and north of Highway 193. One elementary school site for Village I has been “identified”, that is, reserved without reference to when it will be built or who will pay for it. Village I’ projected build-out includes 5,639 housing units, resulting in about 3,383 new students coming into the district.


Of those 3,383 new students, grade level break-downs would be: 947 high school, 778 middle school, and 1,658 elementary students.


According to the district’s facilities master plan, one new elementary school (such as the one planned for Village I) would house 800 students, begging the question, where would the other 858 elementary students go to school?


Those questions and more may be under discussion when all parties named in the lawsuit appear at the court hearing scheduled for November 2013.


City Manager Estep said that as for the city, he’s confident that CEQA compliance has been met.


“The city continues its belief that the environmental impact report is adequate and prepared in compliance with state law, and that the approvals of the project by the City were proper,” said Estep.