Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Appellate Panel Upholds EIR for Huge Development at Former Naval Base in San Francisco Bay
By a MetNews Staff Writer
San Francisco’s environmental impact report for a proposed $1.5 billion development in the middle of San Francisco Bay satisfies the California Environmental Quality Act, the First District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
The court affirmed a San Francisco Superior Court judge’s ruling rejecting a challenge by Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island, which sued after the city’s Board of Supervisors approved the EIR in 2011.
The city’s Treasure Island Development Authority obtained unanimous approval from the board for plans to create a $1.5 billion development with 20,000 residents at the former Navy base on the island. The plans include up to 8,000 residential units, at least 25 percent being designated as affordable housing; up to 140,000 square feet of new commercial and retail space; up to 100,000 square feet of new office space; restoration and reuse of historic buildings on Treasure Island; about 500 hotel rooms; public utilities; 300 acres of parks, playgrounds, and public open space; bike and transit facilities; and a new ferry terminal and intermodal transit hub.
The 404-acre island was built on fill in San Francisco Bay to accommodate the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. The island and the adjacent Yerba Buena Island were taken over by the Navy in 1941.
The Navy ended its operations there in 1997, and has promised to clean up the site, which all parties acknowledged to have significant hazardous waste, before transferring it to the development authority.
The citizens group that challenged the EIR said it lacked adequate information about the cleanup, but Superior Court Judge Teri Jackson and the Court of Appeal both disagreed.
Presiding Justice Ignacio Ruvolo, writing for Div. Four, explained:
“[T]he ‘operating assumption’ is that the Navy will complete the cleanup before the property is conveyed to the City. Although no early transfer is planned, the EIR acknowledges that under certain circumstances the [development authority] or its affiliated agency… could enter into an agreement with the Navy to assume responsibility for remediation of a particular site.”
The city, he said, satisfied its obligations by identifying the local, state, and federal laws and regulations that govern the cleanup, the agencies responsible for overseeing it, and the standards that must be met. “It is emphasized that in the event [the developer] assumes responsibility for cleanup efforts, it would be subject to the same environmental regulations and regulatory oversight as the Navy,” he wrote.
He acknowledged the petitioner’s argument that a clause in the development agreement might allow the developer to move part of the project to an alternative site if the toxics problem at the present planned site proves insoluble. But it was not necessary for the EIR to address this possibility, Ruvolo said, because the possibility that such a shift will be necessary is “purely speculative.”
The case is Citizens for a Sustainable Treasure Island v. City and County of San Francisco (Treasure Island Community Development, LLC) 14 S.O.S. 3522.
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