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New Lawsuit Filed on Highway 1 Widening

PSC Complaint
On September 6, a group calling itself Pacificans for a Scenic Coast (PSC) filed suit in San Mateo County Superior Court against Caltrans, the San Mateo County Transportation Authority, and the City of Pacifica. The suit alleges numerous violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by the agencies in the Environmental Impact Report approval process for proposed widening of Highway 1 between Rockaway Beach and Vallemar. Pacifica attorney Celeste Langille filed suit for the group, which is publicly represented by Peter Loeb, plaintiff in a separate lawsuit on the highway widening. Also mentioned in the complaint as part of the group are local activists Bill Collins and Mitch Reid. Below is PSC's official press release.

William Boyce, Riptide Correspondent


Pacificans for a Scenic Coast (PSC) has filed suit against Caltrans under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The suit 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, that the project is out of scale with Pacifica’s scenic nature, that the EIR contains contradictory information on impacts on threatened species, and that the EIR does not adequately address adverse impacts of the project.The suit says in part:

“Caltrans has approved a project that will more than double the width of the existing roadway, and encase the highway in 9-foot-high 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.”

Caltrans’ EIR concluded there would not be a single significant impact from the project.

"To reach this conclusion, the EIR relied on contradictory information and, more importantly, analysis which ignored its own stated thresholds of significance, and the standards established by CEQA law. For example, while the construction phase of the project is expected to last for at least two years, Caltrans avoided proper analysis of these impacts by labeling them simply as ‘temporary,’ or construction related. Likewise Caltrans ignored its own visual thresholds for significance by not considering the public’s overwhelming objections to the numerous aesthetic impacts of the proposed project.”

The suit contends that the project description is contradictory and inadequate.

“CEQA requires that the EIR includes an ‘accurate’ project description. At minimum it must include a detailed map with the ‘precise’ location and boundaries of the proposed project.”

“Instead the EIR vaguely described the project as widening ‘primarily on the west side of the roadway,’ varying somewhere from ’20 feet to 50 feet wide,’ and referencing pictures which are purely conceptual and ‘not to be used as official record.’ In conjunction, the width of the highway at the pedestrian and bicyclist crossing points was not adequately described.”

“The project does not contain an adequate project description by inconsistently stating that south of Fassler Avenue the project will consist of three lanes in each direction, but also stating that only two lanes will extend south of Fassler Avenue."

"Further the EIR includes photos of the highway after the project construction which omit one of the required project retaining walls. The list of the numerous retaining walls involved in the project, which number in thousands of feet of length, was not provided until the final EIR. By failing to accurately describe the project as detailed above, the EIR prevented adequate analysis of project impacts and mitigations, thus preventing informed decision making.”

“The EIR is internally contradictory regarding California red-legged frogs on the east side of the highway, stating both that they are not known east of Highway 1, yet that the frogs cross east of Highway 1 and that Calera Creek provides habitat east of Highway 1 which may support dispersing of California red-legged frogs...The EIR failed to adequately analyze and consider a reasonable range of potentially feasible alternatives” which was a “failure to proceed as required by law."

About Pacificans for a Scenic Coast
Pacificans for a Scenic Coast (PSC) is a new organization working to protect, preserve, and restore scenic coastal environs within the City of Pacifica.

PSC Contact: Cynthia Kaufman


Phone: 650-557-9797


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Do you have a report from this "professional traffic engineer," Mr. Leon? A name even? Proof, as they say here. Otherwise, it's really meaningless. It sounds like he/she suggested alternatives that have already been proven by real experts not to be viable, e.g., traffic light timing and school schedules. But thank you for your efforts.

Chris, you should be a traffic engineer. You could surely offer as supine an opinion to the city as its servants do.

"Oh yes, everything is FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIne."

Sorry, Lionel, the Chamber of Commerce runs businesses in this town and knows about traffic. You live in the Manor area, so are not subjected to it every day, even weekends, with the tunnel making matters worse. As far as Ocean Shore School goes, you live on the side that is right by the freeway on-ramp, so that shouldn't bother you either. The only "tale makers" are you and your friends.

