While there are now four ridesharing startups awaiting the green light to begin picking up passengers at Los Angeles International Airport, another speed bump might be coming up.
That’s because a Westchester activist group has challenged city and airport officials over whether they conducted a proper environmental study in allowing companies such as San Francisco’s Uber Technologies Inc. and Lyft Inc. to operate at LAX.
The group – Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion – filed a petition earlier this month in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming the city violated the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA.
The law, which is intended to ensure the public and decision-makers fully understand the environmental impacts of a proposed project, has been roundly criticized by business groups and developers for inviting frivolous litigation and stalling development.
Yet despite the law’s reputation, simply filing a CEQA petition in court is not enough to bring a project to a halt, said Ben Reznik, chairman of the government, land-use, environment and energy department at Century City law firm Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell.
Indeed, a judge must first sign off on a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction before a project may legally be forced to stop, said Reznik, who represents both developers and project opponents in CEQA disputes.
Some developers, for instance, may decide to put their construction project on hold until any CEQA-related dispute is resolved to avoid pumping money into something they may ultimately have to alter, he said.
“Oftentimes they will decide to sit tight and wait for the litigation to end before they spend money on their project,” Reznik said, adding that it’s also fairly common for lenders to withhold additional funding due to the increased uncertainty.
But that’s not a concern for this proposal, namely because no funding would be required in allowing ridesharing companies to operate at LAX.
Denny Schneider, the activist group’s president, said he does not have immediate plans to ask for a restraining order to block ridesharing at LAX – even if that means his day in court comes after Uber’s black cars or Lyft’s neon mustaches start rolling through the airport.
Nancy Castles, a spokeswoman for Los Angeles World Airports, the agency that runs LAX, wouldn’t discuss whether the CEQA filing could further delay ridesharing companies’ arrival. But she said the negotiation process is still ongoing as LAWA has requested additional documents from each of the four applicants.
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