Scoping Meeting Scheduled for
Updated Environmental Impact Report
AUGUST 2, 2015—A public scoping meeting on possible environmental impacts of the most recent changes to Hall Equities Group’s plans for Saranap Village will be held later this month.
Aspects of the project covered by the California Environmental Quality Act will be addressed in a “recirculated draft environmental impact report” – an updated version of the draft EIR published last September – which the Department of Conservation and Development is preparing. Hall’s revised plan is referred to as the mitigated alternative.
In addition to changes outlined in the accompanying article, the revised draft will address the aesthetics of the project and a recommendation by the county to reclassify Boulevard Way as a “collector” rather than an “arterial,” its current designation.
The scoping meeting on the updated EIR draft will be held on August 17 at 3:30 p.m. in DCD’s offices at 30 Muir Road in Martinez.
Aesthetics. A new consultant hired by DCD is drafting an “aesthetics analysis” of the project. The chapter on “aesthetic impacts” in the draft EIR will include discussions of the design alternatives proposed by Hall in revised plans submitted to the county in May.
Boulevard Way designation. Boulevard Way was classified as an arterial years ago, when it was to be the first leg of a new thoroughfare to the South Bay. All that remains of that plan are the four lanes from Mt. Diablo Boulevard to Saranap Avenue. Traffic on that stretch of road today doesn’t justify an arterial designation.
An arterial is described by the county as “any street or road passing adjacent to or through the subdivision [that] carries the major flow of traffic, and for which the major traffic may ultimately be in excess of 2,400 vehicles per day” – far more than use the street today or are projected to if Saranap Village is built.
The county notes that Boulevard Way fits the definition of a collector instead and wants to change the designation accordingly: “any street within a subdivision or adjacent thereto [that] . . . carries or will carry traffic from minor streets to the major system of arterial streets, and includes the principal entrance streets for residential developments and streets for circulation of traffic within such developments and serves, or will serve, 24 or more dwelling units.”
The new designation would apply to Boulevard Way from Mt. Diablo to Olympic Boulevard. This would allow Boulevard Way to be narrowed to two lanes where it is four today. It would also mean that the county won’t someday decide that the road needs to be widened, carving into the property of those who live along it farther west and south. The collector designation is consistent with Hall’s plans for angled parking, roundabouts, and other “traffic-calming” features in the project.
Scoping Meeting: Revised EIR Draft
The August 20 scoping meeting will be an opportunity for the public to give input on the scope of environmental information to be included in the revised EIR. Interested parties can comment orally at the meeting or submit their comments in writing. Written responses must be received by August 25.
The meeting was announced in a “notice of preparation” issued by the county on July 24. Click here to download this document, a 19-page PDF, which includes an overview of the new EIR draft, maps, and preliminary building elevations. A number of related documents can be found on the county's website (www.contracosta.ca.gov/5195/Saranap-Village). They’re also available review at DCD’s offices.
When the county completes work on the EIR draft that incorporates the mitigated alternative – the recirculated draft EIR – a 45-day review period will begin. This is expected to be around the end of November. During this period the zoning administrator will hold a public hearing to accept oral and written comments on the new draft EIR.
Once the comment period has ended, DCD staff will categorize all the comments submitted and prepare a response to each one. These will be published and sent to the county planning commission for its review. This will culminate in a public hearing, perhaps in February or March, where the commissioners will take oral and written comments and then decide whether or not to approve the project.
Whatever the commission’s decision, it may be appealed to the board of supervisors. If no one appeals, the decision of the commission will stand.
If there is an appeal, county staff will respond to all the comments received at the planning commission hearing and send them to the board of supervisors. After the supervisors have had a chance to study the comments and other documents related to the project, they’ll schedule a public hearing to take oral and written comments on the project in light of all comments received to date. This might take more than one meeting. Ultimately, it would be the supervisors who decide the fate of the project. This hearing might happen around April or May.
At this point, the only recourse for a party or entity not happy with the supervisors’ decision would be to file suit against the county.
Thus the project moves forward for reviews by contracted outside consultants (from a state-approved list of providers), to county staff and the zoning administrator, to appointed county planning commissioners, and finally to elected county supervisors. This process proceeds, with public comment possible at each phase, with an increasingly higher level of review at each step, and an increasingly higher standard for any possible legal challenge.