NIMBY problems for Laguna Seca. Residents sueing over noise and traffic

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Everso Biggyballies
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NIMBY problems for Laguna Seca. Residents sueing over noise and traffic

#1

Post by Everso Biggyballies »

NIMBY neighbours sue Laguna Seca racetrack over excessive noise, traffic

What happens when you live next to a racetrack and you feel like the racetrack makes too much noise, creates too much traffic and overall has become a nuisance? In the case of a handful of residents who live along Highway 68 near Laguna Seca, you sue.

They knew what goes on at a racetrack when they bought their property, no doubt at a reduced price because of the potential for noise and disruption. In this case it seems the residents are complaining over the increased days the track operates. I am sure that as with other circuits, they are no doubt chasing the potential income from opening the track for track days.... racing enthusiasts wanting to take their fancy road cars out in a in an area not encumbered with speed limits and other things today that impact on people enjoying their cars to the fullest on the roads.

Im not sure how this court action will go though.... it seems Laguna. Seca is nowadays owned, run and operated by the local Monterey Council. They in turn will be aware of the employment and income it brings to the neighborhood in terms of hotel accommodation, restaurants etc. I wonder if those suing have taken into account the increase in their council rates to take into account the lost council revenue this sort of action would if successful entail.

I suspect that those suings are hoping to get some sort of compromise situation where there are decibel restrictions to many of the additional days. I cant see it getting to the stage of impacting too much on racedays beyond increased cost of tickets, and the only benefit will be to the lawyers seeing big dollar signs for their time.

Anyway, the article:
On Dec. 12, 2023, a group that calls itself the Highway 68 Coalition filed a lawsuit against the track’s owner, Monterey County, as well as the Monterey County Board of Supervisors and Friends of Laguna Seca, the nonprofit that signed a long-term concession agreement with the county last July.

In their complaint, the group, represented by Carmel Valley-based lawyers Richard Rosenthal and Alexander Henson as well as Greg James, a lawyer from Bishop, alleges that the number of races and special events at Laguna Seca have increased “substantially” over the last two years compared with the use from 1974, when the county took over ownership of the track, until 2021.

“These increases include but are not limited to more racetrack event days, higher permitted noise levels, additional track rental days with intensified noise in excess of 100 dB, increased traffic, inadequate water supply and water quality, inadequate sewage disposal and expansion of the camping grounds,” the lawsuit alleges.

“This stuff is well-documented,” attorney Rosenthal told SFGATE on Tuesday. “All you have to do is look at what they’re leasing the track out for between 1985 and 2000 and then now, currently. You’ll see a very intensive impact and expanded level of use of noise at Laguna Seca.”

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Top: An aerial drone view of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca;
Fans watch race action during the NTT IndyCar Series Firestone Grand Prix;
Scene from the Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Scene from the Honda Grand Prix;


The racetrack was built in 1957 after road races — once hosted at Pebble Beach’s 17-Mile Drive — became too dangerous for the upscale oceanside neighborhood. A nonprofit called the Sports Car Racing Association of the Monterey Peninsula was started and the group was given a five-year $3,000 lease of the land from the Army. The hilly 1.9-mile track (later expanded to 2.238 miles) was completed in just 60 days, and the first race took place there on Nov. 9, 1957, to an audience of 35,000.

Through the years, the serpentine and at times dangerous track has grown in popularity. It’s hosted the Pacific Grand Prix, Can-Am races, AMA national motorcycle races and even a stop on NASCAR’s Winston Cup.

Today, the racetrack is a major revenue source for the county. Last January, a press release from WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca announced that in 2022 events at the racetrack had resulted in an “impressive total direct spend” of more than $246 million.

“This is a strong endorsement for the continuing vitality and growth of the County of Monterey-owned Laguna Seca Recreation Area,” John Narigi, president and general manager of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca said in the release. “... It also generates needed income to various local non-profits that work each event with contributions from Laguna Seca Volunteer Association and local service organizations.”

This year there are eight major racing events on the racetrack’s calendar. But it’s not necessarily the major races the group is most concerned about, according to attorney Rosenthal.

Image City of Monterey in California seen from the plane on a sunny day.


“Rental of the track is now 340 days a year,” Rosenthal said. “It’s a facility that’s used almost every day. It’s the noise generated from everyday use; I’m talking about excessive noise. I’m talking about 103-105 decibels or more.

“Different organizations during the week or on weekends rent it out that’s creating — let’s call it a nuisance kind of noise.”

Along with noise violations and increased traffic, the lawsuit also alleges that the track’s use violates current zoning laws, and that the concession agreement is a California Environmental Quality Act violation.

