Planning Panel Sends Legacy Park EIR Back to City Staff
• Enviro Groups Blast Partial Approach
BY BILL KOENEKER
BY BILL KOENEKER
Responding to pleas by environmental groups to neither certify the Environmental Impact Report, nor give a recommendation for approval of plans for Legacy Park, the Malibu Planning Commission, with Chair Joan House absent, unanimously agreed to send back the EIR for review without further recommendations.
Mark Gold, the executive director of Heal the Bay and spokespersons for the Santa Monica Baykeeper, Surfrider Foundation and the Regional Water Quality Control Board testified that official responses to comments made by them and others were inadequate and did not address the issues, or share enough information and details about the plans.
Another expressed concern was that the city was proceeding with stormwater treatment plans without taking into account the need for plans to address wastewater treatment for the Civic Center.
The stormwater treatment components planned for the park would include a lined detention pond to collect stormwater runoff for treatment at an existing plant that was described as “overbuilt and overdesigned,” by Gold.
City staff and the consultant emphasized that they want to proceed in phases, to first implement stormwater facilities at the park and then address solution of the septic problems when the former is completed. Commission members, however, shared some of the concerns of the critics.
“I am not pleased with the Environmental Impact Report,” said Commissioner Jeff Jennings. “I understand the concern of the environmental groups that we changed the target. Legacy Park is not large enough to handle both problems.”
Jennings said he was concerned about the quality of responses to comments and thinks the staff needs to take a hard look at these responses.
Commissioner John Mazza had a slightly different take on the matter. He said he was influenced by what Regional Water Quality Control board staffer Elizabeth Erickson said about the plans.
Mazza said, “I think Ms. Erickson was very diplomatic, but without a comprehensive EIR, we can do the whole process, but it would stop dead at the doorstep [of the RWQCB],” and added, “I agree with Jeff, it needs to come back.”
Commissioner Regan Schaar said she wants a more comprehensive review of the plans to see if the integrated approach that was the genesis of the project could work. “What about expanded ponds?” she asked.
Earlier during the three-and-a- half hour session, Commissioner Ed Gillespie said he thought the plans and EIR could be certified, approved and moved forward. However, he later voted with the commission majority without elaborating on his change of views.
Much of the rest of the meeting was devoted to commission questioning of the heads of environmental groups, the consultant and municipal staff, including City Manager Jim Thorsen.
The consultant made the case that all final computations point to Jennings’ and the municipality’s conclusion that the Legacy Park property could not handle both stormwater and wastewater treatment. The city staff reiterated an intention to proceed with the stormwater component, since it found a way to accomplish this that fits all of its objectives, including habitat restoration and a city park.
However, Gold and others argued that the city and the consultant did not have all of the answers, and that wastewater was such a big issue, municipal officials could be closing the door on a possible undiscovered solution, if wastewater treatment wasn’t studied concurrently.
Everyone agrees it could take another year to two years to complete those studies.
When the dust settled, the commission provided the staff with a list of discussion items it wants expanded on, or further addressed.
Those include discussion of the hydrology studies that have been completed in the area.
Further elaboration on the worst case scenario involving natural events and how they will impact the proposed system was also requested, as was clarification of issues related to the connectivity of the Lumber Yard shopping center and the Legacy Park site.
An analysis of two additional alternatives, one being implementation of a larger detention pond and analysis of the implementation of polishing ponds was also on the list.
Commissioners also requested that staff provide a proposed timeline and cost analysis for a revised EIR, which includes a comprehensive discussion of the wastewater element and provide project plans for proposed street improvements along Civic Center Way.