A new court ruling appears to pave the way for Mission Valley’s first Home Depot store to be built south of Interstate 8 on the Scottish Rite Center site.
Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney ruled Friday that city officials and the developer of the project adequately analyzed increased traffic and other possible effects under state environmental law.
While an appeal could be filed by the labor union that filed suit last summer to block the project, the judge’s ruling firmly dismissed every argument made in the suit.
The developer chose not to complete a comprehensive environmental impact analysis of the new store, instead relying on an environmental impact analysis completed in 2019 for an update to Mission Valley’s overall growth blueprint.
The 2019 analysis, called a program EIR, anticipated many new projects in Mission Valley, but not the specific Home Depot later proposed for the Scottish Rite Center site on Camino del Rio South.
The suit, filed on behalf of Local 135 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, contends that increased traffic and other possible effects of the Home Depot project mandate a specific analysis of it.
In his ruling, Judge Whitney said a more specific analysis was not required because the 2019 analysis anticipated sites south of I-8 would feature “regional retail,” such as big box stores like Home Depot.
“If the site-specific activity will not create effects or require mitigation measures that were not discussed in the program EIR, the public agency is not required to prepare any other site-specific environmental document,” he said.
The project could be part of a new big box district on Camino del Rio South. City officials said such stores make sense south of the freeway in Mission Valley, where there is no public transit or pedestrian accommodations.
Areas north of the freeway, where the San Diego trolley’s green line runs, have been designated more for more pedestrian-oriented projects than big box stores.
Whitney said the city’s primary obligation was to determine whether the Home Depot project was covered by the program EIR. City officials decided it was.
The judge also said the project fits with the planned density and building intensity for the area, contending that the labor union didn’t cite evidence of new environmental effects not covered by the city’s 2019 analysis.
Critics raised similar concerns about traffic before the City Council voted 8-1 last May to approve the new Home Depot. Councilmember Vivian Moreno voted against the project.
Rebecca Reed, the attorney who filed the suit on behalf of Local 135, did not respond to requests for comment. Local 135 is located next to the Scottish Rite Center.
Supporters say the store could fill a key retail void in fast-growing Mission Valley and would reduce traffic congestion in the wider area by eliminating many trips across Mission Valley to other Home Depots. The company has additional stores near the sports arena and just east of Mission Valley in Grantville.
The new store would include a 107,000-square-foot warehouse, an 18,000-square-foot garden center and a 155,000-square-foot multi-level parking garage along Camino Del Rio South.
The 64,000-square-foot Scottish Rite Center would be demolished and replaced by a 40,000-square-foot version that would be two stories and would no longer have an event space for conventions and parties.