The lawsuit asks for a court order to ban racing events and rentals of the track “in excess of the level of use and noise that existed at the time the legal nonconforming use was established ... which was in 1985.”

Monterey County officials said the county does not agree with the lawsuit’s allegations.

“It is unfortunate certain individuals have chosen to file a complaint against the County concerning operations at Laguna Seca,” Nicholas M. Pasculli, Monterey County’s communications director, wrote SFGATE in an email last week. “The County does not recognize any merit to the allegations and expects a favorable legal conclusion.”

Pasculli noted that the lawsuit would “not impact Laguna Seca’s scheduled activities and events for 2024.”

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Guests attend the Glamour and Mercedes-Benz AMG Driving Academy Experience at Laguna Seca at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Oct. 3, 2019, in Salinas, Calif.
Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz and Glamour

SFGATE left messages for Friends of Laguna Seca but did not hear back by press time.

Neighborhood concerns over noise and traffic at Laguna Seca aren’t a new issue. Residents along the Highway 68 corridor, a connector road between Monterey and Salinas, have for decades had a hard time finding common ground when it comes to the racetrack and its uses.

“I, too, live on the controversial Highway 68, and, with all the so-called ‘problems’ out here, noise is not one of them,” Salinas resident Whitey Eckerdt wrote to The Californian in a letter published April 30, 1988. “We’ve lived here for over 22 years and feel the Laguna Seca racetrack has certainly been a plus for the county. ... As far as noise is concerned, we experienced no nerve-shattering trauma and inside our home it was non-existent.”

Keith Goss, then president of the Monterey Active 20/30 Club, which would sell tickets at Laguna Seca as a fundraiser, put it more plainly: “If those nearby residents are so bothered, why did they buy houses near the track in the first place?” he wrote The Californian, published on the same day in 1988. “I would think noise from the airport flight path would be a bother to those people, then what? No more flights to Monterey?”

Others, like Pat Banta from a group that called itself the Highway 156 Committee, also chimed in to The Californian, with a prescient appeal: “At peak times it becomes extremely difficult to enter the highway from any of the housing developments. Also at peak hours, it is questionable whether fire or rescue vehicles could respond to a call to a residence. ...

“We recognize the benefit to the non-profit organization from revenues generated by these events,” Banta concluded. “However, the intolerable impact on county residents needs to be evaluated.”

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A general view of Mercedes vehicles during the Glamour and Mercedes-Benz AMG Driving Academy Experience at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on October 3, 2019, in Salinas, Calif.

On Tuesday, a case management hearing took place in Monterey, and, “The next step is to come to some kind of agreement or for the courts to decide the scope of the administrative action and when it has to be filed,” Rosenthal explained.

The group seeks no financial compensation,
Rosenthal noted. “If we’re successful in the lawsuit we’ll be entitled to legal fees.”
“While the County acknowledges the existence of the legal process initiated by the local coalition, it remains confident in the merits of its position,” Monterey County spokesperson Pasculli concluded. “The County anticipates a speedy resolution to the litigation and is committed to upholding the values that have made Laguna Seca an integral part of Monterey County for half a century.”
https://www.sfgate.com/centralcoast/art ... 585307.php

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#2

Post by Donell »

Hello,

This is a complex debate, but it's crucial to find a balance between the interests of local residents and those of the racecourse. Ultimately, a balanced resolution will benefit everyone, and perhaps Twitter discussions could also help to understand the different points of view on this issue.
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#3

Post by DoubleFart »

Donell wrote: 1 month ago Hello,

This is a complex debate, but it's crucial to find a balance between the interests of local residents and those of the racecourse. Ultimately, a balanced resolution will benefit everyone, and perhaps Twitter discussions could also help to understand the different points of view on this issue.
It's not complex. You live near a race track, you're going to hear noise. Sell up and move.
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#4

Post by erwin greven »

DoubleFart wrote: 1 month ago
Donell wrote: 1 month ago Hello,

This is a complex debate, but it's crucial to find a balance between the interests of local residents and those of the racecourse. Ultimately, a balanced resolution will benefit everyone, and perhaps Twitter discussions could also help to understand the different points of view on this issue.
It's not complex. You live near a race track, you're going to hear noise. Sell up and move.
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It's very easy: When you buy a house near a race track, you should not complain about the noise.
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Brian Redman: "Mr. Fangio, how do you come so fast?" "More throttle, less brakes...."
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#6

Post by Chorton_1 »

Not just linked to the US. Big problem in UK too, with large and small venues effected (Brands Hatch, Donington etc through to short sprint venues like Curborough). Very tricky in the wider public acceptability climate.
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#7

Post by PTRACER »

I hate people who move next to a race track and complain about the noise. The same kind of folks messed up racing on the Grand Prix circuit at Brands for the same reason.
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