Provided below are minutes from the September 18, 2007 City Council hearing on the Draft Environmental Impact Report on the Northeast Area Specific Plan.
8. Public Hearing – Northeast Area Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) (Planning Director)
Planning Director Webster presented the staff report, highlighting the following:
Ø The draft Plan proposes a bold vision for the Northeast Area and development would be regulated by an innovative form-based SmartCode.
Ø The draft EIR identifies significant traffic impacts.
Ø The Plan makes significant recommendations for City-wide policy changes. These include amending the flood ordinance to require zero net fill in the 100-year floodplain; expanding the wastewater mitigation requirement to non-residential development; adoption of an urban runoff reduction ordinance; amendment of the Growth Management program for Northeast development; revision of parking regulations to create standards more appropriate to a downtown, mixed-use area; and possible consideration by the voters of a ‘carbon tax’ on electricity and natural gas to fund energy and water conservation programs.
Ø The draft Plan has been developed following a lengthy public process. Work towards the Specific Plan began in 2003, and has included a number of community workshops as well as meetings of the City Council, Planning Commission, and Design Review Board. Many viewpoints were expressed in this process. The draft Plan is intended to synthesize the concepts and direction set in the community process.
Ø Extensive information on the Northeast Plan is available on the Planning Department page of the City web site, at www.ci.sebastopol.ca.us.
Ø The Review Process: The review and adoption process is beginning, and includes the opportunity to comment on the DEIR, a public workshop which was conducted on September 6 discussion of the draft Plan by the Planning Commission, Design Review Board, and Business Outreach Committee, preparation of the Final EIR, and public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council.
Ø The draft EIR is subject to public review period. Comments are due by or before October 2, 2007.
Ø The Design Review Board will discuss the draft Plan, with particular focus on the SmartCode.
Ø The Planning Commission will discuss the draft Plan on September 25, 2007 and together with the City Council, the Commission has legal responsibility for review of the EIR and the Plan, and the Commission would have a critical role in implementation of the SmartCode.
Mayor Pierce questioned if the Design Review Board and Planning Commission will be discussing the Plan and the EIR. Director Webster stated they may have comments on the EIR, but should focus on the plan.
Mayor Pierce questioned if the EIR comment period ended October 2, 2007. Director Webster stated yes.
Sara Press, DCE, presented a slide show with the following highlights:
Ø Study area
Ø What is an EIR
Ø Summary of the Northeast Area Specific Plan Process
Ø Workshops/Meeting Dates
Ø EIR Process
Ø DEIR Public Hearing
Ø Potential environmental impacts and issues of specific plan
Ø Specific plan overview
Ø Preferred alternative
Ø General plan amendments and zoning code amendments
Ø Land use policies
Ø Development summary
Ø Environmental evaluation
Ø Issues addressed in EIR (13 items)
Ø DEIR – less than significant impacts – potentially significant to less than significant (11 items)
Ø Unavoidable significant impact – Traffic
Ø Flood plain elevations/hydrology
Ø Hydrology and Fill policies
Ø Vegetation Types/Biological resources
Ø Cultural Resources
Ø Existing Buildings Assumed to be Retained
Ø Project Alternatives
Ø Environmental Sustainable policies
Ø Next Steps
Ø Public Comments
Councilmember Litwin asked the consultant to show the area of active flood flow conveyance. Ms. Press stated that in one of the figures in the slide show, it showed these areas and that it is mostly an area where they are not proposing any development.
Mayor Pierce asked the consultant to explain flood conveyance. Ms. Press stated it is where run off from hills go into the Laguna from natural topography and not from a storm drain system.
Mayor Pierce asked if this area would be Zimpher Creek. Ms. Press stated yes. Mayor Pierce stated that this plan is a masterful piece of work given the scope of the project.
