So you all know that I’m not one to lean toward being highly cynical. I generally try to give people the benefit of the doubt and I don’t tend to think that all government staff have some nefarious agenda to destroy everything that is good and sacred about Alameda, but holy shit am I seriously pissed off right now. Actually, I’ve been pissed since the agenda for the Planning Board came out on Thursday afternoon.
I am referring to the latest agenda item regarding the Alameda Point EIR. So this latest staff report lays out what alternative plans the City intends to study in the EIR, this is really important because whatever is studied and “mitigated” in the EIR can actually happen and actually be built. The point of the EIR, or so City Staff sold to the City Council who was loathe to spend the money in the first place on this EIR-first-so-that-the-developers-will-come plan, was to allow for flexibility so that the City could be agile depending on who or what wanted to come out to Alameda Point and build. The point was not to lock Alameda Point into one thing and then a new EIR would have to be developed if anything else came along.
I got off track again, anyway, the Staff Reports says, hey, despite the fact that we promised the City Council to study these specific alternatives, we decided that we don’t want to study these things after all. Cool?
No, not cool. When you say you are going to do something and then do the complete opposite that’s bullshit.
Here is what staff promised that the EIR would study back when this came before the City Council September of last year:
What we will do through is we will provide additional analysis of, well if you adjust the reuse plan to increase these kinds of uses would that change the environmental impact of the plan and, if so, how would you mitigate it.
Now let’s think about something else that might be completely outside of the box: we want to add a lot more housing units, or we want to triple the amount of jobs and the question for the EIR is: does it change the environmental impacts and, if so, what are the mitigation.
We now have a menu, we can now use that 10 years from now, maybe none of those things happen, but if it does happen, our EIR, you can use that same EIR. You can say, you know what? We have the information, we know what the environmental effect of that is and we know how to mitigate it. And you can adopt those mitigation as you approve those changes to your project.
And the Staff presentation is loaded with the term “flexibility” or “flexible” because that is what the City Council indicated that they wanted in an EIR because if we are going to spend about $1. something something million or so on a EIR, it should be built to last and be able to cover most scenarios depending on what the market will bear.
One of the reasons that Staff has declared that they won’t be studying an alternative with additional housing over the less than 1500 units in the Reuse plan is that in the time it takes the 1500 units to be built, the EIR will probably be 10-15 years old and by then a new EIR can be done.
Let me just point out that the EIR for Harbor Bay Island is now more than 30+ years old and only recently Ron Cowan was pushing the City to allow for a land swap in order to build the excess units he felt he was entitled to build. So the notion that an EIR wouldn’t remain relevant in 25 – 30 years is just reaching.
Plus, City Staff already knows from real life experience that alternatives in the EIR are super important. After all, in an example given it was revealed that the Boatworks project that is underway is not the project that was actually studied but rather it was one of the alternatives that was studied.
Here’s what the Planning Board needs to do. They need to shut this down right away and say: that’s not what not the direction of the City Council, if you are unilaterally deciding that you want to change the direction of the EIR then you need to go back to the City Council and get policy direction from them because this is not what was promised when you were given approval by the City Council. There is no need to even dignify this sort of backhanded game playing by providing comments or even having a discussion about it. It’s time that the City Council step in rein in whatever internal agendas are at play here among staff.