Friday, February 09, 2007

Another personal opinion

Here is a post consisting of personal opinions from only one member of the Community Advisory Committee who also maintains this blog.

I am not going to write on behalf of any other member of any committee, group, or any person other than myself. My opinions are based on my thoughts and feelings as both a CAC member and the creator of this blog.

I will be writing about my job on the CAC and what I feel we did and did not do, up to this date.
Please remember, I am writing for myself and not for any other member of the CAC.

We haven't done our job. We were created to make recommendations concerning the specific plan for the Ponte Vista at San Pedro development, and we haven't made a single recommendation in that regard.

We set out not knowing what we were really tasked to do, and we simply did not do anything with regards to assisting Ms. Hahn with even a single recommendation for the specific plan.

But we did accomplish something that was so much better and probably more important than any and all recommendations we might still make in the future.

Working with many folks behind the scenes and being supported by neighborhood councils, our committee did something that may have actually saved our community from a development that could have, in reality, been a development that increased the danger to ourselves, our neighbors and our community as a whole.

We didn't follow the rules. Heck, we didn't know the rules. We were tossed into the fire of being a go between of sorts, between a political leader and an out of town developer who believes he knows what is best for our community.

The CAC provided the community with a public face in dealing with the presentation of the project and the critical look at the Draft EIR. I strongly feel that had we been doing the job we were originally assigned to do, we would be looking forward to a very flawed Final EIR that would have passed through almost unnoticed within our community. We may still get a flawed Final EIR, but at least we will know what to look for.

The members of the CAC asked questions of the developer and city representatives. We looked at initial plans and concepts for the development, and finally on November 2, 2006, we got our hands on the Draft EIR.

The committee went to work on looking at a series of documents we probably should not have been provided because they were only a small part of the specific plan agenda and we didn't know that we probably should have been looking at the types of trees that may go onto the site.

Our committee members became very alarmed early on, by various "facts" as reported by the DEIR and we provided everyone with the public openess to ask questions and make challenges to what we eventually found to be a very flawed document, in my opinion. Again, this was something we probably weren't brought together to do, but being ignorant of what we really probably should of been doing, we went ahead and really focused on areas of the DEIR.

The committee took to task the findings of the Traffic and Transportation section of the DEIR and other equally important sections of the documents, such as population density, student population, and other sections. We were not set up as a watchdog group for the DEIR, but we did it anyway.

We had resources from very helpful groups, members of the general public, and city representatives, and we used all of them to help paint a clearer picture of what was actually in the DEIR and what is actually in the community.

On January 30, 2007, the comment period for the DEIR ended. Our committee, along with others in the community worked together and as individuals to create many different types of comments that were sent to the Planning Department for review. Because of our efforts and the efforts of the resources we used, we, and many, many others in the community were able to make informed comments regarding the DEIR and have placed many of the findings that the DEIR purports to be true, in question.

The Community Advisory Committee can account for zero recommendations approved of by the majority of the members, for even one single piece of the specific plan puzzle. Whether we make any recommendations or not, whether any of the possible recommendations will eventually be placed in the specific plan, is clearly unknown at this time.

We didn't do our job so far, but we did a superior job, in my opinion, of helping to bring to light a possible future catastrophe, and I feel we brought forward many issues that now need to be resolved.

I am extremely proud that we did not do the job as intended, but we did something so much more important to our community. Had we not done what we did, we might have been facing not one, but SEVENTEEN structures like the one going in on Fitness Drive.

No matter what happens in the future, what was done prior to January 30 will have been improtant because now we have helped bring into play remedies to a defective DEIR which may get resolved without going to court and delaying whatever is going to be built at Ponte Vista.

Besides thanking my fellow committee members, I want to give a big shout out to the large number of folks at Northwest, Coastal, Harbor City, and everywhere else serious questions about the DEIR came from and where facts were forthcoming, challenging the DEIR.

Who knows if the CAC will make any recommendations that will finally get adopted into the specific plan? I sure don't know. I still don't have a clue as to how many homes may get built at Ponte Vista.

Even though the CAC is just one of many groups working on the Ponte Vista concerns, and we seem to be marginalized, in my opinion, by certain leaders of the Planning Department, I think we still can be effective in doing the job we were originally set up to do. Making recommendations to Ms. Hahn that may or may not be used in the specific plan, is what we were supposed to do, but we blew it. And because we blew it, things can't get any worse than they already are and they may actually lead to a project we can all exist with.

Do we still need the CAC? I think so. As one group to assist Ms. Hahn on the specific plan track the Planning Department uses, we may be effective in being a public face on that aspect of the project.

Do we need something else? We sure do! If the CAC works on the specific plan, we need another group of volunteers from the public to watch closely all the processes involved with the Environmental Impact Reports. If the Draft is as bad as we have found it to be, AND the comments made up to January 30 are being dealt with by the same organization that produced the Draft EIR in the first place, AND we are supposed to believe the Final Environmental Impact Report will be completely correct, we need a watchdog type group within the community to make sure that what we have found so far won't be improperly dealt with. Why should we allow the same folks who wrote the DEIR and the same department that pushed through the monster on Fitness Drive the opportunity to avoid public scrutiny that we "mistakenly" gave the original Draft EIR?

The number of cars that can transit Western Avenue at 3:00 PM on a Friday afternoon is far more important to me than whether the olive trees at Ponte Vista are fruit bearing or not.

The concept that far more than 50 middle school students will be crossing Western Avenue twice each school day is more important to me that the color of the tiles on the sides of the pool inside the senior housing section.

The wait for a parking spot at Albertson's or Ralph's has more impact on me than whether the windows in the units use cranks to open or just slide up and down.

If the public is going to be involved in the specific plan then they should also be involved in the Environmental Impact Reports, in my opinion.

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