Pacific Beach planners frustrated with Balboa Avenue Trolley Station EIR
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 11/28/18 - 09:19 AM | 1042 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The 748-page Balboa Avenue Trolley Station final environmental document was greeted with mostly consternation by local community planners who felt their suggestions were largely overlooked.

“It was a great exercise to discuss among ourselves what looked best, though it was made clear some, or all, of our input could be rejected,” said former lifeguard and PB planner B. Chris Brewster. “We just couldn’t imagine they would do so wholesale.”

“I haven't had a chance to read the 748-page document yet, but from what I hear, the City did not take into account any of our recommendations or feedback that we gave them earlier this year,” said Henish Pulickal, Pacific Beach Planning Group chair.

“It’s a little frustrating to review final drafts of two recent Big Projects (DeAnza and PB Trolley Station EIR) and see so many of the community’s common-sense suggestions for improvements dismissed so out-of-hand,” said PB planner Ed Gallagher. “The City’s different departments/agencies (planning department, SANDAG, MTS, stormwater enterprises) ought to convene a meeting and coordinate their efforts. If not, the mayor should exhort them to. Perhaps, put them in a room with only a weeks worth of food and water and no showers and say they can’t come out until they have a deal.” 

“The City of San Diego went through these motions to prevent a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) challenge,” said Karin Zirk of Friends of Rose Creek. “CEQA requires public outreach; however, it does not preclude bad projects.”

“These are new considerations, sea-level rise and the buffer zone; watersheds. They're not in any prior development plans,” pointed out PB planner Paula Gandolfo.

The Balboa Avenue Station Area Specific Plan Final PEIR and Appendices was released Nov.14. 

In excerpts from the City’s eir on the Balboa Trolley Station, it is concluded that, “The City Council declares that it has adopted all feasible mitigation measures to reduce the proposed environmental impacts to an insignificant level … the City Council has determined that the proposed benefits outweigh its environmental impacts, and deem them acceptable.”

The eir notes that it follows the City’s General Plan, which incorporates the City of Villages strategy. That strategy aims to direct new development projects into already urbanized areas and areas with conditions allowing the integration of housing, employment, civic, and transit uses.

“It is a development strategy that mirrors regional planning and smart-growth principles intended to preserve remaining open space and natural habitat, reduce green house gas emissions, and focus development in areas with available public infrastructure,” the EIR states. The EIR adds that the City of Villages strategy “places an emphasis on directing population growth into mixed-use activity centers that are pedestrian-friendly and linked to an improved regional transit system.”

Earlier this year, Pacific Beach Planning Group responded by letter to the draft EIR sent to the City reviewing numerous environmental concerns for the proposed new Balboa Avenue trolley stop. 

Among PBPG’s environmental recommendations: The draft plan must emphasize creating employment opportunities/job growth via office and live/work space; only allow building height to top 30 feet only if it does not impact views; prioritize an expedited timeline for funding improvements on Garnet Avenue and the pedestrian/bicycle connection over/under Interstate 5; proposed Garnet Avenue Class 3 (shared) bike lanes are dangerous and unacceptable. A safe bicycle route needs to be provided from the Balboa Avenue Station to bike routes west of Rose Creek and north of Garnet.

“The City should require all development and/or redevelopment to be compatible with EcoDistrict principles and adhere to the most current project design checklist from the PBPG website,” said the group in its draft EIR letter. “Rose Creek must be dedicated as parkland and be funded by the city for park services.”

The Balboa Avenue Trolley Stop is one of nine planned for the Mid-Coast Trolley under development to extend trolley service from Sante Fe Depot downtown to University City. The extension will end at UTC and serve major activity centers including Old Town and UC San Diego.

The final Balboa Trolley Station EIR is available at sandiego.gov/planning/programs/ceqa#Final%20CEQA%20Documents.

 

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