Comments on EIR:
Comments about MAEP
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COMMENTS ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT (EIR)
AMY SKEWES-COX, AICP
P.O. Box 422
Ross, CA 94957
17 October 2008
Mr. Jack Witthaus
Transportation and Traffic Manager
City of Sunnyvale
P.O. Box 3707
Sunnyvale, CA 94088-3707
Re: Peer Review of Mary Avenue Extension Final EIR
Dear Mr. Witthaus;
Many thanks for asking me to provide a peer review of the Administrative Draft Final EIR (ADFEIR)
for the Mary Avenue Extension. As you know, I was not involved in the project or the subsequent
preparation of the ADFEIR. Thus, my review focused on the adequacy of responses to public
comments, the issue of public disclosure, and the adequacy of the Draft EIR, as related to the
issues raised in public comments. As we all know, there are a variety of methodologies used in
CEQA documents. My comments stem from my professional experience and the methods with
which I am most familiar.
In my letter to you dated September 2, 2008, I raised a number of issues. The most significant
issue was related to the definition of “Background” or “Existing Setting”. In my experience, it is
common practice and a CEQA requirement to compare project impacts to existing, current-day
conditions. On this point, you have helped to clarify a number of points to which I will respond.
Your letter to me dated October 14, 2008 includes a summation of 16 points that I raised in my
September 2nd letter. These responses helped to clarify most but not all of the concerns I’d raised.
Comment 1: It appears that you have incorporated many of my minor editorial comments.
Comment 2: Your response helps to clarify why conditions forecast by models to occur in 2020
were used as “Background” . However, I also note that you prepared a table showing projectrelated
traffic increases on Mary Avenue and other streets as related to “Existing” conditions.
Similar to what was shown for the proposed project, it appears that the most significant traffic
increases along Mary Avenue are north of Maude (94 to 220% increase) in an area that is
predominantly industrial and along Almanor Avenue east of Mary Avenue (75% increase).
At the time of my review, I was not aware of the adopted Santa Clara Valley Transportation
Authority’s (VTA) “Transportation Impact Analysis Guidelines” (2004) that you mention in your
October 14 letter. To my knowledge, the ADFEIR did not refer to or cite this as an authority.
Apparently, mitigation measures are to be based on project impacts as related to the assumed
“Background” conditions rather than as related to “Existing” conditions. Based on my CEQA
experience, this may not comport with the CEQA Guidelines; however, given the project’s expected
timeline for completion and the VTA methodology used throughout the County, I can understand
why this approach was used. The approach for CEQA analyses can be quite varied, based on my
experience throughout Northern California.
You have clarified that the project is not likely to be funded, designed, and built for quite some time
and that the Year 2020 was a more realistic time at which the project would be completed. For this
reason, Year 2020, with and without the project, was the basis of the analysis. This methodology
would seem to comport with the VTA Guidelines.
Your noise analysis does mention the change in noise by comparing future levels to existing levels,
with and without the project (page 62 of Draft EIR). Given the data provided in your October 14
letter that included a revised Table 2.0-6 showing “Existing Plus Project” traffic levels, it appears
that the only segment where there is a doubling of traffic levels (and subsequently a possible 3
dBA increase in noise levels which is the criterion for significance), is Mary Avenue south of
Almanor, an area that is predominantly industrial.
It appears that you have also concluded that air quality impacts would also not be significant if one
compared project traffic levels to “existing” (vs. 2020 Background) levels. However, I have not
seen an URBEMIS model run analysis (commonly used in CEQA documents) for criteria pollutants
such as NOX, CO, and PM 2.5, nor am I a qualified air quality scientist to evaluate this topic. I
address this issue again in Comment 11 below.
Comment 3: These concerns have been addressed by your response to Comment 2.
Comment 4: It was not clear that when you stated that the “Environmentally-Superior” alternative
was the Proposed Project that you meant the “Proposed Project with All Mitigation Measures
Incorporated”. It is common practice to include an alternative called the “Mitigated Alternative”.
However, your response has helped to clarify why this was identified as the “Environmentally-
Comment 5: You have clarified why no additional project objectives are required.
Comment 6: My reason for requesting tables was due to the fact that Figures 2.0-3 and 2.0-4
address peak hour traffic. Table 2.0-6 addresses only average daily traffic rather than AM/PM
peak hour counts which would be the more relevant impact. I would assume that the City has that
data . That data must have been used to develop the AM/PM data shown in Table 2.0-7. You have
adequately addressed the issue of land uses in the project area.
Comment 7: Your new text on page 158 of the FEIR appears adequate regarding land use.
Comment 8: It appears that a large share of the City’s traffic is due to traffic from areas outside of
the City. I would think that this is due to significant job centers within Sunnyvale that draw
employees from a much larger geographic area. Your response is adequate on this issue.
Comment 9: Page 157 of the FEIR adequately addresses and clarifies the issue.
Comment 10: Your response is adequate.
Comment 11: While I am not an air quality expert, your response regarding air quality seems to be
adequate in regard to CO levels using your comparison with Lawrence Expressway. And
according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) 1999 CEQA Guidelines,
Table 10, CO emissions are expected to go down in future years (as measured in grams per mile)
due to cleaner fuels.
I did speak with Ashley Nguyen of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) about the
air analysis on the Regional Transportation Program (RTP) and the TIP. An EIR is done on the
RTP but not the TIP. The RTP analysis (which addresses multiple regional transportation projects)
did show improvements in air as related to ROG, NOX and CO. The main criteria pollutants of
concern were PM 10 and PM 2.5. She also stated that for project-level EIRs, an air analysis is
commonly done for all the criteria pollutants. From what you have told me, the adopted
methodology for roadway improvements (as distinguished from development projects) relies on
regional air quality analyses done by MTC for criteria pollutants except CO. You also forwarded a
Caltrans document on air quality conformance analysis which outlines procedures to be used for
roadway improvement projects. It describes what should be done for regional pollutants, the CO
analysis, and the PM hotspot analysis. It appears that the PM hotspot analysis is not required
unless the ADT of the subject roadway is at least 125,000. The proposed project has traffic levels
that are far less than 125,000.
Comment 12: This was more of a format concern. It appears that all DEIR text changes are
shown in Section 5.
Comment 13: The new master responses are helpful for clarification.
Comment 14: You have addressed my concerns regarding the use of “Background” conditions. It
might have helped if a Master Response could have been provided to address this issue.
However, while you have followed the VTA Guidelines for impact analyses, the adequacy of this
under CEQA remains unclear.
Comment 15: You have addressed this issue regarding air and noise in your earlier responses.
Comment 16: Your response is adequate for this issue.
Comment 17: It is not critical that you have a master response about the two new alternatives that
were evaluated. The information contained in Table 6.0-2 was helpful. That table basically shows
how impacts would be shifted to other streets, under various alternatives.
Comment 18: The suggested information was for points of clarification. It was not critical that such
information be added.
Comment 19: Based on your responses, it appears that no new significant impacts would result or
that new mitigation measures would be required if one compares the “project traffic” levels to
“existing traffic” levels. Thus, recirculation of the EIR would not be necessary.
Comment 20: This suggested change was for clarification purposes for the reader, but was not
critical to the analysis.
Overall, you have clarified and answered many of my original concerns. The EIR, and your letter of
October 14, 2008, appear to adequately disclose potential impacts and to clarify why recirculation
would not be required. I appreciate the opportunity to help you in this CEQA process.
Amy Skewes-Cox, AICP