Time to Comment on the Blair Park EIR

The draft environmental impact report for the Moraga Canyon Sports Field Project is on Piedmont’s website. Folks have until August 9 to comment on the report. Before the deadline, Piedmont will hold two public hearings on the draft. The huge document is already under some pretty heavy scrutiny by residents who don’t want to see the complex built.

The Canyon in Spring

Sandra Pohutsky, from Friends of Moraga Canyon, wrote in an email to her neighbors that the EIR “finds that the project would have significant impact on traffic and circulation, land use and planning policy, aesthetics and three other areas which cannot be significantly mitigated.”

Pohutsky cites the report in noting that the sports fields would not have enough parking, and a proposed pedestrian bridge spanning Moraga would increase peril to pedestrians rather than make the street safer.

It would also take a toll on the canyon’s natural beauty. Some 55 native coast live oaks would be chopped down. The 100 replacements would be planted somewhere else.

Perhaps the most serious problem raised in the EIR deals with traffic. Cars flooding in and out of the parking lot before and after games “cause significant and unavoidable impact.” The consultants propose stationing police officers on the street during busy times, a suggestion that Pohutsky finds risible.

And that “significant and unavoidable” phrase has a very particular meaning in the arcane language of California’s environmental laws. Piedmont is essentially setting itself up to say, “Yes. We know there’s a problem that can’t be mitigated, but we are going to override these concerns because the public benefits outweigh the problems.” This throws the debate out of a technical realm where data can back up a position and into a squishier zone where opposing sides argue about what’s best for the community.

Pohutsky writes that an idea in the EIR to build a smaller sports complex, which would preserve one-third of Blair Park, would not solve the problems raised above.

Eric Angstadt in Oakland’s Planning Department said that his office is reviewing the technical elements of the EIR and will likely have comments before the deadline.

Here’s what you need to know about commenting on the EIR:

Public Hearings: The City will hold two public hearings on the Draft EIR on July 19, 2010 and August 2, 2010 at the Piedmont City Hall Council Chambers located at 120 Vista Avenue, Piedmont, California. The public hearings will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Public Review Period: This Notice of Availability of the Draft EIR commences a 45-day public review period starting on Thursday, June 24, 2010. Interested persons are invited to review and comment on the Draft EIR. Written comments (via email or mail) on the Draft EIR must be submitted to:

City of Piedmont
120 Vista Avenue
Piedmont, California 94611
Attention: Ann Swift, City Clerk

Written comments on the Draft EIR must be submitted no later than 5:00 p.m. on Monday, August 9, 2010.

For further information, contact Ann Swift, City Clerk, at (510) 420-3040 or by email at aswift@ci.piedmont.ca.us or Mark Delventhal, Recreation Director, at (510) 420-3073 or by email at mdelventhal@ci.piedmont.ca.us.

Could Kaplan Shake Up District Four Race?

It was no big surprise Wednesday when Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland’s At-large Council member, said she was officially running for mayor. She’s been more than hinting that she wants the city’s top job since early spring.

The Oakland Tribune’s story on Kaplan’s announcement focused on what it will mean to Jean Quan and Don Perata, the contests other two main participants. Perata made a sly crack about Kaplan’s relative youth (she’s 39). Quan quite rightly expressed fear about a “split in the progressive vote.”

The Bay Citizen, the new online news partnership between UC Berkeley and The New York Times, concerned itself chiefly with the lesbian angle. If she wins, Kaplan would be the only openly gay mayor in the Bay Area. Oakland would be the third largest city in the country, after Houston and Portland, to have an out mayor. The Bay Citizen noted that Oakland has one of the largest lesbian populations in the nation.

Kaplan has another advantage. She’s already won a citywide election, 84,000 Oaklanders have already cast a vote for her. Look at this map of the precincts that backed her when she ran for City Council just two years ago. Kaplan’s precincts are orange. Kerry Hamill’s are blue.

The question for voters in Montclair is what will this mean for the District Four race. Is it possible that Jean Quan could decide that a split progressive vote would be no match for Perata, and opt to run as the incumbent in District Four for a third term? If that happened, would any of the contenders vying for her seat have a prayer? Quan has until August 6 to change her mind.

Update: As she said in a comment below, Jean Quan says she has absolutely no intention of leaving the mayor’s race. Richard Cowan, her chief of staff, said the same thing in a phone conversation this morning.

A Public Service Announcement from Youth Uprising

There’s considerable concern in the city right now about what the reaction will be to a verdict in the Oscar Grant trial. We hope this video from the brilliant young artists at East Oakland’s Youth Uprising is seen far and wide. It’s precisely the message that needs to be heard.