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