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Court Holds that Inclusion of a “Supercenter” in a Project Does Not Automatically Mean Urban Decay Impacts Must Be Studied

In Melom v. City of Madera, the Fifth Appellate District revisited the issue of evaluation of the environmental impacts of “Supercenters” under CEQA addressed previously in Bakersfield Citizens for Local Control v. City of Bakersfield (2004) 124 Cal.App.4th 1184 (Bakersfield Citizens) and held that there is nothing about the inherent nature of a supercenter that would require a lead agency to evaluate urban decay impacts.Rather, each project should be evaluated based on the substantial evidence in the record before the lead agency.

Here, the City had certified an EIR and approved an approximately 795,000 square foot shopping center in late 2006. This original project was not anticipated to include any supercenter uses. Later the next year, the developer proposed certain revisions to the project that would allow for a Super Target by rearranging the square footage among the several buildings within the project, though no increase in overall square footage of the project was planned. The City prepared an addendum to the previously certified EIR and, having received no comments or other evidence of the project’s potential urban decay impacts, adopted the addendum and made the approvals necessary to allow the Super Target to be constructed. The addendum contained no analysis of the potential urban decay impacts of the Super Target.

Petitioner sued the City alleging that the City was required under Bakersfield Citizens to prepare a subsequent or supplemental EIR for the project because the inclusion of a supercenter in the project revisions mandated an analysis of the urban decay impacts of the supercenter. The Court expressly declined to read Bakersfield Citizens as holding that “whenever a project includes something called a supercenter, the project becomes a type of project which necessarily triggers an examination of some particularized theoretical environmental effect or effects.” Rather, the Melom court noted that it was the lead agency’s failure to consider the substantial evidence of urban decay impacts presented in Bakersfield Citizens that was in error. Here, since no one had presented evidence that the Super Target would cause urban decay impacts, there was no error in the City adopting the addendum to the EIR without performing an urban decay analysis.

For more information, contact Amrit Kulkarni or Ed Grutzmacher or call 800.464.3559.