The Turlock Citizens Coalition, Dana Vaughan, Lynn Gaiser-Sarraille, and Michael Burtch filed a lawsuit against the Turlock City Council, Turlock Redevelopment, and Turlock Unified School District for their decision to use Redevelopment Agency funds to renovate the Turlock High School Joe Debely Stadium.
More specifically, individual members of each legislative body who voted in approval of funding the project with Redevelopment Agency funds have been named including Vice Mayor Ted Howze, Councilman Kurt Spycher, Councilwoman Amy Bublak and School Board Members Frank Lima, Loren Holt, Eileen Hamilton, John Sims, Robert Weaver, and Josh Bernard.
Mayor John Lazar and School Trustee Lori Crivelli are not included in the lawsuit as both abstained from voting on the stadium project funding due to conflict of interest at different meetings.
Councilwoman Mary Jackson is also not named as she was the lone vote of disapproval in funding the school district’s stadium project with City Redevelopment Agency money when the Turlock City Council voted to fund the project on November 24, 2009.
The petitioners’ lawsuit claims that the Respondents had a duty follow the law in regards to the Community Redevelopment Law and that they abused their discretion while taking actions which were not supported by substantial credible evidence in the record, so that their findings were arbitrary, capricious, and unreasonable, in violation of law.
The lawsuit states that the respondents also abused their discretion as a responsible agency by proceeding in the absence of a certified environmental review document, whether it was a valid Categorical Exemption, Negative Declaration, or Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), upon which to base their finding that “The improvements are of benefit to the project area of the immediate neighborhood in which the project is located.”
These statements lead to the result that findings adopted on November 24, 2009 are not based on substantial credible evidence in the record to support them, and because there is substantial credible evidence of significant detriment to the immediate neighborhood in which the project is located, which constitutes an abuse of discretion as an administrative agency.
Violations of CEQA, inadequate initial study, and failure to prepare an EIR are listed causes of action.
Lastly, against all respondents and individual elected officials, allegations of illegal expenditure of public funds and violations of CCP Section 526a are listed in the lawsuit.
The petitioners’ lawsuit is basically calling to put a stop to the project until the respondents comply with CEQA, the CEQA Guidelines, and Public Resources Code sections 21168 and 21168.5 toward finding requirements of the Community Redevelopment Law.
The legal document is demanding that a restraining order to spend any public funds on the project be put in place until the government agencies are in full compliance with the requirements of the Community Redevelopment Law, CEQA, and the CEQA Guidelines and have filed a return on the writ of mandate issued by the Court.
The lawsuit also requests that the individuals named in the lawsuit as defendants pay for the total amount of all transfers, disbursements, and expenditures of public funds in violation of the Community Redevelopment Law, CEQA, and the CEQA Guidelines, pursuant to the Code of Civil Procedure section 526a, to be reimbursed to the respondents, City of Turlock, Turlock Redevelopment Agency, and Turlock Unified School District.
The individuals defendants are being requested to pay for the costs of the lawsuit incurred, reasonable attorney fees, and for such other and further relief as the Court deems proper.
At the November 24, 2009 Council Meeting, City Attorney Phaedra Norton stated that spending RDA funds on the Joe Debely Stadium was within RDA law as the project would eliminate blight according to RDA law. An outside legal opinion and the California Redevelopment Association both also agree that the spending of RDA funds on the stadium renovation would be legal.
RDA funds are supposed to be spent to benefit the immediate neighborhood, eliminate blight, create jobs, and/or help provide affordable housing.
At the same meeting, Lynn Gaiser-Sarraille collected about 30 signatures on a petition just before the Council Meeting opposing the stadium project and said that the increased traffic caused by the more accommodating stadium would actually be blighting her neighborhood.
This case concerns a challenge by a citizens’ public interest organization to certain decisions and actions of the City of Turlock, the Turlock City Council, City of Turlock Redevelopment Agency, the Board of Directors of the City RDA, and the City Council Members and Directors of the City RDA, in their individual capacity, who voted in favor of the decisions and actions which are challenged in this action; to wit: Amy Bublak, Ted Howze, and Kurt Spycher.
The decisions and actions of the City Council and its individual Council Members and the City RDA Board and its individual members that are challenged by Petitioners herein include the decisions and actions approving and authorizing the payment of $2.8million of tax increment funds from the City RDA to the Turlock Unified School District for the installation and construction of the certain public improvements at Joe Debely Stadium at Turlock High School.
Petitioners challenge the Council’s and RDA Board’s decisions and actions based upon the lack of substantial evidence to support the findings made by the Council and RDA Board pursuant to the California Redevelopment Law which are required to be made for publicly owned buildings, facilities, structures or improvements. The Petitioners seek the issuance of a writ of administrative mandate ordering, directing, and commanding the City Council and the City RDA Board to void, vacate, set aside, rescind, and annul their resolutions approving and authorizing the expenditure and transfer of City tax increment funds from the City RDA to the TUSD for the Joe Debely Stadium Track and Field Renovation Project on November 24, 2009 on the grounds that the City Council and RDA Board abused their discretion as administrative agencies to the prejudice of Petitioners and the residents and tax payers of the City of Turlock.
In addition, Petitioners challenge the decisions and actions of the TUSD Board of Trustees made and taken on November 17, 2009 authorizing the TUSD administration to extend the current contract with Darden Architects to include the Joe Debely Stadium Track and Field Renovation Project and approving the Joint and Reciprocal Agreement for the Use of Facilities between the City of Turlock and TUSD.
Also, Petitioners challenge the decisions and actions of the TUSD Board of Trustees made and taken on December 8, 2009 approving and adopting a Categorical Exemption pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) [Public Resources Code (PRC) section 21000 et seq.] for the Master Plan for Joe Debely Stadium Track and Field Renovation Project, approving the Joe Debely Stadium Track and Field Renovation Project; approving the Funding Agreement between the Turlock RDA and the City of Turlock and the TUSD for the Joe Debely Stadium Track and Field Renovation Project, approving the Agreement with Kleinfelder Associates for Geotechnical and Materials Testing Services for the Joe Debely Stadium Track and Field Renovation Project.
Finally, Petitioners seek an administrative stay on the decisions and actions challenged herein and a writ of mandamus, pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 526a, ordering, directing, and commanding the Respondents not to expend any public funds based upon the decisions and actions challenged herein pending the final adjudication of this action by the Court or, in alternative, the reimbursement of all public funds pursuant to the decisions and actions challenged herein which reimbursement shall be made by the Council members, RDA Board members, and TUSD Trustees named in their individual capacity herein.
Petitioners’ claims are based on the Respondents’ violations of the California Community Redevelopment Law [Health and Safety Code sections 33679 and 33445(a); the California Environmental Quality Act [Public Resources Code section 21000 et seq.] and the CEQA Guidelines [California Code of Regulations, title 14, section 15000 et seq.], section 15300.2; and Code of Civil Procedure section 536a.
Petitioners has initiated this action to contest the Respondents’ violations of the above-referenced statutes, respectfully petitions this Court to issue a peremptory writ of mandate commanding, directing, and ordering the Respondents to vacate, set side, void, annul, and rescind their resolutions adopted on November 17, November 24, December 8, 2009 pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure sections 526a and 1094.5 and PRC sections 211168 and 21168.5.