Later today, long into the night and perhaps even until tomorrow, the Petaluma City Council will be considering the Deer Creek development project, specifically its final environmental impact report. Prior columns, including Imaginary Infrastructure and Lowe’s Less, have shown some of the numerous flaws in this proposed project when presented at its draft environmental impact report stage. A review of the final report and viewing the January 10, 2012 Petaluma Planning Commission meeting revealed further flaws.
As reported in the Petaluma Patch, at the January 10th Planning Commission meeting the final environmental impact report was rejected by a 5-1 vote. Planning Commissioner Alicia Kae Herries summed up the situation by referencing the “so many unknown impacts and variables,” the most disturbing being the status of the Rainer cross-town connector and Highway 101 interchange. Even before the demise of redevelopment agencies in California, as expressly sanctioned by our Supreme Court, it was dubious at best and deceitful at worst that mitigations relied upon by the Deer Creek developer would ever be built. Doubtful, but theoretically possible, redevelopment agency funding permitted pretending that expenditures approaching or perhaps even exceeding $100 million would somehow become available for mitigations that would only marginally reduce environmental impacts explicitly revealed by the CEQA analysis. All but one commissioner present agreed the charade should cease.
That commissioner is the City Council liaison to the Planning Commission, appointed Councilmember Gabe Kearney. Reading his analysis as reported in the Petaluma Patch and then listening to it directly from the meeting tape made me wonder whether his iPad malfunctioned. Had he mistakenly downloaded Lewis Carroll, then tried to lead Alicia and her four fellow commissioners present into a wonderland world of looking glass illusions? How else can one explain his position premised upon the mistaken belief that it “sets a bad precedent” to consider real world facts established by law and unanimously agreed to by the California Supreme Court?
Over the past weekend an opportunity to discuss this situation with a friend also trained in the law arose. While admittedly perplexed as to any justifiable basis for approving this development project as currently envisioned, it eventually dawned that worrying about the lawsuit looming is wasted energy. If a majority of the Petaluma City Council should choose to ignore facts and engage in fantasy that is needed to cobble together overriding considerations for certification of this final environmental impact report, lawyers litigating will be sure winners and certain councilmembers seeking election later this year will be likely losers.