News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 09/21/2010
Subject :

Palo Alto City Council Will Pursue High Speed Rail EIR Legal Challenge
Contact : Steve Emslie, Deputy City Manager    650-329-2354
Rob Braulik, HSR Project Manager    650-329-2512
Palo Alto, CA – Last night after thorough deliberation, the Palo Alto City Council unanimously decided to file a legal challenge to the recently re-certified Bay Area to Central Valley High-Speed Train Program Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS). Palo Alto will join the Town of Atherton, who decided earlier on Monday to file their lawsuit. The City of Menlo Park will consider its legal options this evening.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA) first released the Bay Area to Central Valley High-Speed EIR/EIS in July 2008. The report examined the environmental impacts of the proposed High Speed Rail system connecting the San Francisco Bay Area and Central Valley regions, within the broad corridor between and including the Altamont Pass and Pacheco Pass. Together with the Town of Atherton and the City of Menlo Park, a group of environmental and transit advocates filed a legal challenge to that document in August 2008, known as the Atherton, et al case. In May 2009, the City of Palo Alto filed an amicus brief in support of the Atherton, et al lawsuit, detailing the city's concerns over the accuracy and adequacy of the Report.

The Sacramento Superior Court ruling in the Atherton, et al case found that the Final Program EIR was inadequate and required corrective work in specific areas: (1) the description of the alignment of High Speed Train (HST) tracks between San Jose and Gilroy and impacts on residences, businesses, the Monterey Highway, and Union Pacific freight operations; (2) the potential need for additional right-of-way acquisition in light of Union Pacific’s unwillingness to allow use of its right-of-way for HST; and (3) land use impacts including noise and vibration along the San Francisco Peninsula. Pursuant to this ruling, in December 2009, the HSRA set aside its July 2008 certification. The HSRA then prepared and circulated a Revised Draft Program EIR for public comment for 45 days, from March 11 to April 26, 2010.

The City of Palo Alto, along with 3,500 other individuals, organizations and communities, submitted detailed comments to this revised Report. The Final Program Level EIR for the Bay Area to Central Valley was certified by the HSRA Board at their September 2, 2010 meeting. The City of Palo Alto concluded that the Authority failed pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to adequately respond to the city’s comments. Once concerned parties have exhausted the EIR process, they are allowed 30 days to file a legal challenge to formally address their concerns.

The Program EIR is an important document because it establishes the basic environmental analysis for the more detailed Project level EIR currently being prepared by the HSRA.

"While we regret having to resort to this action, Palo Alto was left with few options," said Mayor Pat Burt. “We are hopeful that our decision will lead to correcting flaws in the Program EIR and ensure that the Project EIR provides a quality analysis of the true impacts of High Speed Rail to the Peninsula communities it will pass through.” Burt further added that “this lawsuit will not change Palo Alto’s willingness to work constructively with the HSRA, its staff and consultants to explore alternatives compatible with the Peninsula environment.”