Racing at Laguna Seca under threat after NIMBY lawsuit filed

The famous Californian circuit, Laguna Seca, is under threat after local residents filed a lawsuit over noise and traffic complaints

Stefan Bradl leads 2013 MotoGP US Grand Prix. - Gold and Goose

Laguna Seca, one of the US’s most famous race circuits, has been the target of a lawsuit filed by nearby residents who take issue with the noise generated by racing activities at the circuit.

Race tracks are notoriously noisy - it goes with the territory of parading combustion vehicles at high speed. Most race tracks are also quite old, or at least fairly well established in the region in which they’re placed, and the nature of their activities is hardly a mystery.

Laguna Seca is one such circuit. Built in 1957 at the cost of $1.5 million (about $16 million today, or just under £13 million), Laguna has become one of the most well-known and best-loved circuits in the world. It hosted the US Motorcycle Grand Prix until 2013, and the World Superbike Championship visited until 2013. In the four-wheeled world, Laguna has run rounds of the old American Le Mans Series, and has had a round of the IndyCar Series since 2019 (with the exception of 2020). Its history combined with the prestigious championships it has hosted mean its existence can hardly be a surprise to anyone who was, say, looking to move to the area. 

Yet, at the beginning of December last year, a lawsuit was filed by local residents, specifically those from the nearby Highway 68, which are acting under the name ‘Highway 68 Coalition’. The San Francisco-based publication SFGate reports that the lawsuit is aimed at three parties: Monterey County, which owns Laguna Seca, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, and Friends of Laguna Seca, which reached an agreement with Monterey County last year to manage the running of the circuit.

SFGate reports that the Coalition claims that there has been a “substantial” increase in the number of races and events at Laguna Seca over the last two years, compared to the time from 1974 (when Monterey County became the owner of Laguna Seca) until 2021. The lawsuit requests a court order banning racing events and other track rental events “in excess of the level of use and noise that existed at the time the legal nonconforming use was established [...] which was in 1985.”

One of the attorneys working on the lawsuit on the side of the Highway 68 Coalition, Richard Rosenthal, told SFGate that the track is used “340 days a year” and that noise levels exceed 100dB, which he described as a “nuisance”. Allegations are also made against traffic caused by the track’s activities, as well as violations of both zoning laws and the California Environmental Quality Act.

Of course, one way to avoid this “nuisance” would be to buy a house which is not in the vicinity of a popular 67-year-old world-class race track.

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