Front row seated (left to right): Melinda Ruchames, Eric Ruchames. Standing (left to right): Caroline Barba, Susan Vellone, Venette Cook, Connie Menefee, Linda Jonas, James McNally, Patty McNally, Charlotte Jacobs, Amanda Kraal, Gail Benjamin Ruchames Campaign Kickoff
(left to right) Kate Symonds, Margaret Goodale, and Ranger Nelle Lyons on Linda Mar State Beach
By Ian Butler, Riptide Correspondent
In this slow news cycle, with PCT in disarray as it upgrades to the 21st century, here is a new Wavelength episode to hold you over. It documents the installation of the snowy plover fencing at Linda Mar State Beach, and shines a light on the 20-year struggle to protect these threatened shorebirds. Click for Video
PSC attorneys Celeste Langille and Brian Gaffney (Leo Leon photo)
By Peter Loeb, Riptide Correspondent
Pacificans for a Scenic Coast (PSC) has concluded its legal challenge to the Caltrans Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) on the Highway 1 widening.
PSC attorneys Celeste Langille and Brian Gaffney completed their oral arguments at a hearing on August 29. Then City of Pacifica attorney Kevin Siegel presented his oral argument, followed by Caltrans attorney Derek van Hoften. PSC’s attorneys then rebutted.
Langille and Gaffney argued that the project was described as one thing in the draft EIR but became a much bigger project in the final EIR, with huge retaining walls and massive excavations.
They also claimed that Caltrans failed to do a legally required analysis of the project's visual impacts. And they charged that Caltrans did not analyze the project's greenhouse-gas impacts. They also argued that Caltrans improperly limited its analysis of the project's environmental impacts to only the project's footprint, without analyzing impacts on surrounding areas.
Judge Weiner challenged the attorneys on some of their points, but it seemed that she saw the merits of at least some PSC complaints about the FEIR's inadequacy.
At least 22 PSC supporters attended the hearings. Judge Weiner thanked them for being well-behaved during the hearings. The judge has 90 days to deliver her ruling, so the outcome may not be known until the end of November. But a ruling could come much sooner than that.
If the judge decides that some issues raised by PSC have merit, she may require Caltrans to go back and redo the analyses that were found missing. It’s possible that her ruling could require Caltrans to revise and recirculate the EIR, take public comments again, and then respond to those comments in another final EIR.
PSC's lawsuit is unlikely to stop the project, but a second group, Pacificans for Highway 1 Alternatives (PH1A), is doing a variety of things to stop the project, including trying to get the city to apply for grant money to hire a traffic consultant to evaluate all alternatives for reducing traffic, raising the issue in the current City Council race, and considering a referendum or initiative on the project.
PSC Uses CEQA to Challenge Caltrans Highway 1 Widening EIR
In August 2013, Pacificans for a Scenic Coast (PSC) filed suit against Caltrans under the California Environmental Quality Act. On August 22 and 29, Judge Marie Weiner heard that lawsuit in San Mateo County Superior Court. Judge Weiner now has up to 90 days to issue a ruling.
The lawsuit challenges the adequacy of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Highway 1 widening project. The suit contends that: the project was not adequately described at the time of the EIR, the project is out of scale with Pacifica’s scenic nature, the EIR contains contradictory information on impacts on threatened species, and the EIR does not adequately address adverse impacts of the project.
A PSC spokesman says, “Caltrans has approved a project that will more than double the width of the existing roadway, and encase the highway in 9- to 22-foot-high retaining walls. Pedestrians and bicyclists crossing from west to east or east to west would be challenged in crossing such a wide roadway, which as proposed is completely out of scale for a community the size of Pacifica. There were only two alternatives considered by Caltrans, big and bigger. Bigger was Caltrans’ preferred alternative.”
Sprout Farm by Beau Gill Fall Harvest by Larry Calof
"California Agriculture" Art Show, Coastside Land Trust Gallery, 788 Main Street, Half Moon Bay. Exhibit runs through October 24. Gallery hours are Thursdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and by appointment.
Call 650-726-5056, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for up-to-the-minute announcements. We look forward to seeing you soon!
Coastside Land Trust is dedicated to the preservation, protection and enhancement of the open space environment, including the natural, scenic, recreational, cultural, historical, and agricultural resources of the San Mateo County coast for present and future generations. Native Plant $5 Sale! Go green with summertime sale prices on 1-gallon native plants, including coyote bush, currant, bee plant, strawberry, lizard tail, white yarrow, wild rose, and sagebrush. Please visit our office to purchase plants and view our demonstration garden. Coastside Land Trust
The PSC v. Caltrans hearing has concluded. Judge Marie Weiner has 90 days to issue a ruling. PSC's attorneys are Celeste Langille and Brian Gaffney. The opposing attorneys are Derek Van Hoften and Stacey Lau for Caltrans, Kevin Siegel for the City of Pacifica, and Adam Hoffman for the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (SMCTA).
On August 22, the judge and the attorneys agreed to have Caltrans' attorney respond to some oral arguments Gaffney had presented. When Caltrans' attorney defended language in the environmental impact report (EIR) about "vertical separation" between northbound and southbound lanes, the judge asked what that meant. The attorney said it was not grade separation but that the roadway would be “tilted” to allow for views.
The judge did not understand, and questioned the attorney about it. The attorney acknowledged that the Final EIR doesn’t say anything about “vertical separation." Then he maintained that the red-legged frogs wouldn’t travel east of the highway at Calera Creek because they wouldn’t go through the culvert under the highway.
The judge questioned that assertion, but the attorney said it would be too dark in the culvert and too far to go, and that the frogs would die. The judge did not seem to accept this. (In fact, frogs have been documented in the creek east of the highway.)
At the continued hearing on August 29, PSC's attorneys finished presenting their oral arguments, then Caltrans, the City of Pacifica, and SMCTA responded and the PSC attorneys rebutted. The judge now has 90 days to issue her ruling.