In my recent post, I quoted a professional traffic engineer's opinion on Highway 1 during our ride and observations. It was clear that the pedestrian cycle was stopping traffic for the dog walkers and others to cross Highway 1 at Reina del Mar. A pedestrian overcrossing for the walkers, bike riders, and students who use the SamTrans bus stop would clearly be a benefit. His point was simple: Saving seconds here and there adds to total minutes saved for traffic flow. Finding ways to fund and implement a variety of alternatives is reasonable. How many buses and other alternative solutions will $50 million buy? When the facts come out on Caltrans' plans, people will begin to understand how significant and negative the impacts will be. Alternative solutions will be demanded. We do need solutions. I suggest we start thinking about the alternatives now.

"1. The school district has already said buses are not an option, and it won't be altering school start times. And school is not the problem; there's heavy traffic every day at rush hour, morning and afternoon and on weekends."

Not my experience on Pacifica's roads in the summer, when school's out, and that includes the Manor Drive bridge near where I live, but then I'm an "untrained amateur."

"There will not be giant soundwalls, as stated by some."

How do you know that, when no clear drawing schematic, whatever, has been provided?

"And sorry, but I believe our police and fire (over untrained amateurs) when they say the current highway is unsafe and leads to delays in emergency response."

So like most of the "untrained amateurs" out here, I say: "Where is the evidence?" Dude, you should stop believing in Chamber of Commerce fairy tales.

Mr. Leon, with all due respect:

1. The school district has already said buses are not an option, and it won't be altering school start times. And school is not the problem; there's heavy traffic every day at rush hour, morning and afternoon and on weekends.

2. The company that does the traffic light timing that everyone talked about here said in its report to the city that it isn't an option in this circumstance because there's not enough capacity.

3. Pedestrians are not the problem and neither are large trucks.

We need to widen the highway, as the real experts have said. There will not be giant soundwalls, as stated by some. People are not going to abandon their cars and telecommute. And sea level rise has nothing to do with this.

The new highway will be more attractive and safer than what we have now with a landscaped median. And it will make it easier to exit at Rockaway and Vallemar, which will help out those businesses.

And sorry, but I believe our police and fire (over untrained amateurs) when they say the current highway is unsafe and leads to delays in emergency response.

I drove Highway 1 during the morning commute with a traffic engineer last week. He suggested that a multifaceted approach would help relieve congestion. Adjust school start time schedule, add school buses, install traffic signal improvements, and add a pedestrian overpass at Reina del Mar to eliminate the intersection's pedestrian walk cycle. Also discussed was having large trucks like cement trucks and trash haulers alter their schedules and avoid the peak commute time.

"The tunnel has increased the use of this highway."

Now that is an exaggeration. There is no factual basis to support this claim.

"What will you do when that fails? Human sacrifice?"

No, Chris, when you tell the truth, apart from your huge debt you owe to this city government for the job you hold, we'll all fall down dead.

Hi, all: I do leave at different times every day depending on what my schedule entails and traffic is the same. My husband does miss it at 4:30 a.m. each day. A majority of the time, my job duties require me to be onsite, so that is where I am. Discussion has gone on for years, but previously the same people saying they were not involved in discussions were fighting against any Quarry development because the "already bad traffic" would be worse with the influx of traffic to the Quarry. Now, there is no problem and because the City Council agrees with your first assessment, now you are going to the courts. What will you do when that fails? Human sacrifice?

"Fire and police say we need it for safety, and our City Council has said it wants this to move forward."

Uh, Bobby, fire and police may say so, but they haven't presented one shred of hard evidence that we've EVER had a problem to date.
There's your "junk science."

According to the Caltrans Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), this is NOT a safety project. Safety is not the "purpose and need" of the project. Adding lanes will not improve access for emergency vehicles. The FEIR says, "The intent of the shoulder widening would be to improve emergency vehicle response times" but this alternative is rejected because it "would not meet the purpose and need" of the project. If fire and police say the widened highway is needed for safety, they misunderstand what Caltrans is proposing. What happens when a major accident or natural disaster closes the widened highway and north-south access is cut off entirely? The extra lanes won't help fire or police then. What's needed for safety are widened shoulders and a frontage road that provides an alternative route between Rockaway/Fassler and Vallemar/Fairway Park in case of emergency. Widening the highway does not improve safety, and Caltrans acknowledges this in the FEIR.

Yes, we have talked about this for 25 years. This is a much-needed safety project. No, Todd, a manager can't work from home; neither can most of us. All these harebrained ideas about timing lights and school schedules are all junk science.

I believe most Pacificans who commute every day know that road needs to be widened. Fire and police say we need it for safety, and our City Council has said it wants this to move forward.

"We've talked about this for 25 years."

