I got to last night’s work session 10 minutes late. I didn’t miss much. Seated in front of the council were familiar faces from Berkeley-based LSA Associates, the firm drafting the ballpark village environmental impact report. They were going over expectations and timelines for the report. Some of the important points from last night:
- LSA had an internal kickoff meeting shortly after the city council approved the study. Since then they’ve been working on the EIR.
- The next two months or so will be background work.
- A “Notice of Preparation” will be circulated prior to the publishing of the Draft EIR, followed by a 30-day public review period
- The Draft EIR will be distributed, followed by a scoping session and a 45-day public review period
- Comments and responses will be included along with possible changes in the Final EIR
- Public hearings will be held, and the Final EIR will be approved or rejected by the city council.
Unlike many other EIRs which are typically done from scratch, this one will be partly based on the previous Catellus/Pacific Commons EIR, which was completed a decade ago. This may prove to be a double-edged sword as much of the work will involve evaluating various mitigation measures and effects of the original project plan. The big item is the creation of a new wetlands area – did it work as planned? And if so, what measures need to be taken to “preserve the preserve?” LSA has indicated this aspect actually makes the process somewhat more difficult. Don’t expect a lot over the next several weeks.
While there wasn’t much new detail coming out of the Community Specific Plan, one tidbit emerged that the council found curious: the largest residential area (2500 units) may contain some number of single family residences. When asked to elaborate, LSA said they didn’t have a specific number. It also looks like the buildout will progress in the following manner:
- Phase I: Ballpark, mixed-use, and school
- Phase II: Residential east of Cushing Pkwy
- Phase III: Development west of Cushing Pkwy
Questions from the council centered largely around LSA’s experience. The firm has been around for over 30 years and has worked on numerous projects of varying sizes. As mentioned previously, they have worked on the San Jose ballpark EIR – which was certified but ended up nowhere. LSA has never worked on a successful ballpark project. (Co)Incidentally, LSA also wrote the EIR for Oakland’s Uptown project (I sense tinfoil hats sparking a bit…). LSA cited their previous experience working on other redevelopment projects, which will be very useful since the ballpark really only amounts to a quarter of the project.
The San Jose ballpark EIR came under fire on multiple fronts. Critiques generally came under three categories:
- Traffic. While traffic counts were made for the area immediately surround the ballpark and the nearby freeway infrastructure, some felt that it should have also included additional neighborhoods near the ballpark site.
- Noise pollution. The sound noise curve drawn for the ballpark was considered oversimplified and should have taken into consideration more factors related to how weather as well as how fans attend baseball games.
- Neighborhood impact. A small, quiet hamlet of sorts lay across Los Gatos Creek from the ballpark site. They are already affected by increased traffic and noise from events at the nearby HP Pavilion. Many of them felt their needs weren’t taken into consideration.
Point #3 may not be relevant to the Fremont discussion. The first two are entirely relevant and should be discussed and reviewed at considerable length.
There was only one speaker, and he was representing project proponents. The whole thing was wrapped up in less than an hour.