A federal court in California has ruled that an environmental group lacks standing to challenge a new development plan for South Lake Tahoe. League to Save Lake Tahoe v. City of S. Lake Tahoe, No. 11-1648 (E.D. Cal. 1/16/12). Plaintiff, a local environmental group, alleged that an update to the city’s general plan allowed taller buildings and more high-density development, violated environmental standards for the area and would harm the group’s members due to increased pollution and traffic. The city argued that, although the revised plan contained provisions that would violate the existing environmental standards, which date to 1987, the new plan contains a paragraph barring implementation of any of those provisions until a new regional plan is in place and both the city and the Tahoe Regional Planning Authority determine that the city’s plan complies with a new regional plan. The city argued that it had not implemented, nor could it implement, any of the plan’s provisions that plaintiff claimed violated the environmental standards.
The court agreed with the city, ruling that plaintiff could not show any actual or imminent injury and failed to prove that vacating the plan update would actually prevent further development in South Lake Tahoe. The court also held that the plaintiff’s claims were not yet ripe because no development projects had ever been proposed. According to the court, plaintiffs will have an opportunity to challenge specific development projects when they undergo environmental review. The court dismissed the claims without prejudice.