Letter: South Laguna Civic Association Community Garden: It's Complicated

Council members Toni Iseman and Verna Rollinger should recuse themselves from Tuesday night's vote.

Dear Editor:

Conflict of Interest Recusal: Both Councilmembers Toni Iseman and Verna Rollinger have a potential conflict of both fiscal and personal benefit interest regarding Agenda Bill #22 on the November 13, 2012 Council docket that can only be avoided (cured) by their preemptive recusal.

Both have received the financial benefit of donations and campaign participation advantages in the past, present and perhaps in the future, by the numerous entities involved that serve as their primary voting base constituency. This gives unfair advantage. No more staff time should be devoted to it.

Worse, even partially funding this project in essence could be justifiably challenged later in legal remedies/venues, thus dragging the City of Laguna Beach into time- and money-consuming defenses, negative intrigue, and activities merely to benefit small but aggressive political action Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).

It should be noted that diverting/earmarking campaign time, funds and lobbying by the entities supporting this South Laguna Civic Association garden already occurred in the placing of this on the agenda initially, and moreover, the un-seating of council member Jane Egly, who lost her re-election bid.

If the city spent one penny on this, it would in essence become a political action committee donation, an extension of political patronage, campaign workers rewarded, and questions about nepotism or cronyism.

With all due respect to Mrs. Egly's legal career, merely test boring the soil for potential remediation implementation is insufficient. As a consultant quite familiar with the contaminants and remnants left after such previous dry cleaning functions take place over decades in time, receiving Cal/Environmental Protection Agency (California/EPA) certification, this is no simple or inexpensive task. It should also be noted that for quite some time the two parcels were vacant lots, I observed dumping from unknown origins, and substances did occur.

As in my previous transmission to the same city representatives for the October 16, 2012 city council meeting, as a professional consultant who specializes in the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and especially hydrology/water quality impacts and management practices, I proposed an Initial Environmental Analysis/Review per CEQA by a disinterested third party. Personally, it's my professional opinion that it doesn't merit a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), but should require/result in an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

I propose this due to the following CEQA Checklist items regarding potentially significant adverse impacts that mandate mitigations. This is only a partial list, prima facie analysis by me, but it should suffice:

  • TRAFFIC CIRCULATION/PARKING: With increased site visitations by participants, supporters and media in a mixed residential/commercial neighborhood would create minor gridlock. Therefore, an independent peer-reviewed traffic and parking study would have to be performed. There is potential for creating a negligent condition on Coast Highway, plus reduction in parking availability throughout an already underserved neighborhood. This would give residents in the vicinity impacted an opportunity to provide input.
  • AIR QUALITY: The intensification of use, the slowing and stopping of vehicles, and attendant visitations would increase existent pollutant-loading.
  • WATER QUALITY/HYDROLOGY: It needs a Water Quality Management Plan (WQMP). This plan should of necessity be in compliance with the proposed Stormwater Permit (slated for March 2013 ratification by Cal/EPA, San Diego Region). This site is not only extremely close to storm drain intakes immediately adjacent and conveying, then discharging to the receiving waters of the Pacific Ocean, but comes under the jurisdictional prescriptions by that order as a PRIORITY DEVELOPMENT PROJECT which has very strict compliance standards. Also, the conversion of use has been covered under a Temporary Use Permit that unfortunately didn't address HYDRO-MODIFICATION (alterations in historical directions, velocities and flows). The drainage patterns have been altered, and even organic amendments are considered contaminants and forbidden, therefore considered illegal discharges.

CONCLUSION: The Councilmembers and entities supporting this proposal are purported strident eco-protectionists. They have ALL demanded the highest standards from their own neighbors and others throughout the City, especially from the CLB. They should be held to the same metrics in their private venture, land acquisition, operations and maintenance. It will be THEIR property, so they should pay for all staff time including the entire CEQA process. 

— Roger E. Bütow


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