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 Brownfields: Comments on Catellus EIR: Analysis Failures

Catellus EIR

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 Analysis Failures
 Deferred Mitigations
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Failure of Environmental Impact Analysis

A number of project components were not adequately analyzed in the project EIR. These project components include:

In January 2000, Renewed HOPE Housing Advocates, East Bay Housing Organizations, ARC Ecology and Clearwater Revival Co. submitted the following comments on the EIR, to the City of Alameda, on the failure of the EIR to analyze these aspects of the Catellus Mixed-use Development.


Road Extensions

It appears (page 64) that this EIR is expected to apply to actions that the City will take to create new roadways to serve the Catellus Project, including:

  • Extending Fifth Street (page 64)
  • Connecting Mitchell and Mosely (page 68)
  • Extending Tinker (page 67)

However, the land use conflicts, noise, vibration, and air pollution impacts on the new roadway sections on adjacent residential uses, educational facilities, and pedestrian walkways have not been analyzed.

In addition, the EIR needs to analyze the traffic changes that the new roadways will cause, individually and as a new network, to existing traffic patterns. For example, to what extent will the new roadways cause delays at existing intersections serving traffic entering and exiting the tubes?

Additional Information Required: Specifically analyze the land use conflicts, potential noise, vibration, and air quality impacts of the proposed new roadway sections during construction and at project buildout. Consider especially any sensitive populations such as children. Identify all intersections that will experience a degraded LOS due to the increased volumes that the new roads will deliver. Consider mitigations to reduce traffic volume into the design of the Project.

New School

The text of the EIR is unclear whether the Project includes only the City action designating eight acres on the Project site for the new school or whether this EIR is intended to apply also, at some future date, to AUSD actions to construct the school.

Most of the references to the school suggest that the EIR addresses the City?s decisions to set aside a building site rather than the AUSD?s decision to build the school. See pages 2, 61, 77-78. 81, 85, and 143.

There are, however, exceptions. The EIR also states, ?The impacts of constructing a school at the proposed site are analyzed in the technical sections of this EIR?? (page 358). And indeed there are perfunctory descriptions of traffic, noise, and land use impacts, and some mitigations (inadequate, in our view) are proposed.

More troubling is the analysis of hazardous wastes (page 202) that includes the statement:

"The proposed Project would include construction of a new elementary school at the Project site." (emphasis added)
This statement suggests that the AUSD may cite the analysis in this EIR to provide environmental review of their subsequent decision to construct the school. In theory this would not present a problem since analysis of Alameda Point redevelopment suffers from piecemealing. However, if the City and the School District are working together towards this end, the EIR needs to be candid with the public.

In any case, the analysis of impacts and mitigations must be more thorough, and mitigations more rigorous. For example, the EIR identifies potential land use conflicts (page 114) with adjacent residential uses, observes that there are design solutions capable of addressing these conflicts, and then, without analysis or evidence, dismisses the impacts as insignificant and therefore omits any of the approaches that could mitigate the problem.

Construction of a School on a Hazardous Waste Disposal Site

The EIR's most serious flaw in dealing with school impacts is its attempt to sidestep hazardous waste issues.

According to Public Resources Code 21151.8, the Project’s inclusion of the school’s construction requires this EIR to include “information which is needed to determine if the property proposed to be purchased, or to be constructed upon, is "(A) The site of a current or former hazardous waste disposal site or solid waste disposal site and, if so, whether the wastes have been removed."

Indeed, the EIR properly acknowledges in its discussion of Impact HAZ-4 (page 220) that the school would be constructed within IR01. The map in Figure IV.F-3 (page 213) shows that a benzene plume would underlie the school. There is no indication that the wastes have been removed.

Mitigation Measure HAZ-4 erroneously suggests that simply providing information about whether the site was a hazardous waste disposal site would sufficiently mitigate the impact of building a school on a hazardous waste disposal site.

In fact the Education Code specifies that the only proper mitigations of the hazardous waste impacts of a school proposed on a former toxic waste disposal site are (i) either removal of the wastes or (ii)denial of approval. Section 17213 states:

The governing board of a school district shall not approve a project involving the acquisition of a schoolsite by a school district unless all of the following occur: (a) The lead agency, as defined in Section 21067 of the Public Resources Code, determines that the property purchased or to be built upon is not any of the following: (1) The site of a current or former hazardous waste disposal site or solid waste disposal site unless, if the site was a former solid waste disposal site, the governing board of the school district concludes that the wastes have been removed" [emphasis added]

The statute defines "former hazardous waste disposal site" in terms that clearly apply to the benzene plume area.

Based on the understanding that there are no plans to remove the benzene plume, this EIR is obligated to point out that the AUSD will not be able to construct an elementary school on the proposed school site.

Additional Mitigation Required: Relocate the school as proposed by the LOCAL WORK FORCE ALTERNATIVE PROJECT proposed in these comments.

Locating a school entrance on an arterial roadway

The EIR properly acknowledges (page 274), that the proposed location is potentially unsafe for a school because it is at the intersection of two high traffic volume roadways. (Tinker and Fifth).(page 274) The 4-lane Tinker, which will be a major access route to Alameda Point, forms the northern boundary of the school site. Fifth Street, which will provide access to the Project?s business park, and waterfront development, will form the eastern boundary.

The traffic safety impacts of building a school in this location have not been specifically identified or analyzed. Police coverage planned for the Project site, which will be based on population rather than the acreage of the site or its safety hazards (see pages 349-351) could result in an unsafe environment for children.