If "we" had, there would have been an ongoing public dialog between the city and various agencies AND THE PUBLIC. The public was left out of this one, and the City of Pacifica -- which is a Project Sponsor -- has said virtually nothing publicly.

Which is how the City of Pacifica gave its electorate a very expensive boondoggle.

Carl: PSC is currently setting up a mechanism to receive donations. Contributions will be sorely needed to cover administrative costs. The info will be posted here as soon as it's available.

Hi, Chris, I imagine that as manager of Recology most of your work is in the digital realm. While I respect your job, a lot of it is voice and email reply, which hardly requires you to be at the office. Another thought is to leave your home earlier or later, but you've already said several times you don't want to.

A smart phone could easily be your "office" desk, which would put you "at work" anywhere in the world, even on vacation. Is your commute really worth $50 million plus the unaccounted-for tens of millions of dollars already spent on this project by city, county, and state employees?

"We have talked about this for 25 years, you newcomers."

No, Chris, "we" haven't. The agencies have, if you read Todd's excellent research, and they decided long ago what's best for us.

The City Council has been in favor of this project for a long time, and several members back. Sue Digre is the only one I know of who's actually voiced objections. The rest have cowered behind closed doors at public opinion, and obfuscated when the great unwashed public has been given the very few and inadequate opportunities to tell Caltrans, et al., what they think of this monstrous plan.

And try 56 years in this town for my family, and we ain't leavin'!

The biggest contributor to the backup is people not paying attention and not accelerating when the light turns green and not keeping up with the car in front of them! Easily twice as many cars could pass through each light cycle if people would just pay attention and drive their freaking cars instead of letting huge gaps open up!

Ain't relentless, unsustainable, one-percent-enriching population growth just ducky?

As an admirer of those attempting to defend literacy, numeracy, and ecolacy, and as a daily commuter between Moss Beach and Eureka Square in Pacifica, I'd like to know if PSC is set up and willing to accept donations to help with this legal effort.

Chris, 35-plus years. But it depends on who is counting.

Mr. Caltrans, tear down this soundwall.

My prediction came true that now that people in the PSC no longer have control of the City Council and cannot get their wishes done in that venue, the court system would be next choice. I travel this corridor every morning and the traffic is awful. The tunnel has increased the use of this highway, so get a grip on whatever you feel the problem is and let us other longtime Pacificans enjoy the coastal living also. Do me a favor, too, if it's not too much to ask, and stop exaggerating. We have talked about this for 25 years, you newcomers. The time to take action is now.

@Bobby Hutchinson:

I posted a response to your post on fixpacifica. However, it hasn't yet appeared.

I will get back to you with a detailed answer later today.

(Editor's Note: Dear Conan the Libertarian, since you use a screen name and a fake email address, I have no idea where to send your bill for advertising your post on our rival site Fix Pacifica. But since FP's Steve Sinai is a fellow Forester driver, I will comp you this time. Just don't push your luck.)


How about mandating that all persons of ability should use their feet and/or bicycles for their transport in Pacifica?

I will get back to you with an explanation of why the current traffic light setup actually contributes to more pollution later today.

Meanwhile, I'd suggest studying up on the effects of "stop-and-go" and "slowing-down" driving on gas-fueled engine vehicles.

Also, if you want pristine, untouched environment, there might be a spot for you in the Amazon jungle or the Himalayas. Just maybe.

What a pleasant surprise to wake up this morning and see this wonderful news about a lawsuit being filed against three separate public agencies that have been acting like sovereigns to date regarding this Calera Parkway Project nonsense. Having set up the Project Development Team that consists of employees from all three agencies (City of Pacifica, Caltrans, and San Mateo County Transportation Authority), these three agencies have spent to date well over $5 million on outside consultants alone, not including the untold man hours put into this project by the staffs of all three agencies.

After numerous trips to the District 4 offices to view mountains of files on the Calera Parkway Project dating back to the 1960s, it's clear to me that staff time equals (if not greatly surpasses) the amount of money wasted on private consultants. So for a project that is advertised as costing about $50 million, it's already spent at least $10 million if not $20 million on staff time. Who knew the widening proposal was such a moneymaker for state, county, and city engineers?

Thank you, PSC, I'm glad it's you and not me.

"But if they are willing to remove the lights at Vallemar and Rockaway, and build an exit/entry ramp, then it will work."

If you want a freeway through town, move to Southern California -- or Miami Beach.

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