Highway 1 widening was on the City Council agenda June 25, but council kicked this political football downfield, perhaps hoping to buy some time or get some clarity. Click Comments (below) to join our conversation on this contentious issue. We say, "Don't let the highway engineers 'railroad' this project through Pacifica. We deserve full public review and input. Democratic process and local control are at stake." Please see Peter Loeb's analysis of this issue (below).
John Maybury, Editor and Publisher
Analysis: There's a Word for All This, But We Can't Print It
By Peter Loeb
I was concerned about the City Council agenda item choosing a preferred alternative for Highway 1 widening because the public and the city had been told some time ago that no further action was needed by the city. Now we're being told that the city is supposed to choose an alternative so Caltrans can complete the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR). Caltrans, in its usual bureaucratic doublespeak, says it hasn't told the city to select an alternative, but it sent a letter (see link above) saying that an alternative must be selected. The clear implication is that if the city doesn't choose, Caltrans will.
The two choices are widening with a concrete median or widening with a landscaped median. No other alternatives are considered. In the agenda memo for this item, city staff ask City Council to give them direction and to choose the landscaped median as the better-looking of the two alternatives. If the city does not select a preferred alternative, Caltrans will select the concrete median.
The problem is that council is asked to make a decision without benefit of a public input process and without information contained in the 213 comments the public submitted on the draft EIR and that Caltrans supposedly responded to in preparing the FEIR. But council can't see these comments to make its decision on the preferred alternative.
It's quite likely that some comments have important information bearing on the decision. For instance, what are the dimensions of the highway in each alternative? What will be the impacts of each alternative on residences and businesses east of the highway? What will be the impacts of each alternative on businesses in Rockaway that face the highway, and on the entrance to the Rockaway commercial area? What will be the width of pedestrian crossings at Rockaway and Vallemar for each alternative? How long will it take to cross each intersection with each alternative? What will be the visual impacts? Will there be soundwalls for each alternative and, if so, where will they be?
Many more issues like these were raised in the comments on the DEIR. If the FEIR addresses these issues, isn't it important to have these answers before selecting an alternative? Shouldn't the public have access to this information and be allowed to provide input to council prior to its selecting an alternative? If council selects a preferred alternative without any of the relevant information, it essentially will be making the decision blindfolded.
Either way—if council makes this decision without the information in the FEIR and without a public hearing, or if Caltrans selects the alternative because council opts not to—the process is dysfunctional. Council would not comment on the DEIR when it was released and it wouldn't have a public hearing on it because it was told that no further council action was required, so it shouldn't comment on it now. Really?
Council should not make this decision. It should give it back to city staff to say to Caltrans whatever they want to about staff's preferred alternative. It may not make any difference in the long run, but at least Caltrans won't be able to come back to council later and say, "This is the project you selected."
There's a word to describe all of this, but it's against the policies of this blog to post that word.