The San Mateo County Community College District will have a hearing to decide if it can proceed with plans to demolish a 50-year-old garden and replace it with a parking lot, according to the California Supreme Court.
The court Wednesday granted the district a review of its appeal of earlier judicial rulings blocking the demolition and ordering more environmental study.
The district greeted the court’s latest decision with satisfaction.
“We are very pleased that that the California State Supreme Court elected to review our case. From the beginning, we have been certain that we have acted legally under [California Environmental Quality Act] laws and believe the Supreme Court will validate our position,” said Chancellor Ron Galatolo.
Susan Brandt-Hawley, the attorney for the students and garden supporters who sued, also said the review is “exciting” and that the group and she is looking forward to it.
“It’s a very important issue and the ruling can affect cases statewide on issues of what can be treated as new and what is modification of a prior project,” Brandt-Hawley said.
Wednesday’s ruling by the state’s highest court is the latest wrinkle in the tug-of-war over the garden’s fate. In 2011, after the College of San Mateo’s horticulture program ended due to low enrollment, the district moved to demolish the Building 20 Complex which includes the gardens to make room for a surface parking lot with between 140 and 160 spaces.
The 2006 district master plan called for renovating the building and saving the garden which has more than 300 plant varieties. Instead, the district said the plan was too minor for a full-scale review of the environmental impacts.
Supporters of the garden sued over the lack of an environmental impact report which led to both a county judge in 2012 and a state appellate court last October to put the brakes on demolition and order a public-involved environmental study. The hearing unanimously ordered Wednesday will determine if the district can continue forward without that previously mandated study.
A hearing date was not scheduled but Brandt-Hawley estimates the process of briefs and arguments to take at least a year.
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