Sep 17 2011

Blair Park EIR Criticized

Friends of Moraga Canyon Attorney and Traffic Engineer Find Flaws in Environmental Review

The following is a news release from Friends of Moraga Canyon

In a letter to the City Administrator, the attorney retained by Friends of Moraga Canyon (FOMC) has submitted a strong, detailed, and severely critical legal analysis of the Moraga Canyon/Blair Park Environmental Impact Report (EIR) certified by the City Council last April.

In addition, the traffic engineer retained by FOMC has submitted an equally critical review of the traffic and parking issues analyzed in the City’s EIR.

In a 57-page document, attorney Gabriel Ross of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, and traffic engineer Tom Brohard, of Tom Brohard & Associates, conclude that the EIR “is profoundly flawed” and that the city is legally obligated to revise and recirculate a supplemental EIR.  To date, there has been no response from Piedmont officials, and no date has been set for a City Council vote on whether to approve the project.

In his letter, Ross points out that “the environmental review has been flawed from the beginning and has resulted in an EIR that violates the minimum standards of adequacy under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).” Because the project has changed so frequently, he notes, “The public at large now has no idea what, precisely, the City will actually consider for approval.  “The City’s willingness to entertain Project changes after certification of the EIR reveals a certain disregard for CEQA,” he said. He further questions how seriously the City took the EIR process in the first place.

Citing all the ongoing design changes, including new, proposed roundabouts on Moraga Ave., changes in number of fields and parking spaces and type of pedestrian crossing, Ross said, “The City has progressed through this environmental review process with apparently no idea of what the Project actually looks like. Or, if the City has such an idea, it has chosen not to share the details with the public.”  Delineating  the errors in the EIR, Ross concludes that the project cannot be approved until there is a clear description of all of its features and an EIR that thoroughly analyzes the impacts of those features.

Tom Brohard notes that the EIR relied on a fundamentally flawed traffic study.  For example, nearly all traffic speeds on Moraga were measured in the area near Monte Avenue, where traffic is slower than in the vicinity of the project. This error led the EIR to underestimate average traffic speeds on Moraga at the project site, which led to incorrect stopping distances and signal warrants.

Brohard asserts that the proposed 66 parking spaces at Blair Park is only half of what is needed and that overflow parking on Moraga Avenue. “cannot be safely accommodated.”  Parking on Moraga, he said, will adversely affect bicyclists on the street and will have a significant safety impact. “There is substantial evidence,” he said “that the project will have adverse traffic and parking impacts that have not been properly disclosed, analyzed and mitigated in the EIR.”

Editors Note:  The City has signed an agreement with PRFO in which PRFO agrees to pay $118,000 to review and process the project application and an additional $125,000 in legal costs if approval of the project is challenged in court.

Full Letter

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