EIR Draft Does What It's Supposed to:
SCA Board in Letter to County
NOVEMBER 18 – The SCA was asked by the county Department of Conservation and Development to comment on the adequacy of the draft environmental impact report on the proposed Saranap Village development, which was published on September 19.
To comply, the board of directors’ Application Review Committee, which includes David Dacus, an architect, and Charles Huddleston, a building designer and residential-construction consultant, reviewed the 1,869-page document in its entirety.
Based on their reading of the report, and taking into account written and oral comments made by neighbors at the November 6 Community Meeting on the project, Dacus and Huddleston drafted a letter to the county and circulated it among the other board members for their comments. It stated simply that the board found “no deficiencies” in the EIR document and that “all the [California Environmental Quality Act] categories applicable to the project have been investigated, impacts considered, and necessary mitigations proposed where needed.”
Other board members, agreeing with the committee's assessment, approved the letter.
The letter was sent on November 17 to DCD Senior Planner Will Nelson, who is the planner assigned to the project. Attached to it was a transcript of all the written and oral comments given at the November 6 meeting. DCD routinely forwards all letters about the project to Second District Supervisor Candace Andersen.
The board recognizes that many Saranap residents have reservations about the project and that some oppose it outright. This, however, doesn’t change the committee’s finding that the document does what an EIR is supposed to do, which is what the board was asked to comment on.
The concerns of neighbors about the EIR draft will be addressed in the next phase of the approval process, the planning commission hearing on the project. The county is bound by law to respond to all stated concerns and will do so in its staff report to the commission. DCD will forward this report to the SCA board, and we’ll post an article about it here once they’ve reviewed it.
It’s expected that the planning commission hearing will take place in January. We’ll let you know when the date is set.
About the EIR Draft
The EIR draft was written by state-approved independent consultants in nearly a dozen technical areas (not, as some assume, by the developer). Consultants’ reports are reviewed by DCD staff before the draft is published. If the department finds a report deficient in some way, it asks for clarification or additional studies before it is accepted for inclusion in the EIR.
These consultants are individuals or firms with no stake in a project being approved. By signing off on a study or report that’s incorporated into an EIR, a company is putting its reputation (and future business with the state and county governments) on the line. The developer, in this case Hall Equities Group of Walnut Creek, foots the bill for the study.
An EIR consists of the main report and a number of technical appendices and reports. In the draft Saranap Village report, the main EIR is 389 pages long. The seven appendices include the notice of preparation and scoping report plus technical reports on air quality, special-status species and biological considerations, greenhouse gases, hydrology, water, and transportation and traffic. In addition there are reports on cultural resources, geology, hazardous materials, and utilities.
The longest report in the Saranap Village EIR is the one on transportation and traffic – 454 pages, or roughly 25 percent of the entire document. An increase in traffic was the concern raised by the largest number of people at November 6 Community Meeting on the project.