MILLBRAE, Calif., Oct. 7, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The City of Millbrae has filed a strenuous objection to the environmental impact report filed by the California High Speed Rail Authority (HSRA), noting that the document violates the requirements of California’s CEQA law.
A letter from the city’s legal counsel to HSRA calls the draft report “voluminous, internally inconsistent, and unfocused on the San Francisco to San Jose segment” of the project that would have an enormous detrimental impact on the city of Millbrae.
“Essentially, California High Speed Rails plans are to pave paradise and put up a parking lot, just like the Joni Mitchell song,” said Millbrae City Councilmember Wayne Lee. “We will fight them tooth and nail over their presented EIR. They should be working with Millbrae to make transit-oriented development and housing a reality. Instead, they are trying to railroad their project through with no concern for residents, approved housing, or the future of our wonderful city.”
The rail authority EIR/EIS is required to provide public officials and citizens with a clear and transparent presentation of the actual environmental impacts of this segment of the project. Instead, the draft EIR/EIS, comprising thousands of pages and appendices with their own appendices, is riddled with oversights and omissions.
The document is so disorganized that, the city’s letter notes, “[p]eople reading the document – particularly those residing close to (or on) the proposed line – are forced to wade through thousands of pages to search for a straightforward explanation of the impacts of the Project” that in most cases do not exist.
Should the project proceed as planned, and without the environmental impact report and modifications required by law, it would destroy Millbrae’s smart growth plans and to the city’s entire future.
“The EIR/EIS is not only massive, it is massively inadequate,” according to Millbrae City Manager Tom Williams. “It’s simply impossible for any citizen or property owner in Millbrae to locate the information they need to determine how the environmental impacts of the project might affect them or their properties. That goes against the spirit and the letter of the CEQA law and regulations.” Said Williams
The HSRA report inexplicably fails to discuss the environmental impacts of the proposed route of tracks within the city or of the development that is almost certain to occur near Millbrae Station, one of the stops on the line. Neither does the EIR/EIS offer viable alternatives that address those impacts, as required by CEQA.
In one glaring example, the report ignores the fact that Millbrae has already approved and permitted a “smart growth” development project adjacent to the station, one that would create hundreds of environmentally responsible transit-oriented housing units. Instead, the California High Speed Rail report calls for a surface parking lot for rail passengers on the same location – eliminating hundreds of housing even though high-speed rail will increase the demand for housing near the station.
“High-speed rail should be a major contributor to smart growth, so it’s incredibly shocking that the Authority would ignore a planned and approved development of 488 housing units near Millbrae Station.” Gina Papan, Millbrae City Councilmember said.
The EIR report also does not address the noise and vibration impacts of the planned track alignment on adjacent residential neighborhoods, an environmental impact that it is required to consider. The report does not present any viable alternatives that would alleviate these impacts, such as placing the tracks underground, again a violation of CEQA requirements. Additionally, the high speed rail plans directly impact numerous single family homes immediately north of the station area, essentially eliminating their backyards and other structures.
“Millbrae is a champion of smart growth, including transit and transit-oriented development,” said Papan. “This report makes a mockery of those policies and of the law and we have no choice but to file a strong objection. And, we make take other necessary actions to stop the current plans. We want a partner in CHSRA. Instead of working with our community, they are trying to destroy it.”
Contact: Tom Williams
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (650) 259 – 2467
SOURCE City of Millbrae