Mayor Pierce opened for public comment on the EIR and Plan:
Chris Clay Bowman, 242 Pitt Avenue, stated:
· Traffic is a big concern and suggested having a pedestrian friendly atmosphere and limiting cars
· Increase in additional 320 or more cars is a concern as is adding more traffic to the downtown traffic
· Concerned what is happening to side streets especially on the west side and in residential areas where people are cutting through to avoid traffic
· Suggested loss of parking spots on street will occur
· Noise level from cars is high and will get worse
· Loves the idea of the northeast area and excited about it
· Wants a pedestrian friendly neighborhood
· Would like to know more about Street Smart
· Would like to see a real analysis and not a general guess of what will happen and how this will impact people on the west side
Helen Shane, Neva Street, stated:
· Wants to make clear to public that mitigation does not mean a cure, but to make it as good as possible under the circumstances
· Challenged Ms. Press on the comment that 8 out of 11 intersections will be at a level F and stated it can get worse and conditions can be worse
· Read a prepared statement and provided excerpts from the General Plan, Chapter 1, page 7, discussing levels of service (water, waste water, parks, recreation, traffic and transportation) and that the General Plan states that only a development that does not result in lowering service standards shall be permitted; how can the City justify a change in the level of traffic; discussed control of side streets, pedestrian crossings, traffic signals or round abouts and intersections
· Read excerpts from the DEIR regarding mitigation measures (significant and unavoidable) – no mitigation measures are recommended
· A report based on engineering science appears to be accurate but the conclusions are subjective and unacceptable. Agree impacts are significant, does not agree that they unavoidable; stop trying to squeeze five pounds of mud into a small bucket
· She is not against growth, but is against lying in the face of common sense; the City should not ignore the mandates of the General Plan
· The City has no business approving a project of this size that will negatively affect the character of our town which is the main reason so many people live here
· Water supply is another issue that has not been addressed and she submitted a short written memo to the Council
Magick, Huntley Street, stated:
· The City needs to think about the General Plan which took years of work to accomplish and asked if the City wants to change the General Plan
· The General Plan is an incredible, beautiful document and that it is the constitution of the town
· The fear of lack of revenue is the motivation to approve this project
· The General Plan calls for Sebastopol to be a small country town
· City should not approve a development that lowers the level of service provided to the City of Sebastopol
· The City should enhance the flood water storage of the Laguna; the General Plan calls for this; but this plan does not do it.
· Build and strengthen Sebastopol’s unique identify and sense of place
· Should be minimal physical and visual encroachment onto the Laguna; four-story buildings will encroach visually
· Sebastopol is a premier place for the environmental friendly and should have less vehicles and less parking
· The consideration of raising of traffic should not be separate
· Seek purchase agreements to give the land back to the environment; Encourage businesses to move out of that area and return to natural landscape
· Area is not safe for pedestrians and bikes and the plan doesn’t help.
· Bigger is not better and that the bottom line is the community (human and natural environment) and the economy needs to be serving that community
· Developers have more voice and she would appreciate the developers not participating in the community discussion. Stated this developer may not be the actual developer as the land could be sold, especially if the value of the land rises and stated the developer may not contribute anything to the town
Lauren Thomas stated the following:
· Asked if there would be more opportunity for public comment
· Asked how the alternatives were chosen and why more were not looked at; she would like an explanation
· Values the General Plan and the small town character
· Regarding the prior speaker, State law says there is need for housing, like for young people, and stated there also needs to be jobs in town that allow for people to remain in Sebastopol; would like to live in town and not have a car
· The area can be a cutting edge development of a sustainable culture and the town can get away from cars and have less parking spaces which would bolster the community
· Does not want to see roads built on fill and would like to see parking underground to hide the cars
· The area should be pedestrian/bicycle friendly and be a walkable community
· Commercial development needs to revitalize the City and it should be for local business, local community and local culture
· Suggested community benefit agreements between community members and the developer as the community would have more say
· Suggested a seasonal pond that could be used as an amphitheater instead of the traditional plaza design to create a more natural remedy
· She worked with the Eco Vision Sebastopol Coalition and the Livability project
Mayor Pierce answered Ms. Thomas’ question and stated the public comment period for the EIR ends on October 2nd.
