RCMP - Responsible Consumers of our Monterey Peninsula

Box 1495, Carmel, CA 93921 - 831/624-6500

 

Coastal Commissioners and Staff

California Coastal Commission September 19, 2001

Re: Appeal of Highway 1 Widening Proposal as It conflicts with the Certified LUP

Dear Coastal Commission:

We respectfully request you consider our appeal as this proposal directly conflicts with several clear directions in the Certified LUP, would admittedly not achieve its goals, is based upon a LCP which is significantly out of date and although it is not your direct concern - because of its fasttrack nature has not undergone adequate CEQA review.

CERTIFIED LUP CONFLICTS

This proposed project directly conflicts with the Certified LUP in that along our State's very first designated "Scenic Highway," Highway 1 past Carmel, it would cause a significant aesthetic loss of an "Existing Forested Corridor", admittedly destroy 17 "Landmark Trees" (Supervisor's Report p 6), fails to prohibit Grading During the Wet Season, and failed to have required story poles so the public could understand the scope of the project.

SIGNIFICANT PROTECTED FORESTED CORRIDOR AESTHETIC LOSS

"2.2.4 Specific Policies # 6. The existing forested corridor along Highway 1 shall be maintained as a scenic resource and natural screen for existing and new development. New development along Highway 1 shall be sufficiently set back to preserve the forested corridor effect and minimize visual impact." (emphasis added)

"The Carmel Coastal Segment also contains an unusual diversity of plant life associated with the forest environment that are of significant scientific, educational, and aesthetic value." LCP pg 47

LCP 2.5.2 Key Policy

The primary use of forested land in the Carmel area shall be for recreation, aesthetic enjoyment, educational, scientific, watershed and habitat protection activities.

County Code Section 20.146.060.D.2 States: Removal of any trees which would result in the exposure of structures in the critical viewshed shall not be permitted, subject to the provisions of Section 20.146.030.A"

PROPOSAL

This project proposes to destroy at least 44 mature, healthy endemic Monterey pines as well as 30 Coast Live Oaks; would remove 17 Landmark Trees, "19 percent of the trees in the project area." "The project ... includes retaining walls." (Finding 10 Evidence; Supervisor's Report p 5)

AESTHETIC VALUES

This forested corridor "effect" is recognized by the LCP as important not just for biological values but for aesthetic values. The County only analyzed the forested corridor for its potential biological significance.

Our Certified LUP recognizes Aesthetic value - not merely biological value.

"Designated as the first State Scenic Highway in California, Highway 1 along the Carmel coast is the basic access route to the area. It traverses the length of the Carmel Segment connecting the Monterey Peninsula with Big Sur." Carmel Area LUP pg 65

Highway 1 was not designated as a scenic highway so that we could see retaining walls, sound barriers and endure the removal of forest revealing the backyards of houses.

The Certified LUP policy does not say "Some of the existing forested corridor along Highway 1 shall be maintained."

Nor does it say "Most of the existing forested corridor along Highway 1 shall be maintained.

It states clearly and simply "The existing forested corridor along Highway 1 shall be maintained."

All 74 to 81 native trees proposed to be destroyed are significant to maintaining the aesthetics of the forested corridor. "The other area where a forest corridor will lose a significant density of trees is the southwest corner of the Atherton/Highway 1 intersection." (Planning Commission Staff report pg 2)

The "narrow" ((Finding 18) forest corridor at less than 50 feet average depth could be called a "Beauty strip." Because of the thin nature of the beauty strip, any loss of single tree diminishes the aesthetics of the existing forested corridor. The loss of a significant portion of the trees (at least 19%) cannot be anything but a direct conflict with this certified Policy. When combined with tree replacement by retaining walls as sound barriers and replanting with "tall-growing shrubs" - the conflicts with the Certified LUP's language "the existing forested corridor along Highway 1 shall be maintained" become mentally uncomfortable.

The project should be denied on this basis alone.

17 (SEVENTEEN) LANDMARK TREES PROPOSED FOR DESTRUCTION

Removal of Landmark Trees is only allowed when no other alternative is possible.

"Landmakr trees of all native species shall not be permitted to be removed. A Landmark tree is a tree which is 24 inches or more in diameter when measured at breast height, or a tree which is visually significant, historically significant, exemplary of its species, or more than 1000 years old."

The "No Project" Alternative is a feasible, prudent and preferable alternative because the County admits the project "cannot be expected to provide additional capacity for Highway 1." Mit. Neg. Dec. p 45

The project's stated goal is "The principal problem is a lack of capacity..." Mit. Neg. Dec. p 1.

The County admits the project "cannot be expected to provide additional capacity for Highway 1." Mit. Neg. Dec. p 45; Supervisors Packet p 12

Since the proposed project will admittedly not achieve its stated goal, and the proposed project will destroy Landmark Trees, and No Project will achieve (or similarly unachieve) the same goals without destroying Landmark Trees - an alternative is available in the form of No Project.

