Agencies find fault with East Orange project
The Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) submitted by developer Milan Capital to assess its proposed Trails at Santiago Creek housing tract’s effects on its surroundings has been deemed inadequate by almost every agency and individual who has reviewed it.
Environmental impact reports are mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to identify the short and long-term consequences a development project will convey on traffic, noise, water and air quality, and wildlife. It must also address soil conditions, grading and pollutants. The report must also offer adequate mitigation measures when a specific impact is “significant.” A general description of the proposed project—units, location -- should also be included.
The Trails at Santiago Creek DEIR falls short, according to reviewers, on nearly every facet. Of the 131 comment letters received, 12 were from agencies that identified the document’s shortcomings in the areas of concern to them, two were from individuals supporting the project, one needed more information, and 116 residents opposed the project or took issue with the DEIR.
From the Department of Toxic Substances Control: “The DEIR should determine whether current or historic use at the site may have resulted in any release of hazardous wastes. Proper investigation, sampling and remedial actions should be conducted prior to any construction.”
Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board: “We would like to know more about the location of the storm drain facilities. We want to ensure that this project does not introduce surface water on, or adjacent to, the VP landfill. Excessive run-on could potentially contaminate ground water beneath the site.”
OC Health Care Agency: “Will there be a minimum distance between the nearest enclosed structures and the landfill boundary line? Landfill gas can migrate through utility trenches and conduits.” The agency recommends “methane gas sensors under the slab for each structure within 1,000 feet of the landfill and indoor methane sensors with audible alarms in any common use structures within 1,000 feet.”
OC Waste and Recycling: “The human health risk analysis lacks sufficient details. Will the grading plan, which was not included, require grading into the refuse [landfill] mass? The DEIR does not contain a surface water drainage exhibit.”
Fish and Wildlife: “Our primary concerns are related to the management of mitigation obligations, impacts to remaining open space and impacts to the least Bell’s vireo. We recommend that the final EIR be amended to include data from comprehensive surveys in order to identify all potential impact to sensitive species.”
OC Public Works: “It is recommended that the EIR include a description of project characteristics with respect to water quality issues, known soil contamination, known groundwater contamination and anticipated changes in the impervious surface area.”
City of Villa Park: “The impacts along Villa Park Road were not analyzed, and therefore, neglected. Existing conditions of the areas of Villa Park potentially impacted by construction, including noise, traffic and air quality, were not identified.”
City of Irvine: “There would appear to be an under-representation of the increase in traffic caused by the proposed project. There appears to be inconsistency related to the configuration of outbound lanes at the project driveway: one bullet describes one outbound lane, and another bullet describes two outbound lanes.”
Mabury Ranch residents: “How can we add more traffic to this area? I would appreciate an answer as to how the traffic impact will be addressed.”
“I’m concerned about the impact that 129 residences will have on the wildlife in the area.”
“Look at the recent fires. Not only could we not get out in a timely manner, those that were out took hours to get back in to pick up family members.”
“At rush hour it is gridlock along Santiago and Cannon.”
The Reserve: “The traffic is so bad that cars are backed up from Cannon to the cemetery. We don’t want any of the plans submitted. Let the owners clean up the property since they were the ones who turned it into a dump.”
“We moved here to own horses, enjoy chickens, pigs and other livestock. This is only possible due to the OPA Specific Plan, requiring homes on a minimum of one acre. I don’t understand why this company purchased land not zoned for it's intended purpose.”
Jamestown/The Colony: “I question how the city could certify a DEIR that is filled with inaccuracies and flaws. It states that Santiago Creek originates at Irvine Lake, which belittles its significance. It actually originates at Santiago Peak and is the largest tributary to the Santa Ana River. The flood plain is significant, and needs to be considered.”
“I’m not sure the developer has taken into consideration the constraints of the riparian habitat, songbirds and raptors. I would expect that the creek bed be restored and all restoration be done onsite, not mitigated through purchase credits offsite.”
“The DEIR disrespects the concerns of citizens by downplaying significant impacts and ignoring the cumulative impacts brought about by existing and proposed developments within the Santiago Creek watershed and City of Orange.”
“I could not find a plot map or tract map showing where each house will be located. What is this community going to look like?”
Orange: “There was strong opposition to a previous project due to flooding in event of upstream dam failure. Is a ‘plan to evacuate everyone’ at some unannounced crisis sufficient? The DEIR states that any flood risk would be mitigated by an evacuation plan.”
“I am shocked to read that much of the debris in the Sully-Miller site would be reworked into the soil brought into the area. This accumulation is part of the purchase price, and the developer should be responsible for removing it, not burying it onsite.”
“There is no consideration for existing equestrian traffic.”
And from OPA: “I cannot see how any productive analysis can be made without a plan provided of what will be specifically constructed. Knowing the density, layout, lot sizes, proposed number of occupants would be necessary to formulate any productive comments.”
“Per the surface mining and reclamation act of 1975, a reclamation plan must be included. Surrounding communities are entitled to know what contamination exists.”
Milan Capital must now respond to the comments on the DEIR and create a final Environmental Impact Report that must be certified by the City of Orange.
Or, as one 56-year Orange resident suggests: “Take this DEIR and shove it back into the hands of the developer that gave it to you.”