Xochi Ray stated the following:
· There are a lot of alternatives and the City should create an advisory group to look into these alternatives which would save money, enhance the environment, support the community, create a brand new economy and an eco tourist destination
· City should find people who about these types of details and bring those details into the specific plan, such as water reclamation
· The plan can dovetail the CDA Five Year priorities such as the park and youth hostel could be happening in that area
· The Laguna needs to be a high priority and be part of the whole area and hearing the consultants not talking about this; we want the Laguna to be part of the whole picture
· Flooding could be reduced by increasing the storage capacity of the Laguna by removing silt; overcrowded with growth; can bring back the contour line
Jane Nielsen, Burnside Road, representing Sebastopol Water Information Group (SWIG), stated the following:
· She personally likes the smart code idea and a lot of things in the plan
· Reported SWIG believes the DEIR ground water supply section is extremely deficient
· Relies on water supply assessment that does not assess water usage by wells in unincorporated areas that share the City’s groundwater source
· Data did not take into account analysis of use of wells in the unincorporated areas or the levels of withdrawal from private wells, or agricultural wells that compete with Sebastopol in the Wilson Grove Formation Highlands basin, premier recharged rocks of Sonoma County
· The omission of estimating all of the withdrawals from the contiguous Wilson Grove formation that supply water to Sebastopol wells violates a recent court decision that a water supply assessment must determine the sufficiency of the water supply that serves the present as well as additional population so has to consider all water use in a groundwater basis
· Question of what groundwater basin for Sebastopol actually draws from
· Discussed hydrological connection in certain areas such as the Santa Rosa plain basin and Wilson Grove Formation highlands; Santa Rosa Plain sub-basin must be recharged from the Wilson Grove Highlands basin; the water supply assessment does not discuss that possibility or the possibility that Sonoma County Water Agency wells in the Santa Rosa plain near Sebastopol which pump over 2 billion gallons of water annually may be may be competing with Sebastopol City wells for their mutual groundwater supply
· DEIR and Water Supply Assessment both need the resolution of this critical issue to a study now underway which will not be completed until 2010 at the earliest. The DEIR states that the USGS study does not provide a completion date for the study. Approving a DEIR on a future study violates the Sundstrom versus County of Mendocino ruling under CEQA law which says you cannot mitigate by using future studies.
· DEIR also suggests that the Sebastopol groundwater supply comes from all the recharged areas shown in the figure 4.13-1; it does not specify where that recharge might be; just shows all recharge areas in Sonoma County;
· Discussed figure 4.7-2, Laguna boundary water shed, shows the boundary of that water shed is close to Sebastopol and probably also a boundary of the groundwater supply going to Sebastopol wells and that the water supply assessment contains data showing that is probably the case, so that the recharge area for Sebastopol wells probably is much more restricted than it is implied in the DEIR
· Many other things in the DEIR that she cannot comment on tonight as she has not had a chance to study the report, but amazed by the figure that shows the reach of the water that comes down and funnels down to this area and contributes to the floods; the rest of the water that is going into the Laguna is going in a relatively distributed fashion, but there is a huge funnel affect from the hills way out from the edge of the water shed that right smack into the Northeast area and it is stunning figure.
Amy Sax, 1807 Cooper Road, stated the following:
· Cooper Road is one street out of the City limits
· She has a 100 foot well that she is worried may become dry and that is not being taken into consideration and she does not want to spend a lot of money to dig a new well
· Not sure how this plan will affect her well
· She works for Barney, one of the owners of the property in the northeast area and stated it is interesting to see this development happen
· The plan does not have a sense of community place for people and would like to see the City be a place where people can be
· She has spoken with businesses in that area and stated the City needs to have a place in town for people to do business
· She would like to be able to flush her toilet
Rick Andres, 1405 Cooper Road, stated the following:
· Has lived on Cooper Road and had plenty of water until the City’s well 7 was put in and now he has lost water. He stated his water level drops when Well 7 is pumping heavily.
· His well is a result of what happens when things are not taken into consideration
· A lot of people in this area have wells that have gone bad even in rainy periods and it is not being taken into consideration
Ben Welborn stated the following:
· Acknowledged the comments on traffic and water and stated appropriate growth holds the solution to those problems and growth needs to occur
· Read excerpts from articles Farming on the Edge, Sierra Club Smart Growth, and Smart Growth America discussing inefficient land use rather than economic growth, systems of development, advocacy of infill, and excessive traffic increase due to urban sprawl.
· Talk about having no cars in this area needs discussion, reducing cars could reduce costs
· High density in the downtown allows for mass transit, car sharing, walking to schools, community amenities, live/work opportunities and elimination of cars and commutes
· There needs to be a decision made to further the process along and that it is naïve not to hear from the developer and that the City needs to work with the landowner.