WET SEASON GRADING PROHIBITION IGNORED

Grading is specifically prohibited during wet seasons by the Certified LUP,

"C. Erosion and Sedimentation Control"

"1. All grading requiring a County permit which would occur on slopes steeper than 15 percent shall be restricted to the dry season of the year."

yet the County provided no such condition. Worse, the County explicitly allows grading during the wet season of October 15 to April 15. See Condition 6.

STORY POLES REQUIRED BUT NOT ERECTED

"2.2.4 Specific Policies"

"1. All applications for development within the viewshed shall require individual on-site investigations. The dimensions, height, and rooflines of proposed buildings shall be accurately indicated by poles and access roads by stakes with flags."

No such staking or story poles were placed. Trees were not flagged or identified on site in any way.

TRANSPORTATION POLICIES IGNORED

There are only two Recommended Actions for Transportation - both public transit encouragement actions - yet neither has even been started.

"3.1.3 Highway 1 and Transportation Policies

In order to afford reasonable traveling speeds for residents and visitors, protect emergency use of the highway, and enhance the quality and enjoyment of the scenic driving experience, reductions in peak use period traffic should be sought. A combination of measures, including public education and regulation of highway use during peak periods should be considered to achieve an improved service level."

"Coastal Act policy requires that State Highway 1 be maintained as a scenic two-lane road in rural areas such as the portion of the Carmel area south of the Carmel River. The Coastal Act also requires that remaining highway capacity be reserved for priority uses."

"3.1.4 Recommended Actions"

"1. A program should be initiated by Monterey Peninsula Transit or other public carriers, in cooperation with appropriate recreational agencies, the County, and community representatives, to provide bus stops at appropriate access points and to expand bus service to recreation areas and visitor-serving facilities. Bus routes should be scheduled to serve residents' needs as well as the needs of visitors."

"2. An expanded education and promotion program should be implemented in cooperation with other appropriate recreation agencies to provide information on bus service and recreational areas that are accessible by bus."

Both these options could have reduced the traffic on this section of roadway, but neither have been started. Worse, the bus service to this area has been cut back and the fares increased.

COASTAL PLAN IS SIGNIFICANTLY OUT OF DATE.

Sine the LCP was Certified, the area is now enduring an officially declared Water Supply Emergency, a state declared Electrical Supply Emergency, ESA listings of steelhead, the California red-legged frog, 5 plants, and an increase in traffic congestion to gridlock many places

INADEQUATE CEQA REVIEW

IDENTICAL CAPACITY ! - YET NO EIR

Lew Bauman of Monterey County Public Works admitted "The Cal-Trans Highway One Widening Project will increase capacity by exactly the same amount as this project." to the Carmel Valley Land Use Advisory Committee on July 16, 2001. Cal-Trans is preparing an EIR explicitly because of the growth inducing impacts caused by their widening. This County project is approved pretending there are no cumulative and growth inducing impacts!

GROWTH INDUCING IMPACTS IGNORED

"Highways Create Demand for Travel and Expansion by Their Very Existence."

In January 1997 US Federal District Court, Judge Suzanne B. Conlon for the Northern District of Illinois, Opinion wrote:

"Highways create demand for travel and expansion by their very existence.

Swain v. Brinegar, 517 F.2d 766, 777 (7th Cir.1975); Def. 12 (M) Par. 86. However the final impact statement in this case relies on the implausible assumption that the same level of transportation needs will exist whether or not the toll road is constructed." "[FHWA's] decision in this regard was arbitrary and capricious. 5 USC Sec 706(2)(a)."

This federal court opinion further reinforces the consensus of expert and legal opinion that expanded road capacity generates changes in travel and land activities that must be accounted for in project and plan appraisals. As one of the panelists at a Transportation Research Board (TRB) Annual Meeting session on the induced travel effects of highway capacity changes observed last week, to general agreement from all other panelists, including Kevin Heanue, Director of Environment and Planning at FHWA, "There is no longer a question that these dynamics occur. The only question is how large are the effects in a particular case."

It should be obvious that since a lack of roads constrains growth, any increase in roads allows growth.

"Environmental Impact Statements on highways and sewage treatment plants seldom evaluate the resulting impact on urban growth patterns. These secondary effects may, however, be more damaging than the primary effects. The second form of shortsightedness is the tendency to consider only changes in the physical environment and to ignore changes in the social environment. Yet impacts on pollution patterns or community behavioral patterns may affect the quality of the human environment much more than impacts on air or solid waste." -U.S. EPA, letter to the President's Council of Environmental Quality 21 December, 1971

PIECEMEALING TO AVOID ESHA IMPACT ANALYSIS

Analysis of this project's potentially significant environmental impact must be combined with the (12 or so) other related projects including one from CALTRANS involving Handley Drive for which we just received a NOP.