Traffic Mitigation T/C2 (page 274) proposes, "Site planning for the school should pay close attention to safety, pedestrian activity, bicycle movements, and vehicle circulation issues related to its location," a prescription too vague to qualify as a mitigation.

Mitigation T/C-2 also informs us that the school will require an encroachment permit. Yet there is no indication why it should be necessary for a school that has not yet been designed to encroach on streets that have not yet been built.

At the very least, the EIR should mitigate the traffic safety by requiring the school entrance to be on one of the internal street of the residential development, so children can be dropped off and collected out of traffic. The better mitigation would be to relocate the school as proposed by our LOCAL WORK FORCE ALTERNATIVE PROJECT.

Early Transfer Cleanup

Although the EIR anticipates that “the property will be transferred by the US Navy to the City following completion of all remediation necessary to protect human health and the environment for the intended use (page 77), the Navy has prepared a Finding of Suitability for Early Transfer (FOSET) for the FISC. The EIR acknowledges that in this event "remediation activities would be part of the Project."

Clarification Required: This EIR does not analyze the FOSET or the cleanup remedy that will be applied to the FISC. This EIR does not apply to cleanup actions that may be conducted under the FOSET requiring additional environmental review.

Multifamily Housing Project on Benzene Plume

The EIR does not discuss the potential environment impacts of locating multifamily residential housing on the benzene plume. This structure, which will have apartments with 2, 3, and 4 bedrooms, is expected to house previously homeless families with children. This is a population that in general has serious health problems.

Benzene is a known carcinogen. Children are at greater risk than adults from given levels of exposure. The multifamily housing will be allocated only 2.5 acres of the 92-acre site of the Catellus Project. It should not be difficult to relocate the homeless housing to another part of the site where children would not be at risk of benzene exposure.

Additional Analysis Required: Analyze the impacts of benzene exposure on special populations. Consider mitigating the hazardous waste impacts by moving the multifamily structure to a less contaminated part of the site, as proposed by the LOCAL WORK FORCE ALTERNATIVE PROJECT.

DDA and DA

The EIR purports to analyze the environmental impacts of the Disposition and Development Agreement and the Development Agreement that the City will sign with Catellus. In the absence of any information whatsoever about the terms of those agreements, it is difficult to rule out their potential for environmental impacts. In particular, the terms of the DDA and the DA could cause traffic and air quality impacts by encouraging single occupancy automobile traffic if they fail to incorporate measures promoting transit and other alternatives to single occupancy vehicles. The DDA could compromise the redevelopment agency?s authority to require traffic management actions. It could cause traffic and air quality impacts if it fails to require a linkage between the housing units and the jobs that the Project will create.

Similarly, if the DDA does not include terms that ensure that the Project will cover its full cost of the public services it will need (including Police, Fire, Park Maintenance, street cleaning and maintenance, and streetlighting), there will be a reduction in these services elsewhere in Alameda.

Additional Analysis Required : Acknowledge that the terms of the DDA could cause traffic, air pollution, and noise impacts if they forfeit the opportunity to control the Project?s generation of single occupant automobile trips. If the DDA fails to provide for financial support of public services, it would cause physical deterioration and unsafe conditions throughout Alameda.

The listing of required permits and approval (page 85) appears incomplete.

The following approvals and agencies should be added:

  • Review of Housing Element Amendments by the California Housing and Community Development Department.
  • Construction of multi-family housing by the Alameda Housing Authority.
    Acceptance of acreage for school (responsible agency: Alameda Unified School District)
  • Approval of improvements to Oakland intersections (responsible agency: City of Oakland?)
  • Approval of improvements to I-80 (responsible agencies: MTC, Oakland, Berkeley?)
  • Approval of utility installations by State PUC (PG&E is not a public agency, as suggested by its inclusion on the list)
  • Approval of new bus stops (AC Transit)

Additional Information Required: Expand the list of responsible and cooperating agencies and explain approvals that each would need to make.

Rezoning from R-4-G to MX

Rezoning the Project site to MX will result in a loss of residentially zoned land. The Alameda Housing Element makes the commitment that that substantive changes in land use designations would not result in loss of housing opportunities.

Consistent with the housing supply needs numbers provided in this Housing Element, the City is committed to ensuring that for those areas where there is substantive change in land use designations, there will be a surplus of possible net housing supply over net housing demand of at least 360 units. (Housing Element, page 12-3)

The imbalance between the jobs (4,600) and the housing (539) that the Project is an indication that this requirement will not be met.

A further complication of rezoning the site to the MX district is residential development will have to provide lots that are exactly 2,000 square feet for every housing unit.

Allowable densities will at least be one unit per 2,000 square feet of lot area, and either attached or detached housing will be permitted. (Housing Element, page 12-3)

Additional Analysis Required: Reanalyze rezoning of Project site to MX District.

Inaccurate Project Description

Descriptions of East Housing (for example, page 61 and page 99): The EIR states that East Housing consists of 160 townhouses and 430 3-bedroom apartments. The description is inaccurate, and should be modified to indicate that there are 290 townhouses and the apartments at Housing include 2, 3 and 4 bedroom apartments.

Correction Required: Provide an accurate description of the East Housing stock.

Cover Letter - Project Alternative - Analysis Failures - Deferred Mitigations
Report Organization - Land Use - Population and Housing - Traffic - Air Quality
Public Services - Noise - Drainage and Hydrology - Hazards

© 2000 Clearwater Revival Company
January 31, 2000