Revised EIR Published,
Reflecting Scaled-Back Design
JUNE 15, 2016—It looks like we’ll know by the end of the year whether Saranap Village will be built – and in what form. The county Department of Conservation and Development (DCD) on May 5 published the draft of a revised environmental impact report for the project. The revised EIR, called a “recirculated draft EIR” (RDEIR), reflects changes to the project since the developer, Hall Equities Group, first submitted plans nearly two years ago. The project has been scaled back considerably since then.
The RDEIR concludes that all potential environmental impacts identified by the county’s consultants can be reduced to “less-than-significant levels.”
Publication of the revised EIR set into motion a four-step process that, if it follows the usual timeline, will result in the project going before the board of supervisors in the late fall. The public will have an opportunity to provide input at each step of the way.
The document wending its way through the approval process includes both the original EIR and 123-page RDEIR, explains DCD Principal Planner Will Nelson. “Most of the [original EIR] was correct,” he wrote in an e-mail to SCA President David Dacus, “and is applicable also to the RDEIR since that’s a smaller project.” It’s this combined document that’s up for approval, or “certification.”
Major Design Changes
In the revised Saranap Village design, known as the “mitigated plan alternative,” retail space has been cut by almost half, the height and mass of the buildings have been decreased, excavation has been reduced substantially, there’s a new parking structure, and there have been significant changes in the number and mix of rental and for-sale residential units. The number of condos and apartments has been trimmed by nearly 20 percent, from 235 in the original plan to 196 in the mitigated alternative.
In three traffic-related changes, the roundabout at Boulevard Way and Flora Avenue has been eliminated, downsizing the project would reduce traffic flow to and from the neighborhood, and the designation of Boulevard Way has been changed from “arterial” to “collector.” Arterials, like Mt. Diablo and Olympic Boulevards, have multiple lanes that need to be divided, and they need to have turn lanes. Collectors, with their lower traffic volume, don’t need to be divided and don’t need turn lanes.
The RDEIR details how the project in its reduced scope addresses all the categories of the California Environmental Quality Act. Like the original EIR, it was written by third-party consultants chosen by the county and paid for by Hall. The document identifies potentially significant environmental impacts in 10 areas and concludes that all of them “can be mitigated to less-than-significant levels,” meaning no further mitigations are needed.
From Zoning to Planning to the Supervisors
Publication of the revised EIR triggered a 62-day comment period. On June 20 the county zoning administrator will hold a hearing to take additional oral comments from the public. The zoning administrator will recommend to the county planning commission that either the original or revised EIR be certified. DCD staff will then respond to every comment submitted during the 62-day period. This will take about two months.
Next, DCD will forward its staff report, which will include the comments and responses, to the county planning commission. Planning commissioners will have two to four weeks to review the material. Then they’ll hold a hearing to allow more public input. At the end of this step they’ll vote to certify the original EIR or the RDEIR – or neither.
Finally, the DCD staff will summarize comments from the planning commission hearing and submit them, along both versions of the EIR and all project proceedings to date, to the board of supervisors. After a review period that might last up to a month, the supervisors will schedule hearings to take public comments to inform their vote.
DCD’s Nelson notes that the supervisors, like the planning commissioners, could approve either the original EIR or the RDEIR, “or something else that evolves through the hearing process,” but anything they approve must be within the scope of the certified EIR. For example, they couldn’t approve changes that would result in more traffic than was studied in the version they approve.
The supervisors have the final say on the matter, unless opponents or Hall Equities Group files a lawsuit following their vote.
We’ll update this article as the EIR moves through this process, publishing hearing dates and venues as they’re set.
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Download a PDF of the RDEIR from the DCD Website.
Hall Equities Group's Saranap Village Website includes detailed comparisons of the original and revised designs.