( My comments not those of the preservemenlopark organization.)
For Immediate Release
June 16, 2011
Menlo Park Draft EIR Fails to Comply with California Environmental Quality Act
The Menlo Park Downtown Alliance, a group of downtown business and property owners, has asked Shute, Mihaly, and Weinberger, a highly-respected law firm specializing in government, land use, natural resources and environmental law, to analyze the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) recently published by the City of Menlo Park. Under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the City’s proposed Specific Plan for Camino and Downtown triggers the need for this DEIR. After reviewing the DEIR, the firm has issued a detailed analysis that concludes that the document is deficient in a number of areas.
In particular, the DEIR violates CEQA:
· by failing to provide an accurate project description that accounts for all of the development that could be approved under the Specific Plan
· by failing to provide specific project level review for the City’s short-term public projects (sidewalk widening, pocket parks, paseo, central plaza, parking garage)
· by failing to sufficiently analyze the impacts to historical, biological, and air resources
· by failing to consider the potential for urban decay
· by failing to properly analyze the impacts on water supply
· by failing to consider transportation and air quality impacts during the construction period
· by failing to consider a reasonable range of alternatives, including an alternative that would reduce the project’s significant impacts on air quality, greenhouse gasses, and traffic
and because it relies on mitigation measures that are not certain to occur.
Downtown business and property owners have long argued that the City’s Plan will have detrimental impacts on the downtown and community as a whole. “The proposed downtown portion of the Specific Plan will create a congested downtown, a more city-like atmosphere, rather than the small-town atmosphere now enjoyed by our residents,” said Mark Flegel, a downtown business owner and co-chair of the Menlo Park Downtown Alliance. “I fail to see the benefits of high-density build-out either for businesses or residents,” he added.
The DEIR itself concludes that the cumulative impact along with development of the Plan area would adversely affect operation of local intersections, local roadway segments. It finds further that there would be “significant and unavoidable” negative environmental impacts on air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, noise levels, traffic circulation and congestion.
“There is no doubt that our many small and unique businesses downtown will suffer and many will leave if this Plan is implemented. One only has to look at other nearby cities and towns (e.g. Redwood City and Sunnyvale) to see the results of this kind of misguided city planning,” said Nancy Couperus, a downtown property owner and a founder of the Sunday Farmers Market.
The comment letter, which was commissioned by the Menlo Park Downtown Alliance, enumerates in detail the ways in which the DEIR violates CEQA’s mandate to consider a project’s potential impacts on the environment. In a number of cases it calls on the City to provide a full and proper analysis, and to revise and mitigate the environmental impacts.
To read the entire DEIR Comment Letter from Shute, Mihaly, and Weinberger, click on the following website: