Archived News Release from 2009
For Immediate Release
City Council Decides to Revise Environmental Report for Downtown Precise Plan
Redwood City, CA - March 13, 2009 – The City Council of Redwood City has decided to set aside its Downtown Precise Plan and environmental documentation, rather than engage in further lengthy and expensive litigation. This decision was made in light of a court ruling finding several aspects of the Downtown Precise Plan’s environmental impact report (EIR) to be legally inadequate. The Council has determined that it is in the City’s best interest to forego an appeal of the court’s ruling, and avoid the substantial legal expense and uncertain outcome of a 12 -18 month appeal process. The result will be a revised, up-to-date EIR, leading to reinstatement of the Downtown Precise Plan.
The lawsuit by a downtown property owner claimed that the approved Downtown Precise Plan’s environmental documentation did not adequately address the issues of future taller buildings casting shadows on other properties, or of the protection of historic structures in the Downtown area. Although the EIR did address these issues, the trial court determined the EIR to be deficient and found in favor of the property owner.
The City had sought to resolve the deficiencies articulated by the court in hopes of settling the conflict with the property owner, doing significant work to address the issues of shadowing and historic resources. The City intended to offer a supplement to the EIR addressing only the key factors at issue in the lawsuit while retaining the bulk of the original EIR. However, discussions with the plaintiff did not result in reaching any common ground. The judge’s final ruling requires that the existing EIR be set aside, and at that point the EIR will be invalid. There can be no supplement to an invalid EIR, therefore a new EIR must be produced.
“Keeping in mind the best interests of the community, we tried very hard for nearly six months to craft a settlement with the other party that would focus on the issues at the heart of this lawsuit,” said Redwood City Mayor Rosanne Foust. “Despite our best efforts in this very complex matter, we were unable to reach an agreement. Now, we’ll confidently move forward with creating an updated EIR for this project that will clearly and unequivocally comply with the court’s direction by addressing all of the issues raised in the lawsuit.”
The City is in the midst of creating its New General Plan, the document which establishes policies, goals, and programs for the long-term physical development of the entire community. Once that is completed later in 2009, including its own programmatic EIR, the City will focus on completing the revision of the Downtown Precise Plan EIR, incorporating not only the shadowing and historic resources aspects, but also updating other sections that may have changed since the first EIR was produced. Among those are traffic and noise, air quality, and new laws related to climate change/greenhouse gas emissions. The revised EIR will then be re-circulated in draft form for public comment before being finalized, and is expected to be completed in spring of 2010.
A number of segments of the existing EIR can be utilized in the revised EIR document. The opportunity to revise and refresh other parts, as well as incorporate the shadowing and historic aspects, will result in a more comprehensive EIR and Downtown Precise Plan.
“This is already an exceptional, award-winning plan with great community and business support, bringing a visionary approach and innovative concepts to addressing the needs of our community,” said City Manager Peter Ingram. “Incorporating a comprehensive study of the issues raised in the lawsuit, as well as updating other factors, will give us the opportunity to make this plan even better and more current. It will be more responsive to the community, while offering clear and beneficial guidelines – and a higher level of certainty about those guidelines – to potential developers.”
Barring any last–minute compromise that may lead to a supplemental EIR, the City Council will take initial action at its March 16 meeting to set aside the Downtown Precise Plan and its associated environmental documentation. That action will be finalized at its meeting on March 23.
The Downtown Precise Plan outlines Downtown Redwood City’s future urban design, land uses, housing, architectural styles and other developmental aspects. With the City Council’s leadership over the last several years, development of the plan included a great deal of community involvement and input as residents, business people, developers, housing advocates, and others shared creative ideas and opinions, and helped the City to move forward in producing this important blueprint for the future. The Council anticipates bringing the plan to fruition in an improved form, and providing the opportunity for thoughtful, smart, community-based development as our Downtown moves forward.
Visit Redwood City’s award-winning website at www.redwoodcity.org for information about the City and its services, the community, recreation programs, education, and local business. Subscribe to Redwood City’s newsletters or other documents by visiting www.redwoodcity.org/egov.