By Tina Richards
The recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the housing project slated for the Sully-Miller property did not address the concerns or answer the questions raised by the city of Villa Park when it responded to the original document last April.
Villa Park’s primary issue with the project centers on traffic congestion, and thousands of truck trips routed through the city during construction. A consultant hired by the city to review the recirculated DEIR told the city council, Dec. 18, that the second document does not “note any revisions in response to comments submitted by the City of Villa Park.”
The city prepared a new set of comments (that were due Dec. 31) detailing the issues it still wants answers to. If the City of Orange (the lead agency on the housing project) certifies the DEIR without addressing Villa Park’s concerns, Orange will, according to City Manager Steve Franks, “have to explain why it approved the document when significant unmitigated impacts occur.”
Villa Park missing
Noticeably absent in the recirculated DEIR was any analysis of traffic and construction impacts beyond Orange’s city limits. The document notes that regional access to the site is provided via the 55 Freeway, the toll roads and local streets, including Santiago Canyon Road and Cannon.
Villa Park notes that Santiago Canyon Road becomes Villa Park Road west of Hewes Street, and access from the 55 is through the city.
Although the DEIR estimates the project will require up to 275,400 haul trips, there is no analysis of the truck volume expected to pass through Villa Park.
While the document’s air quality analysis estimates that 50 percent of construction traffic would use Villa Park streets, there is no mention of any impacts on that city, which, as noted in its April comments, includes “sensitive land uses, such as homes and schools.”
The original DEIR traffic analysis, done in 2011, notes an expected decrease in level of service on Santiago Canyon Road at build out. The analysis, however, stops east of Lemon Street. “The DEIR does not acknowledge Villa Park jurisdiction, nor analyze traffic impacts within the city, as requested in previous city comments,” said a summary staff report to the city council.
The summary report also pointed out “differing statements regarding the construction period.” In the project description section, it is 24 months; in the air quality section, 4.5 years; and in the noise section, 12 months.
The city’s consultant had reviewed only the portion of the recirculated DEIR pertaining to traffic. Three Orange Park Acres residents appeared before the council to explain some of the other issues associated with the Sully-Miller property and proposed housing project.
Peter Jacklin listed several factors that cannot be mitigated – methane gas, buried green and metal waste, two fault lines transecting the land, and another running west of it. He noted that the dirt mounds that overwhelm the property were dumped there illegally, and the upstream Villa Park dam is 80 years old -- and it, too, sits on a fault line.
Theresa Sears explained that the original DEIR released earlier this year was so flawed it “couldn’t be certified, and that’s why they’re recirculating it.” She mentioned the two previous projects planned for the site that were overturned or denied, and presented a letter penned by former Villa Park Mayor Bob Bell, in 1999, asking that the Fieldstone project (the first of two) “stay consistent with the Santiago Creek Greenbelt Plan that the city had ratified in the 1970s.”
“This project is all about a zone change,” she said. “Everything else -- quakes, floods, methane, liquefaction, fire, reclamation of mined land -- is being deferred.”
One way out
Laura Thomas told the council that during the last fire, it took East Orange residents an hour to get down Santiago Canyon Road to the freeway. “This is a public safety issue,” she said. “How long will it take when residents of the new housing tract are also trying to evacuate?”
Council members were apparently listening to their Orange Park Acres neighbors. “The issues not considered are of concern,” Mayor Vince Rossini said. “Traffic is already untenable between 3 and 6 p.m. We’re adding more to what is now a parking lot.”
“Methane piques my interest,” Crystal Miles interjected. “How many parts per million? Can we include that in our comments? It’s a good idea to know what we are looking at.”
Bob Collacott reported that there were explosive levels of methane measured at the firehouse (across the street) 25 years ago. “That’s what brought on the methane extraction system that you see there now,” he said. “I’d like to see that addressed in the DEIR.”
The bigger picture
Collacott also asked about a reclamation plan for the former sand and gravel mine. “Is there one? If not, when will there be one? I would like to know how reclamation efforts will impact Villa Park.”
“Given the context and concerns,” Chad Zimmerman mused, “is there some other action we can take?”
Franks advised that Villa Park was following the legally proscribed process. “We need to establish a trail of concerns in case of a lawsuit,” he said. “EIR’s are challenged legally on a regular basis. Our appropriate action is to provide comments by Dec. 31.”
“We have neighbors in Villa Park that are a stone’s throw from where this is. We should be considering other impacts,” Mayor Pro Tem Robbie Pitts advised. “There are things brought up that are worthy of our viewpoint in the comments letter. I heard faults, earthquakes, a dam sitting out there, methane, state mining problems, air quality; all things to take into consideration.”
The council agreed that the final comment letter should include those other elements and be submitted to Orange before the December deadline.
Villa Park says recirculated Sully-Miller
project DEIR ignores its input