Despite a judge dismissing their lawsuit on Monday, members of Keep The Barham Ramp said they aren’t done trying to save the offramp on the Hollywood (101) Freeway.
The lawsuit was ruled to be past the statute of limitations of the environmental impact report (EIR) for the NBCUniversal Evolution Plan to expand the theme park, said Keep The Barham Ramp president John Strozdas. But he is sending a letter soon to supporters and neighbors explaining views on the dismissal and plans to appeal moving forward.
“We do believe it is appealable,” Strozdas said. “Our case remains strong. We’re not going anywhere as construction continues. The outrage is growing, not diminishing.”
NBCUniversal, Caltrans and Los Angeles county and city joined the motion to dismiss.
NBCUniversal spokesperson Cindy Gardner said they are moving forward with approved plans.
“We are pleased that the court agreed that the statute of limitations expired two years ago as part of a multi-year public environmental review and approval process that fully analyzed all of the transportation mitigations including the potential closure of the southbound Barham offramp,” NBCUniversal said in a statement.
Corin Kahn, a Santa Monica-based attorney for the Keep the Barham Ramp said it has two months to appeal, which could lengthen the effort at least 12 to 18 months.
Kahn said NBCUniversal and Caltrans had the burden of proof that there was a finite decision to close the ramp, and Los Angeles city or county never approved an addendum to close the ramp, added in April, 2014. The decision to approve it was up to Caltrans, Kahn said, and they didn’t make the decision in a public, transparent way.
“From my read of the judge’s opinion, he failed to require the parties to meet their burden of proof,” Kahn said. “I think the judge made a mistake. The law would have required them to do it in a transparent way through CEQA. I think a judge is going to reverse the lower court’s decision.”
The lawsuit said NBCUniversal, Caltrans broke state laws about notifying the public of the ramp closure, and that they were responsible for misleading neighbors about the proposed closing of the Barham ramp. The lawsuit claims violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and claims wrongful closure of the ramp that will leave approximately a two-and-a half-mile gap between southbound exits.
The group also claims NBCUniversal and Caltrans misled neighbors in public notices after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the initial plan for the expansion of NBCUniversal’s theme park. Strozdas said after the EIR was approved with community support, an addendum was added for the closure of the offramp. But in public notices, Strozdas said the ramp was referred to as “Bennet offramp.” Strozdoz said he believes NBCUniversal knew they were going to close the Barham ramp.
Strozdas said in 2014, the addendum EIR was added, which didn’t require public review like the rest of the plans — a process he said is supposed to be used for additions to plans that were not known during the original EIR.
“You can’t tell us we missed the filing date when they never completed the process,” Strozdas said. “We didn’t have opportunity to challenge. We didn’t even know there were studies.”
The group believes the new plans will lead to traffic congestion and delay emergency response times.
The major issue leading to the offramp closure is an added onramp for Universal Studios Boulevard. The new onramp is followed directly by the Barham offramp and can cause “weaving” — a term related to cars speeding up to steer clear of from the onramp versus vehicles slowing down to exit the offramp. Caltrans requires at least 1,500 feet for weaving. The distance between the new onramp and Barham ramp is approximately 500 feet.
Gardner said the number one requested improvement by the community to the original plan was to add the onramp because it is supposed to significantly reduce traffic on Cahuenga Boulevard.
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