Comments

Comments on EIR:

Friedman, Barry

Grant, Pat

Hendricks, Glenn

Skewes-Cox, Amy

Henson, Alexander

Whittum, David

Comments about MAEP

Boehm, Jan

Staats, Debbie

Yeager, Don

Yeager, Jeanne

 

 

 

 

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MAE -- The Project and EIR's in General Comments about the EIR Comments about the MAEP City Council Meeting 10/28/08 and start of Litigation The Litigation Continued (Under Construction)

 

COMMENTS ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORT (EIR)

 

AMY SKEWES-COX, AICP

P.O. Box 422

Ross, CA 94957

415-454-8666

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).

 

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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-

Superior” alternative.

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

Sincerely,

Amy Skewes-Cox, AICP

Environmental Planner