Council supports Del Mar's assertion of CEQA violations
The Del Mar Fairgrounds could have seen this coming from a mile away.
Or more like 1.1 miles, the distance between the 22nd Agricultural District's offices and Solana Beach City Hall.
In a special City Council meeting last week, Solana Beach echoed the city of Del Mar in releasing its comment letter regarding the fairgrounds' proposed expansion. To sum it up a second time: the draft environmental impact report violates the California Environmental Quality Act and must be redrafted and recirculated for it to be valid.
"You don't need to spend more than five minutes with this thing to know that it's woefully inadequate and this project has no benefits to the city of Solana Beach," Councilman Mike Nichols said. "There's no standard for CEQA submittals for EIRs, so they can pretty much throw stuff against the wall and see what sticks."
Under CEQA, any public agency must consult with a bordering city while drafting an EIR. Although there were meetings between the Agricultural Board, Del Mar and Solana Beach during this process, both cities say their concerns were almost entirely ignored in the released version, violating the law.
Mike Hogan, a CEQA attorney retained by Solana Beach, said of the 26 concerns the city submitted to the fairgrounds during this time, 25 were not addressed in the 4,400-page document. Consultants hired by the city last October raised nearly 500 environmental issues.
"CEQA is a state law that's been adopted by the Legislature. It's been here for 30 years and has one purpose, and that's to inform the public about the environmental impacts that might occur from a proposed development," Hogan said at the council meeting. "What are our 474 comments about? They are about the ways in which the draft EIR fails to provide sufficient information for the city and its residents to know what's going to happen if that intense development were to occur."
Hogan declined to comment further after the meeting, but Councilman Dave Roberts said consultants have told him this draft EIR fails greatly in comparison to those of similar past projects. The city is raising concerns about adverse effects on traffic, noise, pollution, flooding, the local economy and aesthetics, among others.
Since the city of Del Mar released its letter on Jan. 21, the 22nd Agricultural Board has expressed disappointment and surprise that its EIR was so poorly received.
"We've worked with the coastal commission and various agencies to assure that our master plan and EIR are not only legal, but are sensitive," said spokeswoman Linda Zweig, adding that lawyers, specialists and consultants aided in its drafting. "We are sensitive to the environment, the area, the greenbelt and we are abiding by the coastal commission's rules and regulations, requests and standards."
She said Solana Beach and Del Mar have been involved throughout the process: "We didn't just put together a master plan without looking at CEQA."
The city's assertions
EDITOR'S NOTE: A staff report introducing the review of the Fairgrounds Master Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report, states:
The DEIR is woefully inadequate and requires revision and recirculation in almost every subject area in order to comply with the requirements of CEQA as discussed below.
The DAA responded to only one of the comments provided by the City of Solana Beach to the DAA during the Notice of Preparation (NOP), which is required by CEQA. The DAA also did not reply to all of the comments it received from the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the California Coastal Commission during the NOP process. The City of Solana Beach enjoins the comments provided by these agencies on the project, and expects that all agency comments received by the DAA during this process will be provided a complete response. The DAA's failure to address these responses as required under CEQA necessitates further significant study and analysis and a revision and recirculation of the DEIR. Further, the DEIR is inadequate as the DAA fails to include several statutory requirements of an EIR to comply with CEQA including, but not limited to:
- Providing a complete project description;
- Providing an adequate analysis of the project alternatives;
- Providing a complete discussion of all reasonable and feasible mitigation measures; and
- Providing full disclosure of significant unmitigable impacts to the environment, including cumulative impacts.
Finally, the DAA did not consult the City of Solana Beach, which is considered an "adjacent City" and "Responsible Agency" under CEQA (CEQA § 21104), in preparation of the DIER regarding public utility and emergency services provided by the City of Solana Beach to the Project. The proposed Project will create significant, cumulative and unmitigated impacts to Solana Beach's residents, visitors, businesses and public services that the City of Solana Beach provides to the Fairgrounds facilities. Consultation with all responsible agencies and adjacent cities, including the City of Solana Beach, that provide public services to the Project during the preparation of the DEIR is required. This consultation is required to develop feasible mitigation measures to reduce the adverse impacts to the public services provided by the City of Solana Beach to the Project to below a level of significance where practicable.
The DEIR's inadequacies and failure to provide feasible mitigation measure to reduce the adverse impacts to the City of Solana Beach required the DAA to study and evaluate all impacts to the City of Solana Beach provide additional alternative project descriptions and analyses to fully disclose the environmental impacts of the project to the public. Revision and recirculation of the DEIR is therefore necessary to comply with the provisions of state law and the California Environmental Quality Act.