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January 16, 2005
Residents Have Their Say on Martinez Draft EIR
By Liz Tascio
MARTINEZ - Residents this week questioned a report that says development between the city's railroad tracks and shoreline would be safe for people and the environment.
Earthquake safety, train accidents and other topics came up Tuesday night at a public hearing for an environmental impact report that studied the city's plan for its downtown. The draft plan endeavors to bring vibrancy to the quiet neighborhood.
The report, prepared by LSA Associates of Berkeley, says the city can accommodate about 1,000 new residences downtown without straining city services, housing, traffic or the environment.
"Because we didn't have any significant or unavoidable impacts, there was nothing that pushed us to say the plan should be changed," said Lynette Dias, an environmental consultant from LSA.
About 270 new townhomes and apartments could be built north of the railroad tracks, which some residents want made into a park and open space. The land is zoned for light industrial use.
Gigi Walker of Martinez brought up last week's accident in South Carolina, in which a train carrying chlorine crashed, releasing deadly fumes. Nine people died and thousands were evacuated.
"My concern is that our tracks here in this town carry toxic and hazardous materials on a daily basis," Walker said, asking why "we want to build houses down there by these tracks when these accidents can happen."
Resident Julianne George said the report needs to analyze further how emergency vehicles would reach the new development, since trains would sometimes block the only routes in and out.
Housing near the shoreline would pollute and damage the wetlands, said Carol Baier, a Martinez resident for 50 years.
The number of houses north of the tracks can probably be negotiated, said Igor Skaredoff of Martinez. But he was concerned by the report's finding that land north of the tracks would be less stable than nearby land during an earthquake.
Resident Tim Platt asked if the report considered that the city could see more than 1,000 new housing units once the city rezones downtown, as called for in the draft specific plan.
Not everyone wanted more information in the report. Maurice Huguet, an attorney for one of the property owners north of the tracks, said the report erred when it said an endangered mouse near the shoreline would need protection. He said a 1997 study found no such species.
The strongest criticism of the report came from Beth Rainsford, who helped create an alternative plan that recommends about half the number of residences studied.
"The specific plan is not the community's vision," she said. The report does not explain how the city can significantly increase its housing and population downtown and build near the shore without affecting the city's small-town character and scale, she said.
The East Bay Regional Park District, which owns land near the potential development, will prepare comments on the EIR, said Ted Radke, a member of the district's board of directors, in an interview Wednesday.
The public has until Feb. 7 to submit comments to the city. State law requires that the city provide a written response to every comment in the final draft of the EIR
This article can also be found at the Contra Costa Times websitePosted by Coalition Webbies at January 16, 2005 10:40 PM