http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2009/03/27/environmental-groups-claim-city-council-erred-on-staples-ranch


Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 27, 2009

Environmental groups claim City Council erred on Staples Ranch

Threaten suit unless city rescinds EIR that allows development, Stoneridge extension

by Jeb Bing

The Center for Biological Diversity, Alameda Creek Alliance and an organization named "Safe Streets Pleasanton" delivered a detailed letter to Pleasanton city officials this week of their intent to file a suit forcing a reversal of the City Council's approval of an environmental impact report for Staples Ranch.

That report, approved in a 3-2 vote by the council, allows a multi-million-dollar commercial, retail, sports and senior residential development to move forward on Staples Ranch, is an undeveloped, unincorporated 124-acre parcel currently owned by Alameda County at the southwest corner of I-580 and El Charro Road.

Last month, after several years of public hearings, the council agreed to develop the land in concert with an agreement with the county and at the same time to allow the extension of Stoneridge Drive through Staples to connect to El Charro and Livermore.

The letter from the environmental organizations follows the disclosure by the Pleasanton Weekly a day earlier of the groups' strategy to work with Pleasanton environmentalist Matt Morrison, a tax research specialist and Sierra Club activist and what Morrison described as an "inner circle" of environmental advocates to nullify the council's action. At one time, Morrison was part of a citizens' group coalition, Pleasanton First and Friends of Pleasanton, which submitted a joint statement earlier defining their "common interest in acquiring and constructing community park amenities on the Staples Ranch property, and to request a community process to plan what will be Pleasanton's fourth largest park."

Stating that their organizations plan to seek a court order under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), Ralph Kanz, director of the Alameda Creek Alliance, and Jeff Miller, director of the Center for Biological Diversity, contend that the Pleasanton council and staff failed "to properly assess and mitigate the environmental impacts of the proposed Staples Ranch development and Stoneridge Drive extension. The letter states that the city that the environmental impact report certified by the City Council on February 24 did not adequately assess the environmental impacts of the project.

"The groups are concerned about potential impacts to habitat for sensitive species at the site, species such as the California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, western pond turtle, San Joaquin spearscale and steelhead trout," the letter states.

The letter adds:

"The EIR fails to meet the legal requirements to reduce environmental impacts to less than significant levels and does not adequately address the biological impacts of the development and proposed road extension. This site is adjacent to important aquatic habitat in Arroyo Mocho that needs to be protected and have adequate stream buffers.

"Two tributaries of Alameda Creek, Arroyo Las Positas and Arroyo Mocho, flow together adjacent to the project site. The arroyos provide important wildlife habitat and corridors."

The organizations argued that the environmental impact report approved by the council did not analyze the Stoneridge Drive extension.

"The Stoneridge Drive extension was added to the project at the last minute by the city of Pleasanton," the groups' letter states. "Impacts of Stoneridge Drive on nearby residential neighborhoods and the environment were not analyzed, nor were potential mitigation measures that would have reduced the impacts of the project on neighborhoods, traffic, and the environment. The failure of the report to analyze these impacts is a direct violation of the California Environmental Quality Act´s mandate to mitigate the impacts of the project to less-than-significant levels."

Kanz added: "The city's own consultant admitted that the project must mitigate for species currently found on the site, but instead they (the City Council and staff) refused to do what CEQA requires and left out mitigations for the spearscale."

He said that the Center for Biological Diversity and Alameda Creek Alliance are

The groups also claim that an environmental impact report for the adjacent city of Livermore´s El Charro Project contains a mitigation measure requiring the control of bullfrogs in Arroyo Las Positas, Cottonwood Creek and the golf course ponds.

The Center for Biological Diversity claims that there are 15 local, state, and federal agencies cooperating on fish-passage projects in Alameda Creek, including dam removals and the construction of fish ladders and fish screens. These restoration projects will make up to 20 miles of Alameda Creek and its tributaries, including the arroyos, accessible to ocean-run fish as early as 2011 or 2012. The potential impacts to steelhead habitat from the Staples Ranch project were not analyzed in the environmental impact report.

During some of the public hearings, Miller, Morrison and environmental advocate Richard Pugh told both the council and the Planning Commission that the environmental impact report did not address how the Staples Ranch project will provide for the upland habitat requirements of this species so that it will continue to survive at the location.

However, those arguments were determined to be irrelevant by both a majority on the council and by attorneys representing Pleasanton and Alameda County. Check www.pleasantonweekly.com for any updates on potential litigation.

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