September 16, 2009 > Citizens consider environmental impact of proposed land development
Citizens consider environmental impact of proposed land development
By Corinne Davis
Union City invited the community to discuss environmental-impact issues concerning the Masonic Homes of California's tentative plans for developing the flatlands on the northeastern side of Mission Boulevard from May Road to O'Connell Lane.
About 70 citizens gathered Tuesday evening at the New Haven Adult School's Multi-Purpose Room, Union City, to hear details of the proposed draft environmental impact report (DEIR). Union City Coordinator Doug Henning explained the project is subject to environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act which requires preparation of an environmental impact report. Citizens were invited to discuss their concerns in the open forum following the presentation, submit their comments in writing or record them with a stenographer.
The city must process and evaluate any zoning-change proposal submitted. The Masonic Homes seeks approval to develop the current open-grazing land to high-density and multi-story housing, commercial and senior-citizen housing.
The Alameda County Congestion Management Agency forecasts about 1,100 peak-hour car journeys as part of a total of 15,000 new daily vehicle trips. Four new intersections are proposed as part of the East-West Connector project. Traffic studies were conducted at 20 intersections in Union City and Fremont and at four in surrounding cities. Project access to Mission Boulevard, a state highway, and level of service in the corridor is of concern along with potential traffic impact on roadways and intersections in Fremont and Hayward. Neighbors living along O'Connell Lane may have concerns about disruptions from project traffic utilizing O'Connell Lane for site access
The EIR would identify possible sources of air pollutants including particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and greenhouse gases. A health-risk assessment is considered unnecessary because the project would not generate or expose the environment to high levels of toxic air contaminants. Noise levels of equipment and vehicular-traffic connected with the project are being studied. Noise measurements (short-term and 48-hour) will be taken at four strategic locations.
Visual Impact of Buildings
Buildings three- to five-stories high will partially block the view of the hillside flanking the east side of Union City. Computer-generated visual simulations will be produced from five viewpoints to assist with assessing the visual impact of these buildings.
Plants and Birds
The EIR will study the project's impact on special-status plant and bird populations including water quality and trees. Any concerns will be referred to the appropriate resources as will any buried prehistoric cultural artifacts that may be uncovered.
Earthquake and Soil
The site lies within Alquist-Priolo Special Studies Fault Zone of the Hayward Fault. A study and peer review are underway to consider potential structural damage and threat to human health and safety from strong seismic shaking. Suitability of site soils and structural design needs will be assessed.
At the conclusion of the presentation, citizens expressed concerns about the loss of open space, possible destruction to the land, water pollution and run-off and increased carbon emissions from the additional population. Others talked of the resulting population congestion and high building density and especially of the dangers of earthquake in such an environment, so close to the Hayward Fault. Others spoke of the additional cost burden on public services, such as police and fire, compounded by the possibility that additional revenue from the proposed businesses and homes may be insufficient to cover additional costs.
Planning and Economic Development Director Joan Malloy and Henning informed the participants many issues broached at the meeting would be included in the DEIR.
For more information about the project, contact Nancy Hutar at (510) 675-5318. Comments may be mailed by the new deadline of 5 p.m., September 12, 2009, to Nancy Hutar, Project Planner, Planning Division, City Hall, 34009 Alvarado-Niles Road, Union City, CA 94587, or submitted via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To find out more about the project and upcoming public meetings, visit www.UnionCity.org.
For information about opposition to the proposed development, visit www.saveunioncityhills.com.