CGF submitted two sets of comments on the proposed subdivision of the 8,000 acre Castro Valley Ranch, both of them reprinted below. This is a potentially dangerous project, so we'll need to watch it carefully.
December 6, 2006
Rob Eastwood, Senior Planner
Santa Clara County Planning Office
70 West Hedding Street, East Wing, 7th Floor
San Jose, CA 95110
Re: Comments on Castro Valley Ranch Subdivision DEIR
The Committee for Green Foothills submits the following comments on the Castro Valley Ranch Subdivision DEIR.
Missing analysis of growth-inducing impacts within the project.
The DEIR as currently written provides insufficient basis for the County to decide whether to approve the subdivision. The elephant in the room, but not in this DEIR, is that the 16 lot subdivision and road construction will induce the growth of future subdivisions. The less-than one full page discussion of growth inducing impacts of the project (DEIR pg. 154) entirely fails to disclose this impact. It says “Any future development on the project site would be governed by the land use policies and densities of development prescribed in the County General Plan, which is not proposed to change. These land use policies will limit the number of lots that can be created by subdivision each year and the minimum lot size.” The issue, however, is that the paved and extended road, together with lot line adjustments that facilitate future access and future subdivisions across the entire property, induce the possible growth in the form of new future subdivisions that could not occur without the newly configured parcels and new road infrastructure. It is the change to Castro Ranch created by this project that induces growth, the change that many groups are clearly worried about, and that effect is overlooked in the one chance for it to be analyzed.
The DEIR not only fails to disclose the growth inducing impacts, it fails to adequately describe the impacts of how much future subdivision can occur on Castro Ranch because of the new road and lot line changes. The failure to do a slope-density analysis, combined with the failure to indicate how future subdivision cannot feasibly occur without the road extension, means the scope of the impact has not been described.
These issues are the primary, but not exclusive, impacts from the proposed project. The “what’s next” issue is the shoe that we all are waiting and expecting will drop at Castro Ranch. A willful decision to ignore this concern that everyone acknowledges as existing is not only wrong but also a failure to comply with CEQA’s requirement to disclose growth-inducing impacts. For these and other reasons the DEIR as written cannot serve as a basis for the County’s decision over this project.
Other impacts and comments:
Contrary to the discussion on page 154 saying the project won’t provide access to any surrounding areas that lack access, it will provide alternative and improved access to properties served by Whitehurst Road, giving those properties a means to access Highway 101 (by agreement with Castro Ranch landowners) while avoiding Highway 152 traffic. A separate growth inducing impact will be from providing secondary emergency access for Whitehurst Road properties that could be a condition for future development there.
Because the lot line adjustment is treated as a subdivision, approval of this project is equivalent to improving a tentative map, or a parcel map for which a tentative map was not required. Government Code section 66474(e) states such approval is impermissible if the design of the subdivision or the proposed improvements are likely to cause substantial environmental damage or substantially and avoidably injure fish or wildlife or their habitat. The on-site and off-site growth-inducing impacts are likely to cause such impacts.
The DEIR raises several hydrology concerns (DEIR pg 52-55). It fails to analyze potential increases in impervious surfaces from residential development at Castro Valley. This potential increase can be analyzed using similar size project and recent permits to determine an estimate of impervious area from driveways and house sizes. Any change to runoff can be cumulatively significant in the Pajaro watershed, a stream that is impacted by erosion and sedimentation. Compliance with NPDES permits is insufficient to avoid cumulative impacts for sedimentation or other pollutants. NPDES permits set minimum project size and maximum cost levels for mitigations. Unless the County requires a no-net increase in peak flows, it has failed to analyze impacts that could be significant either individually or cumulatively. Reliance on compliance with an NPDES waste discharge requirement is insufficient in and of itself; CEQA mandates that all cumulative impacts be considered and NPDES requirements do not attempt to eliminate all such impacts.
Please contact us if you have any questions.
Brian A. Schmidt
(sent via email)
I would like to add the following comments to Committee for Green Foothills’ previously-submitted comments:
First, as with other County EIRS, the DEIR fails to analyze the cumulative impacts of increased greenhouse gas emissions from the project, particularly from anticipated residential development and use. The DEIR does briefly mention the use of petroleum-based fuels for road construction will contribute greenhouse gases (DEIR at 153) but does no analysis of whether this impact is cumulatively significant, and ignores the greenhouse gas impact from increased road use. Carbon dioxide is the main pollutant causing global warming, which will have significant environmental impacts. The lack of a regulatory standard for carbon dioxide does not mean that it can be ignored, and other agencies take global warming effects into account. See, e.g., "Air Quality Analysis Guidance Handbook" (“The SCAQMD adopted a policy on global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion on April 6, 1990, that committed the SCAQMD to consider global impacts in its rule making and in drafting revisions to the AQMP”) available at www.aqmd.gov/ceqa/handbook/CH3_rev.doc.
Second, without a conservation easement granted to an appropriate agency prohibiting use of the road by persons attempting to get access from Whitehurst Road, there is no guarantee that the project will not promote access to other properties (DEIR at 154).
Third, the DEIR failed to analyze threats that increased tree harvesting would occur as a result of splitting the property up for estate purposes, or from improved road access. Such harvest would be an indirect impact effecting species habitat and hydrology.
Please contact me if you have any questions.