|By Nancy Isles
Given the comments from the
public at a hearing last night, the Environmental Impact Report for the
proposed development of St. Vincent's property and the potential
development of the Silveira Ranch will leave few stones unturned.
The San Rafael Planning
Department heard from scores of Marin residents concerned with the
environmental effects of developing of the property, the affordable
housing that could be built there, the impact of added traffic on Highway
101 and other issues that will affect the county in future years, whether
the property is built upon or preserved.The session was designed to give the
public the opportunity to comment on what should be included in the EIR.
Comments will be incorporated into the city's contract with a San Jose
consultant firm that will conduct the environmental study.
San Rafael Community
Development Director Bob Brown said the preparation of the EIR will take
18 months to two years and will be presented when completed at public
hearings, during which comments will again be elicited.
The Sierra Club also is asking
the city to include the proposed Oakview commercial development on the
west side of Highway 101 and the resulting cumulative traffic impacts of
the combined developments.
Speakers from groups that
included the Marin Consortium for Workforce Housing, Ecumenical
Association for Housing, the San Rafael Chamber of Commerce, the Marin
Athletic Coalition, League of Women Voters and others said they believed
there can be benefits to the development of the properties.
Shapell Industries, a Beverly
Hills-based firm with shopping centers and luxury subdivisions throughout
the state, is the developer of a proposed 766-unit housing complex that
would be built east of Marinwood on land owned by Catholic Charities/CYO.
The organization wants to sell
832 acres to Shapell to finance upgrades to its St. Vincent's School for
Boys, a residential treatment center for troubled youths.
The Silveira family, which
owns the adjacent ranch, has notified the city of its interest in selling
its property but has not submitted a development proposal.
The EIR will look specifically
at the impact of the proposed St. Vincent's plan as well as the overall
effects of developing both sites.
Issues identified by San
Rafael planners as part of the preliminary EIR scope include aesthetics,
agricultural resources, air quality, biological resources, geology, soils,
water quality, traffic and other items.
More suggestions were made
Mike Arnold of Marin Citizens
for Effective Transportation urged the commission to have the EIR
consultants analyze not just traffic and numbers of cars, but the
congestion that causes delays."The EIR needs to quantify these kinds of delays,"
Arnold said. "It needs to quantify for the public how much additional
time people will spend in their cars."
Others suggested that the EIR
evaluate the traffic benefits of providing affordable housing for workers
with jobs nearby.
Joe Walsh of the Ecumenical
Association for housing said the EIR should include an evaluation of the
legal aspects of not building on the parcels, noting the county had zoned
the Highway 101 corridor for development.
Marin Audubon Society
President Barbara Salzman said the EIR should include an study on the
importance of habitat by the Point Reyes Bird Observatory.
Salzman said she was pleased
the scope included consideration of the acquisition of the property
because her organization has been successful in raising money to purchase
other potential development sites.
Tighe O'Sullivan, of the Marin
Athletic Coalition, said the EIR should compare the environmental impacts
of dairy farming compared with athletic fields on portions of the property
that have degraded by the presence of livestock."Cows are considered the biggest
ozone depleters in the world," O'Sullivan said.
Written comments on the St.
Vincent's/Silveira EIR may be mailed to Bob Brown, community development
director, city of San Rafael, 1400 Fifth Ave., 94901, or faxed to 485-3184
by Sept. 16.
Contact Nancy Isles Nation via