California Red-Legged frogs are a Federally listed Threatened species as of May 23 1996 (61 FR 25813). Monterey County is well within the range of this species and the entire Carmel River watershed including all portions of this project are within its Critical Habitat.

One CRLF was observed in Hatton Canyon, A tributary of the Carmel River, by a CalTrans Biologist in 1996, less than 100 yards from portions of this project and just outside the Coastal Zone.

Because of this occurrence immediately adjacent to the project and because the project is within officially designated Critical Habitat an Endangered Species Act (ESA) Section 10 Consultation must occur.

Mark Twain became famous when he wrote an account of a jumping frog contest in Calaveras County. Those Celebrated Frogs of Mark Twain's article, the red-legged frogs, as the only large native frogs in California, were undoubtedly the contestants in that event.

DRY-LAND TRAVELERS

California Red-Legged frogs (CRLF) have been documented as moving as much as two miles (3.2 km) from aquatic sites "without regard for topography." Federal Register Sept, 11, 2000, pg 54894

(The following is quoted from the US Fish & Wildlife Service - "Guidance on Site assessment and Field surveys for California red-legged frogs, Appendix - California red-legged frog ecology and distribution." Dated February 18, 1997.

"Movement California red-legged frog may move up to 1.6 km (ONE MILE) UP OR DOWN A DRAINAGE and are known to wander throughout riparian woodlands up to several dozen meters from the water. On rainy nights california red-legged frog may ROAM AWAY FROM AQUATIC SITES AS MUCH AS 1.6 KM (ONE MILE). California red-legged frog will often move away from the water after the first winter rains, causing sites where California red-legged frog were easily observed in the summer months to appear devoid of this species."

According to the USFWS Biological Opinion on nearby Rancho San Carlos (dated September 6, 1996) the - "California red-legged frog could inhabit any aquatic and riparian areas within the range of the species and also any landscape features near riparian areas that provide cover and moisture."

"Any aquatic and riparian areas within the range of the species"

The Federal Register ESA Listing of the Frog expands on and gives additional examples of Frog habitat. "California red-legged frogs have been found up to 30 m (98 feet (ft)) from water in adjacent dense riparian vegetation for up to 77 days."

"Estivation habitat is essential for the survival of California red-legged frogs within a watershed."

"Estivation habitat for the California red-legged frog is potentially all aquatic and riparian areas within the range of the species and includes any landscape features that provide cover and moisture during the dry season within 300 feet of a riparian area. This could include boulders or rocks and organic debris such as downed trees or logs; industrial debris; and agricultural features, such as drains, watering troughs, spring boxes, abandoned sheds, or hay-ricks. Incised stream channels with portions narrower than 18 inches and depths greater than 18 inches may also provide estivation habitat." (From the Federal Register for Thursday, May 23, 1996)

THESE FROGS CAN LIVE WITHOUT PONDS OR WETLANDS

A US-FWS letter to Monterey County in Mar 1998 on the "September Ranch" FEIR states "Concluding the CRLF does not occur on the project site because the site does not have ponds or other wetland habitat with riparian vegetation is erroneous because this species exhibits complex temporal variations in behavior and habitat use."

THREATS

"Accidental spills of hazardous materials or careless fueling or oiling of vehicles or equipment could degrade water quality or upland habitat to a degree where CRLF are adversely affected or killed." The contamination of the stream by wet concrete could cause potential skin and respiratory system irritation in CRLFs. Work in live streams or in floodplains could cause unusually high levels of siltation downstream. This siltation could alter the quality of habitat downstream and preclude its use by CRLF." US-FWS Biological Opinion on Arroyo Seco Bridge Replacement. April 27 1999

LOCATIONS

CRLF are abundant in the Carmel River watershed according to studies done for The Monterey Peninsula Water Management District.

The MND was apparently not verified as the reference for the California Red-Legged Frog (Rana aurora draytonii) which they claim is reported on in a book about birds!

 

LIMITING IMPERVIOUS SURFACE AREAS

"2.4 WATER AND MARINE RESOURCES"

"2.4.5 Recommended Actions"

"6. The County should adopt and implement the policies and development standards listed in the AMBAG 208 Water Quality Management Plan for Erosion and Sedimentation Control. These measures, along with those specified by the specific policies for erosion and sedimentation control, could be incorporated in the County's Grading Ordinance as suggested in Recommended Action No. 5. AMBAG's policies and standards are listed in the Appendix."

"APPENDIX AMBAG 208 WATER QUALITY PLAN 91978"

"B. Development Standards and Controls"

"2. Limit roadway widths and other impervious surfaces to that size which can accommodate public traffic and other public needs, but balance any increase in such limits against adverse effects associated with increased erosion, sedimentation, and reduced aquifer recharge when other overriding considerations such as public safety do not preclude this." Pg 121

Since the County admits there will be no increase in capacity, the roadway should be limited to its present dimension.

Thank you for your consideration of our concerns,

David Dilworth, Co-Chair