Carpenters' union sues SLO over Tank Farm project



A carpenters' union and one of its local members is taking the city of San Luis Obispo to court in an apparent dispute over the city's environmental review of a 249-apartment project.

On Feb. 5, the SLO City Council approved plans for the mixed-use development submitted by Bakersfield-based Agera Grove Investments LLC at 650 Tank Farm Road, a former mobile home park.

The Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, which represents 50,000 carpenters in six states, and Richard Vanhumbeck, a SLO resident and union member, filed a lawsuit on March 6 challenging the city's approval on California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) grounds.

The local suit hits as the same union faces allegations in Los Angeles of an extortion scheme where it demanded developers hire union members on a project or face a similar environmental lawsuit.

In the suit against SLO, the union claims that the city's environmental review failed to "adequately or accurately discuss direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts to aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, greenhouse gases," and several other listed impacts.

It describes the carpenters' union as a group with "a strong interest in well-ordered land-use planning and addressing the environmental impacts of development projects" and Vanhumbeck as a taxpayer and resident of SLO.

Prior to the project's approval, law firm Wittwer Park LLP submitted a 12-page letter to the city on behalf of the union, making critical comments about the environmental document.

SLO city attorney Christine Dietrick denied the union lawsuit's allegations to New Times.

"We think we responded fully to any of the issues that have been raised," she said.

In October 2018, the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters sued Panorama City for its approval of a 623-apartment project, citing similar environmental objections. The developer of that project then filed a counter lawsuit alleging the union previously offered to drop the charges if its members were hired for labor.

The union has filed three anti-development lawsuits since August 2018, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The carpenters' union, Vanhumbeck, and their attorney did not return requests for comment from New Times before press time. Δ


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