Jan 6 2012

Lawsuit Filed Against Piedmont by Sports Field Opponents

Friends of Moraga Canyon Charges Environmental impact Report Inadequate  – 

The following press release was received  by PCA:

January 5, 2012:  A lawsuit was filed today in Alameda Superior Court against the city of Piedmont by attorneys for Friends of Moraga Canyon (FOMC), a coalition of Piedmont and Oakland residents opposed to development of privately financed sports fields in a public Piedmont park.  The lawsuit charges that the project’s environmental impact report (EIR) is fundamentally flawed and that the Piedmont City Council approved the final plan for the project in December without adequate public review of significant changes made since last August. Jim Semitekol, FOMC President, said, “We believe the environmental impact report approved by the City Council had substantial errors.  In addition, there were major changes made in the project throughout the approval process, particularly in the last few months, without adequate analysis or public review.

“Between August and December,” he said, “critical plans for managing traffic and pedestrian safety on Moraga Avenue —  the busy arterial next to the proposed field — were completely altered. The project proponents added a roundabout and pedestrian crosswalks on Moraga Avenue that were not adequately examined and that raise serious safety issues. A new hydrology plan was produced that changes how water runoff will affect creeks downstream in Oakland and ultimately in Lake Merritt. The proponents even made a last-minute change  — removing the bike lane on Moraga Avenue — on the same day the Council approved the project! They also changed the siting of the field and the two proposed parking lots.

“We believe the city should have taken the time to produce a supplemental environmental impact report to give the public time to review and comment on these constantly changing scenarios. Instead, the Council tried to rush the project ahead with a simple addendum that is normally only appropriate for very minor changes to an EIR.”

Semitekol noted that the first time the public saw the EIR addendum and related public documents was on Piedmont’s website the day before Thanksgiving. “City Hall was closed for the next four days,” he said,  “and hard copies of the 102-page plan were not available until the following Tuesday. The Council then approved the plan less than a week later on Monday, December 5th. We don’t understand their rush to judgment without giving the community sufficient time to review the latest plans.

“Filing a lawsuit against our own city is not something any of us wants to do,” Semitekol said.  “We do not take this step lightly, but we firmly believe the City has violated the California Environmental Quality Act, which clearly spells out the process for project review that developers must follow.   This is the biggest, most costly project undertaken in Piedmont in many years, and it has serious consequences that must be carefully analyzed.

“The city has essentially turned over a public park to a private entity, the Piedmont Recreational Facilities Organization, which intends to fund construction of the sports fields.  But the city cannot abrogate the rights of its citizens — or the rights of nearby Oakland residents — to review and comment on a major project that will replace the existing park and its 150 trees with 33-foot high retaining walls on Moraga Avenue, and will affect the homes and lives of many people in Piedmont and Oakland.”

Friends of Moraga Canyon is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.  For more information, visit www.moragacanyon.org.

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