Last August, we reported on the travails of Julius Castle—one of America's last great scenic restaurants, located at the top of Telegraph Hill—and its new owner, whose efforts to reopen the historic destination was being stymied by a CEQA lawsuit. That suit was thrown out last week in San Francisco Superior Court.
The lawsuit, which had been filed by a group of neighbors under the organizational name Friends of Montgomery Street, had alleged violations of both the City's Planning Code and the California Environmental Quality Act, failing to address increased traffic impacts adjacent to the cul-de-sac on Montgomery Street in front of the restaurant.
The mandamus petition was denied on March 15 by Superior Court Judge Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee, who found that the plaintiffs "failed to exhaust administrative remedies,” such as filing an appeal to the Conditional Use Authorization, and that "even if the Court were to reach the merits of petitioner's Planning Code challenges, substantial evidence supports the City's findings."
The judge further found that reopening the restaurant would present no "unusual circumstances" which would justify denying the City’s categorical exemption determination under CEQA, and that “petitioners failed to establish that reopening Julius’ Castle will have a significant environmental impact."
Attorney Stefan Volker, representing the petitioners, was unable to respond by press time. John Cote, spokesperson for the San Francisco City Attorney’s Office, offered this statement in regard to the suit:
“This was a baseless lawsuit from the start. We’re pleased the court found the City acted appropriately in approving the re-opening of Julius’ Castle. San Francisco is a conscientious environmental steward, and the City diligently followed all of the requirements for approval, including ensuring there were no inappropriate environmental impacts. This was a landmark restaurant that first opened its doors in 1923 and served generations of San Franciscans. Trying to argue it was incompatible with the neighborhood was just nonsense.”
Meanwhile, Julius Castle owner Paul Scott is “thrilled” by the decision. ”It's a victory for common sense and old time San Francisco,” Scott said. “Now we can finally get on with the business of selecting an operator and doing the interior renovations necessary to bring the Castle back to its former glory."
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