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Saltonstall v. City of Sacramento

California Court of Appeals, Third District

November 20, 2014

ADRIANA GIANTURCO SALTONSTALL et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
CITY OF SACRAMENTO, Defendant and Respondent SACRAMENTO BASKETBALL HOLDINGS, LLC, Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

[As Modification on December 18, 2014]

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, No. 34201480001840 Timothy M. Frawley, Judge.

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COUNSEL

The Smith Firm and Kelly T. Smith for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

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James C. Sanchez, Brett M. Witter, Jeffrey Heeren; Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson, Amrit S. Kulkarni, Julia L. Bond and Shaye Diveley for Defendant and Respondent.

Pioneer Law Group, Andrea A. Matarazzo and Jeffrey K. Dorso for Real Party in Interest and Respondent.

OPINION

HOCH, J.

The Sacramento Kings, a professional basketball team, have played at the Sleep Train Arena (formerly called Arco Arena) since 1988. In January 2013, the team’s then owners entered into a tentative agreement to sell the Sacramento Kings to a group of investors in Seattle, Washington. Seeking to keep the team in Sacramento, the City of Sacramento (City) partnered with Sacramento Basketball Holdings LLC to build a new entertainment and sports center in downtown Sacramento at the site of a shopping mall with declining occupancy rates. In May 2013, the board of Governors for the National Basketball Association (NBA) rejected an application to sell the team and move it to Seattle, and approved the sale of the team to Sacramento Basketball Holdings. The NBA’s board of governors also reserved the right to acquire the Sacramento Kings and relocate the team to another city if a new arena in Sacramento does not open by 2017.

To meet the NBA’s deadline, the City and Sacramento Basketball Holdings developed a schedule that targets October 2016 as the opening date for the downtown arena. To facilitate timely completion of the project, the Legislature added section 21168.6.6 to the Public Resources Code.[1] Section 21168.6.6 modifies -- only for construction of the downtown arena in Sacramento -- several deadlines for review of the project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (§ 21050 et seq.). Other than deadlines for review, section 21168.6.6 does not substantively modify CEQA as it applies to the downtown arena project.

Adriana Gianturco Saltonstall and 11 other individuals sued to challenge section 21168.6.6’s constitutionality as well as the project’s compliance with CEQA requirements.[2] Saltonstall moved for a preliminary injunction on grounds of imminent harm to the public caused by the demolition of the

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shopping mall and construction of the downtown arena. The trial court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction.

Saltonstall appeals the denial of the preliminary injunction on two grounds. First, she argues section 21168.6.6 represents an unconstitutional intrusion of the legislative branch on the core function of the courts. Second, Saltonstall contends the preliminary injunction should have been granted because section 21168.6.6 “harms [the public] and the environment, ” but not the respondents.[3] The City counters that the appeal is moot because we cannot resolve the appeal before the trial court decides Saltonstall’s action on the merits. The City also requests monetary sanctions for an appeal it characterizes as frivolous, taken for purposes of delay, and to harass the respondents.[4]

Based on Saltonstall’s contention that the time limits imposed by section 21168.6.6 are too short to allow any meaningful judicial scrutiny, we exercise our discretion to consider the constitutional challenge on grounds the issue might otherwise evade judicial review despite the potential for repetition. On the merits, we reject Saltonstall’s constitutional challenge because section 21168.6.6 does not materially impair a core function of the courts. Moreover, CEQA review does not implicate any constitutionally granted right. Consequently, even if the deadlines set forth in section 21168.6.6 are short, they are not unconstitutional. We reject Saltonstall’s argument that the City and Sacramento Basketball Holdings will not be harmed by a preliminary injunction. Saltonstall mistakenly assumes respondents have the burden of showing a preliminary injunction will cause harm to them. Instead, it is Saltonstall who bore but failed to meet the burden to show the necessity for a preliminary injunction. We deny the City’s request for attorney fees because the City failed to comply with the California Rules of Court rule applicable to motions for sanctions on appeal. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s order denying the preliminary injunction and deny the City’s request for monetary sanctions on appeal.

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FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Downtown Arena Project

The downtown arena project involves demolition of a part of the Downtown Plaza, a pedestrian-only shopping mall in Sacramento bounded by J Street to the north, L Street to the south, 7th Street to the east, and 4th Street to the west. In place of a portion of the shopping mall, the City and Sacramento Basketball Holdings plan to construct a 17, 500-seat entertainment and sports center along with approximately 1.5 million square feet of related retail, commercial, office, and residential development.[5] The project includes six off-site digital billboards on City-owned property as well as the transfer of ownership of certain other City-owned properties to Sacramento Basketball Holdings.

The downtown arena has been designed to meet the requirements of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. Among the downtown arena’s environmental design goals are: carbon neutrality, reduction of per-attendee-vehicle miles travelled, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Urban design goals include plans to spark redevelopment of the downtown area with an influx of basketball game and concert event attendees to the arena.

The demolition and construction schedule targets the opening date for the downtown arena for October 2016 because the NBA reserved the right to acquire the Sacramento Kings and relocate the team to another city if a new arena is not open by 2017.

Section 21168.6.6

On September 27, 2013, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill No. 743 (2013-2014 Reg. Sess.), which, among other things, added section 21168.6.6 to the Public Resources Code. (Stats. 2013, ch. 386, § 7.) Section 16 of Senate Bill No. 743 “declares that a special law is necessary and that a general law cannot be made applicable within the meaning of Section 16 of Article IV of the California Constitution because of the unique need for the development of an entertainment and sports center project in the City of Sacramento in an expeditious manner.” Section 21168.6.6 modifies several CEQA deadlines specifically for the project to build the downtown arena in Sacramento.

Section 21168.6.6 does not change CEQA’s standards for required content of the environmental impact report (EIR) or approval for the project. Instead,

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section 21168.6.6 provides an accelerated timeline of events along with provisions intended to facilitate expedited CEQA review such as: preparation of documents in electronic format, making the administrative record readily accessible to the public in electronic format, mediation of issues among the ...


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