Mayor Pierce asked Mr. Welborn to focus on the specific plan not talk about their development.
Mr. Welborn continued:
· Stated sprawl adds to the crisis and more stacked roofs creates more open space
· EIR has potential impacts that can be mitigated and densification is the biggest way to mitigate
· DEIR lacks positive information and that there are solutions to the problems
· Stated economically that the well water issue is a poignant example of using density to have tax dollars pay toward the cost of infrastructure and lower the cost per capita
· He believes in smart growth and that this plan is consistent with the General Plan
· The Council needs to think why they began this process while they are weighing out the difficult decisions
Colleen Fernald stated the following:
· Sebastopol is becoming a metropolis
· The plan needs to be a sustainable property development
· Laguna Vista was a lesson that taught the City government how to be more careful in their thinking, planning, and respecting of everyone who contributes; this plan reflects that
· Purpose of this area is to spend money, time, innovation, investment and capital
· What is important goes beyond the plan. The City needs to be innovative
· The water and traffic issues go beyond the scope of this plan
· Discussed: traffic, water supply, recycled water, the footprint is already created and no net fill
· The City has to get a tougher stance with the Sonoma County Water Agency and Department of Engineers to have the sediment in the Laguna removed
· Would like to see sweat equity in the homes being proposed
· Would like to see Sebastopol Sustainable Salon be revitalized to be an outside place to meet for the City’s benefit
· Can’t put the whole burden on the developer
Mayor Pierce asked Director Webster to explain to the Council the direction for this meeting.
Director Webster stated the primary purpose of this meeting tonight is to conduct a public hearing on the EIR for the Northeast Area Plan. He stated staff is also requesting questions and comments on the plan. DEIR comments can be provided tonight or provided in writing no later than October 2nd. He stated the intent is to receive comments on the plan from the Council if possible.
Councilmember Kelley questioned if one of the options could be to continue the item. She stated there seems to be a lack of participation tonight and she would like to get the word out such as an article in the Sonoma West stating what the project is all about and the impacts of the project. She stated she does not believe the public knows what is happening. She stated she is not comfortable just giving comments in writing and that it is important to discuss this in public.
Councilmember Gurney stated she is concerned that the deadline is October 2nd and that if this item was continued, it would be continued to the next City Council meeting date which is also October 2nd.
Mayor Pierce asked staff to address the following comments by the public such as if this plan is in conflict with the General Plan when the City is seeking to make major changes to the downtown. Director Webster stated the intent of tonight’s meeting is to receive input and comments and he did not anticipate responding to questions tonight.
Mayor Pierce suggested they proceed and see if a continuance is necessary. He asked staff to respond to the issue of lowering of standards that is not to be tolerated per the General Plan. Director Webster stated there are a number of different policies and objectives that need to be balanced.
Mayor Pierce asked staff to respond to the issue of whether a traffic circle or traffic light does not work where does this leave the City. Director Webster stated the same issues are addressed in the current General Plan. He stated the intersection levels in some locations when the General Plan was written was F and that the General Plan addresses the mitigation necessary to address impacts and found that the mitigation was not acceptable. He stated the General Plan states the desire to develop the town and provide a pedestrian environment. He stated it also provides for an acceptable level of congestion which is balanced by creating a town wanted by the community. He stated the General Plan contains the same approach and would be worse whether or not the northeast plan was in place.
Mayor Pierce questioned if the level of service F is a traffic issue. Director Webster stated yes, that it is a measure of delay of seconds.
Mayor Pierce questioned if crosswalks, bulb outs, or traffic lights would slow traffic and make worse the level of service. Director Webster stated yes.
Mayor Pierce questioned if less parking or no parking had been reviewed. Director Webster stated yes and stated that the City needs to be realistic in how society operates. He stated that the West County uses Sebastopol to drive through and there is no good transit service. He stated the plan proposes for a reduction in parking requirements.
Mayor Pierce asked staff to explain the community development benefit agreement concepts and if this is part of the effort. Director Webster stated the Redevelopment Agency can develop a financial arrangement where the Agency can provide a loan and the developer can provide items such as infrastructure, traffic improvements, homeless shelter, etc. He stated it is a negotiated item between the Agency and the developer and he is not sure if it could arise here. He stated the City has to be realistic of the scope and stated he is not sure the Agency is financially able to do this.
