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Court finds fault with city’s review of McKinley Village. What happens next?

Look inside McKinley Village

The new urban village under construction along the Business 80 freeway in East Sacramento opened to the public in September.
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The new urban village under construction along the Business 80 freeway in East Sacramento opened to the public in September.

Sacramento’s fledgling McKinley Village development has hit a legal speed bump after an appellate court ruled that the city’s environmental studies overlooked potential impacts the development would create on traffic.

In a ruling late Monday, the 3rd District Court of Appeal threw out a portion of the environmental impact report, or EIR, prepared by city officials as part of their approval of the residential development. The court said the environmental report didn’t explain why the city thinks the project won’t cause major traffic problems. In particular, the court said it was concerned about traffic around 28th, 29th and 30th streets in midtown Sacramento, where many of the cars entering or leaving McKinley Village would coalesce.

The practical effect of the ruling is a matter of some dispute.

Stephen Cook, a lawyer for the preservationist group challenging the development, said Tuesday the ruling enables the group to seek a court injunction that would shut down construction “until the deficiency in the EIR is corrected, if it can be.” Cook, who represents a group called East Sacramento Partnership for a Livable City, said he’ll apply for an injunction in Sacramento Superior Court in a few weeks.

But City Attorney James Sanchez and co-developers Phil Angelides and Kevin Carson said the ruling creates relatively minor obstacles that should be easy to remedy. The development “will not be subject to delay,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said the city merely needs to provide a better explanation of why the development won’t cause major traffic problems – or, if there are problems, how they can be addressed.

“It’s a technical fix that can be accomplished quickly,” said Angelides, a former state treasurer. “You’ve got a very narrow issue.” The appeals court dismissed other claims by East Sacramento Partnership, including allegations that residents of McKinley Village would face health problems caused by air pollution.

The ruling comes two years after developers broke ground on the football-shaped, 49-acre parcel sandwiched between the Capital City Freeway and an elevated railroad line. Angelides said 16 model homes have been completed and another 38 homes are under construction, with some homes already sold. A total of 336 homes are expected to be built.

The project is more or less cut off from surrounding areas and will have two entry and exit points to the rest of the city: a tunnel beneath the rail line that connects with C Street in East Sacramento and a bridge over the freeway connecting to midtown at 28th Street.

East Sacramento Partnership filed its suit under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA. The law required the city to point out potential environmental problems and how they’d be fixed.

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler

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