San Fernando Citizen’s Group Pursues Restraining Order on Tesla Charging Lot

A grassroots citizen’s organization is seeking a restraining order against the City of San Fernando from building a supercharging station for electronic vehicles in one of the city’s downtown parking lots.

The recently organized group, known as Citizens of San Fernando Committee for Environmental Justice, filed a lawsuit in a downtown Los Angeles Superior Court on Dec. 30 hoping to at least pause the project agreed upon by the city council with the Tesla electric car company, put the project under further review, and perhaps reconsider the location where it is being constructed.

City officials oppose any change now, fearing such action could set a precedent for reversing council votes at whim.

The San Fernando City Council met on Monday, Jan. 4, with the potential litigation on its agenda. But, in part because said litigation was pending, the council reached no decision after its discussion, City Manager Nick Kimball said.

The arguments for and against halting work on the project were heard on Wednesday, Jan. 6. In addition, a letter was submitted to Judge Mary H. Strobel from the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians Tribe, based in San Fernando, supporting the restraining order. Strobel said the letter had been brought to the court too late on Wednesday, but agreed to reschedule the hearing date for it to be considered.

Construction of the charging stations began on Dec. 28, and the stations were expected to be operational by next year. The Tesla charging stations would be in Lot No. 8 in the block bounded by Maclay Avenue, Celis Street, Pico Street and S. Brand Boulevard, and would be available 24-7. 

The City’s contract with Tesla is for five years with a renewal option for the company for an additional five years.

The restraining order would enjoin the City from permitting any construction to proceed on the charging stations described in the petition on file in this action, and require the City of San Fernando issue “a stop order on any construction on the Tesla Supercharger Stations” as described in the plaintiff’s petition.

(The owners and publishers of the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol newspaper, who also own Aszkenazy Development, Inc., are among the among the petitioners seeking the restraining order.)

According to the suit, the plaintiffs “seek to challenge” the determination of the City of San Fernando that construction of supercharger Stations on existing public land is not a “minor alteration” to an existing public use but is a project requiring compliance with the environmental review requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.

The plaintiffs claim in their suit that agreement was completed “without proper procedure and without consideration of the environmental and economic effects to the community.” The restraining order requested the court to “take all steps necessary to halt construction and “issue a stop order for the construction” of the charging stations.

Last August, the council — after two years of negotiations — announced the City had entered a licensing agreement with Tesla where the car company would construct charging stations in 14 downtown public parking spaces: 12 “supercharger” stations that could fully recharge a Tesla car in 40 minutes and two “Level Two” stations that would need 6 to 8 hours to do the same thing.

As written in the Sept. 9 issue of the San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol, city officials believed that partnering now with the well-known electric vehicle firm worked in conjunction with the City’s environmentally friendly strategies.

City officials envisioned that Tesla drivers in need of a recharge would not only do so in the City at the charging stations but also spend some time checking out downtown shops and restaurants while waiting on their vehicles.