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Court Sets Aside Port's Coronado Belt Line Lease

SOHO Wins Lawsuit

By Susan Brandt-Hawley

In 2003 SOHO sued the Port District for failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) before approving a 66-year lease of the Coronado Belt Line, subject to approval of MTDB. (San Diego Superior Court Case GIC806225.) On Friday, June 4th, San Diego Superior Court Judge Linda Quinn issued an eight page Tentative Ruling granting a peremptory writ requiring the Port to set aside its approval of the rail line lease pending preparation of an EIR to examine potentially significant impacts on "land use, recreation, historical, cultural, aesthetic resources, and transportation." (See tentative ruling at http://www.sandiego.courts.ca.gov). Oral argument on the ruling was to be heard by Judge Quinn on Friday, June 11th; however, the Port waived the oral argument and so the tentative ruling will now become the Court's final order.

The lease would allow the Port to pave the rail line right of way "up to the outer edge of the rail and between the rails up to the height of the rail head" in Chula Vista. Under certain circumstances, the lease could even allow the complete removal of rails, ties, and other track materials. Termination of the lease to allow possible re-use of the rail line could occur only with one year notice, and is seen by rail advocates as being unworkable for any viable rail uses.

Judge Quinn's ruling stated that the required EIR may allow the Port "to examine development impacts as well as to explore feasible alternate terms for the lease that may preserve the Coronado Rail Line for current and potential future use for transportation, recreation, and cultural tourism in conjunction with the Chula Vista Bayfront development."

SOHO Executive Director Bruce Coons stated that "SOHO is delighted that the future of the Coronado Belt Line will now be fully reviewed in an EIR so that options for riders to experience its evocative history can be fairly considered."

2004 - Volume 35, Issue 3

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