LOS ANGELES -- The much-debated Playa Vista project in west Los Angeles suffered a setback today when a state appeals court panel overturned the city's approval of the development's second phase, ruling that an environmental impact report for the project was flawed.
A three-judge panel of the Second District Court of Appeal ordered the city to vacate its 2004 approval of the project and ordered all construction activity on The Village at Playa Vista to be stopped.
Opponents of the project filed two lawsuits in November 2004 -- a little more than a month after the City Council gave its approval -- claiming the environmental impact report was flawed for the $1.1 billion second and final phase of the mixed-use development.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William F. Highberger ruled last year that the city and Playa Vista "followed the law and the EIR provided the public and the decision-makers with all relevant information, allowing the decision-makers to make an informed decision."
However, the city of Santa Monica, the Surfrider Foundation, representatives of the Tongva/Gabrieleno Native Americans and the Ballona Wetlands Land Trust claimed Los Angeles' support of the project was environmentally irresponsible.
According to the plaintiffs, the area is listed by the State Native American Heritage Commission as a sacred site, and considered sacred by the Tongva/Gabrieleno Native Americans.
The plaintiffs also claimed the development would generate large volumes of wastewater and worsen traffic in the area.
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Playa Vista President Steve Soboroff said Playa Capital, the development firm behind the project, will work with the city to address the issues identified by the court.
"The Playa Vista community continues to thrive, and this ruling will not in any way alter our plans to achieve the ultimate vision of this wonderful community that is now home to 5,000 residents and growing," Soboroff said.
"Development of the commercial campus is proceeding with the best office developers in America, and the Clippers training facility is expected to be completed next year. Despite the professional project opponents, we remain confident that the Playa Vista vision will ultimately be realized."
A spokesman for the City Attorney's Office said lawyers were reviewing the 114-page ruling and could not immediately comment. Councilman Bill Rosendahl -- whose district includes the project -- also had no immediate comment.
Work on phase one of the development, which includes more than 3,200 homes, parks and retail space, started in late 2001. Construction is expected to be completed in two to three years.
The second phase of the development is slated to include 2,600 housing units, 200 units of senior housing, 50,000 square feet of offices, 40,000 square feet of retail space and 195,875 square feet of retail space on 111 acres.
The appeals court found, however, that the environmental review of the project "was deficient in its analysis of land use impacts, mitigation of impacts on historical archaeological resources and wastewater impacts."
Opponents of the project were quick to hail the decision.
"This victory for the people of Los Angeles is a victory for telling the truth on development decisions," said Rex Frankel, president of the Ballona Ecosystem Education Project. "The court didn't accept the developer's masquerade about benefits to the public that didn't actually exist."