Friday, June 26, 2020

Save Berkeley's Neighborhoods v. Regents of the UC (Cal. Ct. App. - June 26, 2020)

Justice Burns may perhaps be right on the merits in this opinion, as well as on the ancillary issue of whether the plaintiffs are time-barred from asserting their claim.  The Court of Appeal holds that UC Berkeley's decision to increase student enrollment five-fold over the projections it made in its 2005
Environmental Impact Report (EIR) might perhaps violate CEQA, so reverses the trial court's dismissal on the pleadings of plaintiffs' complaint.  And while, yes, Berkeley's enrollment has consistently increased since 2007 -- quite a long time ago -- the pleadings allege that the plaintiffs were unaware of that increase, and the Court of Appeal accordingly holds that the lawsuit can't be dismissed at the pleading stage since we assume those allegations are true.

All of which may be the correct legal doctrine.  Though I suspect that the plaintiffs' victory today might be a Pyrrhic one.  Sure, they can plead that they were unaware of, and unable to discover, that UC Berkeley had radically increased its enrollment.  But those figures are public, and easily found.  The claim that plaintiffs, who live near the UC Berkeley campus, couldn't reasonably have figured out that UC Berkeley was increasing its enrollment is not one I think they'll win on the merits.  If so, what they won today is the ability to spend time and money litigating an environmental suit that they will ultimately lose.

Sometimes, watch out for what you wish.  You just might get it.