Jan McMillan | 12th Street
River/Fairgrounds. Photo panorama Art Olson
In its response letter to the Fairgrounds’ Master Plan Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) on major expansion proposals, the California Coastal Commission staff acknowledges the Fairgrounds’ “many contributions to the region as a source of cultural, commercial and recreational interests” but nevertheless finds many deficiencies in the report. This particular response letter is extremely important because many of the projects proposed in the Master Plan will require coastal development permits from the Commission, whose staff is known to apply the policies of California’s Coastal Act most strictly, as it is charged to do. Other agencies and individuals who share the staff’s opinion of the DEIR may see the response as a validation of their own work.
The Coastal staff letter reads:
“Commission staff appreciates and understands the District’s needs and responsibilities to maintain economic viability, enhance the visitor’s experience at the Fairgrounds, modernize the site’s facilities and provide new amenities at the site. However, there’s a delicate balance required to meet those objectives given the fairground’s location within a sensitive coastal lagoon environment and river valley, which is undergoing significant restoration, and three urban beach communities that are seriously impacted by traffic and the absence of public transit alternatives... As a whole, the DEIR fails to appropriately assess the scope of identified impacts and further fails to consider multiple resource impacts in its analysis.” (p. 1)
Some specific DEIR sections criticized include:
Public Access. “...the massing and siting of the proposed hotel/exhibit hall complex significantly encroaches upon the river corridor and must be reconsidered. Along this rivercourse, there should be a significant greenbelt and widened corridor to encourage and draw the recreational user towards the ocean and river mouth.” (p. 2)
Marine Environment. Because the Fairgrounds was developed on what were historic wetlands, and is part of an open space undergoing an extensive restoration effort, “proposed improvements to the Eastern Overflow Lot and continued reliance on the Southern Overflow Lot would not be permitted uses. . . .Neither would “Creation of an improved, all year round parking facility or construction of a parking structure.” In addition, “the composition and velocity of [water] runoff would appear to be significantly changing and must be addressed.” (p. 3)
The staff also challenges the DEIR’s handling of Land Resources, Visual Resources, Traffic Impacts, Alternate Transit Options, Hazards/Flood Protection/ River Channelization, Recreation and New Development.
The entire Coastal staff letter will appear with all other responses in the final Environmental Impact Report.