South Shore Process Has Barely Started
Read Part One Here: https://alamedasun.com/news/south-shore-center-makeover-planned
Jamestown plans to transform South Shore Center from what it calls “an encapsulated mall surrounded by a sea of parking” into a mixed-use community (“South Shore Makeover Planned,” Aug. 15.) While accomplishing this, both Jamestown and the city must adhere to the strict provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), a law passed in 1970.
CEQA instituted a uniform, statewide policy to identify and possibly mitigate significant environmental impacts a project might have on the environment. The law requires developments — like the one Jamestown plans for South Shore — undergo a strict environmental impact report (EIR) before they can go from drawing board to reality.
City staff, not Jamestown, will prepare this EIR as a document that conforms to CEQA’s requirements. The report will inform the public and decision-makers of the environmental consequences of Jamestown’s project and of any impact considered significant. Staff will identify any mitigating circumstances and suggest measures, where feasible, to reduce or avoid any impact these circumstance might have on Alameda’s shoreline environment.
CEQA puts the responsibility on the city to first inform the public about the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects. Secondly, the act requires the city to prepare an EIR if it determines that any aspect of the South Shore project could cause “a significant effect on the environment.” The city has made this determination and will begin the EIR process by publishing a Notice of Preparation (NOP) sometime next month.
“Before deciding whether to approve a project, public agencies must consider the significant environmental impacts of the project and must identify feasible measures to minimize those impacts,” CEQA states in its guidelines.
Plans for such a project remain fluid and could change. The city currently plans to publish the NOP in late September. The public will then have 30 days to comment on this notice. During those 30 days, the city will host a public scoping session, during which members of the community can comment in person.
Members of the public will have a second opportunity to comment on the project when the city presents the scope of the report’s technical aspects to the Planning Board at a date yet to be determined. After this meeting, the city will prepare these technical studies as part of the draft EIR, a process that could take more than a year.
With this study, city staff and advisors will determine the impact Jamestown’s project would have on the environment at South Shore. They will decide whether the project would bring substantial, or potentially substantial, adverse change to any of the physical conditions at South Shore. The city will take into account that social or economic changes alone do not significantly impact the environment. Rather the report will first consider environmental issues such as land use, traffic and transportation, aesthetics, noise and air quality.
The city plans to publish the draft EIR in November 2020. During the “draft EIR review period” that follows, the city will accept written comments from the public and public agencies for at least 30 days. The city will make this document available for review in print at Alameda’s libraries and online.
Once the public-review period has run its course, the city will set to work preparing the final EIR. This document will contain the revised draft along with either a summary or verbatim reproduction of the comments received, a list of those who made the comments and the city’s responses to those comments.
Should the final EIR impose any mitigating measures on the project, CEQA requires that the city be able to enforce them through permit conditions, agreements or other measures. These decisions will fall largely on the members of the Planning Board and City Council. If all goes as scheduled, the city would publish the final EIR some two years from now in September 2021. The following month the Planning Board will meet to consider EIR certification. Should the Planning Board vote its approval, the City Council would then consider and vote on the EIR.
Once the EIR passes muster, both the Planning Board and the City Council will hear Jamestown’s presentation and see approval for its project. Part three of this series will take readers through this process.
Jamestown representatives will be available to discuss the project with interested parties at office hours from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5 in Suite 280 (across from See’s Candy in Adventure Court).