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On behalf of the Council of Infill Builders, Monchamp Meldrum LLP submitted a request for publication of Jensen v. City of Santa Rosa (Case No. A144782) – a classic NIMBY case that opposed conversion of a defunct hospital into the ‘Dream Center’ so that Social Advocates for Youth could provide housing and supportive services for 63 youth. Requests for publication were submitted by a host of organizations and were granted by the First District Court of Appeal on May 24.

The Opinion applies existing case law to hold that nonexpert comment on noise impacts are not substantial evidence of a fair argument, and upheld the City’s use of a negative declaration.  The commenter used a technical report from “a different noise study prepared for a different project in a different part of town” and then calculated what the commenter believed the noise measurement should have been. Op. at 13. The court held that “[a]lthough they present their numbers as scientific fact, we find appellants’ calculations are essentially opinions rendered by nonexperts, which do not amount to substantial evidence.” Op. at 17. The court dismissed this misplaced argument “as resting on supposition and hypothesis, rather than fact, expert opinion, or reasonable inference.” Op. at 20.

The case also addresses head-on the fair argument standard of review as applied to negative declarations. The Opinion rejected arguments that the court must “independently exercise our judgment in our review of the City’s decision to issue a negative declaration,” and explains that the City’s “decision to issue a negative declaration … is reviewed for ‘prejudicial abuse of discretion,’ which ‘is established if the agency has not proceeded in a manner required by law or if the determination or decision is not supported by substantial evidence.’” Op. at 7-8. While the court’s holding is based on existing law, the court’s succinct summary is helpful to thwart this argument in other cases.

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