Mayor Pierce questioned if this would not be written into the specific plan. Director Webster stated that is correct and that it is a negotiated item with the developer of a project governed by the Specific Plan.
Mayor Pierce questioned the situation on Cooper Road and asked if the situation of failure of wells has been explored. Director Kelly stated it is has not been explored by the City, that the City has received anecdotal reports of well failures over the years, but has been unable to obtain any data on the origin of the failures.
Mayor Pierce questioned if there are any solutions to the wells failing on Cooper Road. City Manager Brennan stated there are a number of residents in the unincorporated area and the City does not know what is impacting these wells. He suggested the neighborhood hire a geologist to obtain data to see if they can find a cause for the dropping water level in the wells. He stated this problem has been ongoing since before Well 7 was installed and its contribution to the problem is unknown.
Mayor Pierce stated the Cooper Road residents could meet with the City to work toward a clear understanding and possible solutions to the problem on Cooper.
Councilmember Kelley discussed the following:
· Building in the flood plain and podiums
· No net fill
· Traffic impacts
· Mitigation or no mitigation needs to be thoroughly examined
· View shed issues
· Growth management ordinance calls for 25 units to be built per year and the specific plan exempts that area and questioned how this will affect the build out of the growth management ordinance which is in place
· Flooding: podium construction/net fill is expensive and that a developer has to go high to accommodate the constraints of building on podiums.
· Would like to offset the 100 year flood plain issue. She stated there is legislation in the works that would have developers address a 200 year flood plain.
· Traffic: Stated it is not right to express in the plan that it would happen anyway. She stated it is not broken out and she would like to see current traffic, projected traffic with and without the project and traffic impacts to other streets caused by drivers using other roads to bypass the increased congestion from this development area.
· View shed: stated this has not been addressed adequately and would like to see a study area from the Laguna to the downtown and pretend this is in the SOS overlay. She would also like to see models.
· The biggest aspect is the Laguna area and is concerned that the plan will adversely affect the conveyance and overflow will create more flooding and she would like to see the Laguna repaired.
· She is concerned with the offset of groundwater with wastewater and stated that is questionable. She stated there are many contaminants in wastewater and she would like to discuss the quality of wastewater thoroughly.
· Off set fill into other areas has not been adequately addressed and asked where this would happen
· DEIR traffic and Abbott Avenue as bypass was not to be studied and questioned how this happened.
· Waster Supply Assessment and water element: Stated it is not okay to rely on future studies to off set the water supply and that the correct basin has not been identified.
Councilmember Litwin stated the following:
· 100% onsite infiltration is great
· No net fill great
· Would like to see a traffic circle at highway 12 and Bodega Avenue
· Supports bulb outs at crosswalks
· Waste water at a minimum should be used for toilets, but needs to have further analysis for other uses.
· Would like to see what the water usage for that area is now and then have no additional water usage for this area or less than what is being used now.
· Mixed use development is essential in this area
· Suggested looking at purchase agreements
· Would not like to see anything in the Laguna touched
· Would like to consider community benefit agreements and get what is needed out of the project
· Loves the idea of a pond and amphitheater for stormwater
· Would like page one of the staff report about allowing development in the 100 year flood plain to be for the specific plan only
· 20% is a great affordable housing start, but he would like to see that figure higher.
· Loves the smart code concept
· While there is need for some flexibility, he would like to see the plan show what is actually happening. He stated there is security in knowing end results
· Stated removing the civic road connection would improve connectivity and makes sense
Councilmember Gurney stated the following:
· Agrees with most comments of Councilmembers Litwin and Kelley
· She was glad to see Abbott Avenue as a potential alternative
· Would like to shift the paradigm towards how it will look 10-20 years from now, and have the taller buildings closer to down town and not near the Laguna
· Our responsibility is to become dependent on less gasoline and the focus should be on pedestrian/bicycle orientation and that a plan for cars should be a plan of the past
· Reduction of green house gasses in the community and that each one should be making an effort
· Likes the idea of living above stores and businesses
· Youth are committed to alternative modes of transportation and eco-mute
· Provide affordable housing, smaller is more affordable and also needs to be attractive to seniors
· Liveable/walkable community
· Traffic with a level F shows an expression which is unwilling to look at alternatives to the current flow
· City needs to take its responsibility seriously
· Potential worsening of flooding in area as more is built and has additional concerns of more water
· Public health and safety issues of polluted flood waters needs to be addressed
· Given Katrina experience, emergency relocation and evacuation plans in flooding situations need to be addressed
· Laguna needs to be restored and stated there is a disconnect with the focus on the public service portion of the EIR and what it can do for the Laguna. She stated the open space needs to be enhanced as a park facility for the public that will make the downtown more enjoyable and be connected to the Laguna. What can be done to enhance the connection.
