City Council to Hold Closed-Session Meeting to Discuss Pending SCIG Lawsuit Against City of LA

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Site of proposed SCIG rail yard project.

Long Beach’s City Council will hold a closed-session meeting to discuss its pending litigation against the City of Los Angeles, announced in May of last year after the LA City Council approved the controversial Southern California International Gateway (SCIG) railyard.

SCIGRenderingThe $500M SCIG, led by rail giant Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), is a proposed 12-track, 153-acre rail yard facility set to be built west of the 710 freeway. The Port of Los Angeles (POLA) owns the space where SCIG will be built, most of which lies in a gerrymandered sliver of Los Angeles between Long Beach and Carson. It has been years in the making, having been first proposed in 2005 and facing battles from multiple groups, from municipalities to environmental groups, ever since.

Despite its Wilmington homebase, the eastern border of the project area lies against West Long Beach’s edge, where studies indicate the effect on Westside residents will be considerabe. Denizens of West Long Beach fear the impact such a yard would have on local air quality and road conditions, as trucks and trains access, idle and leave the port area, increasing the already-poor environmental quality of the area. Two major K-12 schools—Cabrillo High School and Hudson Middle School—sit practically side-by-side with the project.

POLA failed to hold community meetings in West Long Beach, opting to hold them in Wilmington as the project was going through its multi-layered Environmental Impact Report (EIR) phase, prompting then-7th District Councilmember James Johnson to have his own community meeting in Long Beach, with hundreds attending and criticizing the lack of mitigation measures in place to curb the adverse affects of the project.

Johnson was not alone in his dissent. The East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice, Communities for a Better Environment, Legal Aid Foundation of L.A., Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma, Natural Resources Defense Council, Long Beach Community Action Partnership, Coalition for Clean Air, and Physicians for Social Responsibility have all been outspoken in their opposition to the project being built as proposed.

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Supporters and dissenters at the meeting held by James Johnson in November of 2012.

When the POLA Harbor Commissioners unanimously approved the project, then-Mayor Bob Foster did not mince his words, hinting at possible litigation.

“If you understand California law and the politics surrounding the EIR report process,” Foster told the POLA Board of Harbor Commissioners, “[what the EIR really says is] we’re gonna wait ’til you sue us until we pay any attention to you… It is very hard for me intellectually to accept that you value the life of a kid on this side of the city border more than you do a kid in my city.”

This led to both the Port of Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners and the City to file an appeal against the Port of Los Angeles Board of Harbor Commissioners in tandem with major community groups in March of 2013. The appeal alleged that the POLA Board of Harbor Commissioners violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), that the EIR was falsely represented, that there is a lack of substantiating proof regarding the purported benefits to the environment BNSF claims will result from the building of SCIG, and that the EIR failed to comply with CEQA standards by properly responding to concerns generated within the public comment period.

Soon thereafter, the LA City Council (in an 11-2 vote, with the two dissenters being 8th District Councilmember Bernard Parks and 9th District Councilmember Jan Perry) approved the project. This final move then prompted the filing of Case No. BS143356, or The City of Long Beach v. The City of Los Angeles, et al

Additionally, the Long Beach Unified School District has pursued litigation on behalf of its students, alleging that that the approved EIR fails to comply with CEQA; if the court obliges the District, the project could be delayed. 

Public comment will be permitted before the councilmembers and mayor meet privately. 

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