· Housing takes up space, and she does not want it to take up all the space, need retails, and she would like to utilize the mixed use concept, create street scape, vital economy, and have the residences not interfere with the view shed
Councilmember Robinson stated the following:
· The sea level is rising and he would like to see a hydrologist give more information as to how this will affect the 100 year flood. He would like to see how the rise in sea level translates in the rise in the 100 year flood and the potential impact of the sea rising on the northeast area
· Would like to the consideration of using naked streets like European cities (no signals, stop signs, crosswalks). He stated this would be safer for pedestrians and bicyclists
· Suggested lowering the speed limit to 15-20 mph area
· People who drive resent congestion, but for pedestrians and bicyclist it is a blessing
· Questioned the widening of Morris Street and stated it seems wide enough to accommodate a sidewalk and parking and bike lane and a narrow road creates greater safety
· Main Street has an aesthetic problem with newspaper boxes and questioned if a plan could be created that would not infringe on their rights, but create some aesthetically pleasing standard boxes
Mayor Pierce stated the following:
· Would like to see a reduction in vehicle miles traveled using increased density and creation forms of alternative modes of transportation
· Shares the importance of the Laguna and stated the relationship of the Laguna to the Northeast area is a key issue, has profound concern with the plaza as a termination. Would strongly recommend the plaza to be planned as a transition to the Laguna
· There is not enough civic “programming” available to fill a singular major civic building, terminating a formal axis through the special plan area
· Would like to see a network of open spaces and continuity instead of 4-5 stories at the edge of the Laguna which is in opposition to transition.
· Would encourage the consideration of the approach from the Laguna into the plaza as one of the “gates” into our town
· Would like to see the relationship of Zimpher Creek to the plan and how Zimpher Creek outflows to the Laguna
· Would like to see the area east of the lift station have bioswales for treatment of the Zimpher Creek flow before it gets into the waterway. The Zimpher Creek watershed appears to capture upwards to 80% of the City storm water. A bioswale system east of the Morris Street Lift Station would contribute significantly to the quality of the storm water entering the Laguna
· Density: need to create solutions to make City more livable, and the City does need density to create a more livable City
Councilmember Kelley stated the following:
· Would like to see additional alternatives analysis and suggested other environmentally superior alternatives that avoids building in the 100 year flood plain
· Increase civic uses
· Increase affordable housing
· Increase connectivity to the Laguna
· Not exempt planning area from the Growth Management Ordinance
· Flooding is a big issue and other areas impact Sebastopol’s flooding, and feels that flooding is increasing in frequency, perhaps due to sedimentation and this is different than what is assessed in the EIR
Councilmember Litwin stated he likes the idea of a Zimpher bioswale.
Councilmember Gurney stated she appreciated the Mayor’s comments and the terminated vista and terminated buildings have a disconnect and stated the problem is that the design transitions the wrong way and should be nature to the undeveloped. She stated higher buildings should be near the center of town, not towards the outskirts of town and that there needs to be an access created towards the Laguna.
Mayor Pierce questioned if this should be agendized for a future meeting for the City Council to give specific direction on the plan and EIR.
Director Webster stated he would request that the process be allowed to run before doing that. He stated that staff may return to the Council if there is an additional requirement for authorization of work or expenses. He stated the comments will be evaluated after the public comment period closes and after the Design Review Board and the Planning Commission have reviewed the plan and EIR. He stated it would be premature to do at this point.
Council Action: No Action. Provided comments for report.
Minute Order #:125-07