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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Whole Foods EIR Scoping Raises Questions


• Critics Say Current Plan Requires Too Many Variances

BY BILL KOENEKER

Just days after attending a scoping  meeting for a Environmental Impact Report for the Rancho Malibu Hotel, many of the same people trudged back to City Hall for another scoping meeting for the EIR underway for a proposed Civic Center shopping center known as Whole Foods in the Park.
The proposed project, located on the northwest corner of Civic Center Way and Cross Creek Road, is planned for two vacant parcels totaling 5.88 acres with four other buildings proposed ranging in size from 3015 square feet to 4183 square feet.
The plan consists of five buildings totaling 38,425 square feet with the shopping center anchor Whole Foods Market taking up 24,549 square feet of a stand-alone building.
The project, which would need several variances one of them because the proposal consists of only about 37.8 percent of open space and landscaping—the city’s zoning laws require 65 percent—would include a play area named Shane’s Park, water features, outdoor dining areas and landscaping, plus surface parking.
Eight sycamore trees would be removed and replaced onsite by 80 new sycamore trees, according to municipal documents.
Serra Retreat residents expressed concern about a shopping center driveway that ingresses and egresses via Cross Creek Road, which they said would impact the roadway and further tie up the intersection at Cross Creek Road and Civic Center Way.
A comment was also made about the glare of night lights with some neighbors saying that with Whole Foods and the nearby La Paz shopping center the night sky would light up like West Los Angeles.
Much like the hotel, many folks talked about the cumulative impacts of so many projects either approved or coming down the pipeline.
PC Greens owner Michael Osterman pointed out how the Pepperdine University expansion plans are already approved, which will result in more traffic. Two new restaurants will be opening up shortly. Plus other plans such as La Paz are already approved and others are in the pipeline. He said the traffic study needed to include all cumulative impacts and needs a summer beach count as well.
Planning Commissioner John Mazza wanted the EIR to study if there is adequate parking, if the outdoor seating is included in the numbers and what are the building aesthetics, which the General Plan requires to be rural/rustic.
Attorney Frank Angel said there should be an economic impact analysis and disagreed with the EIR consultant who insisted that is not part of an EIR.
Activist Andy Lyon wanted to know if the EIR would study how the city’s plan for wastewater treatment would disperse wastewater.
Activist Cindy Vandor said there should be proof other than a letter of intent that Waterworks District 29 could provide water to the commercial project. “Not a will serve letter. I want proof. District 29 is broken. None of these projects should be built,” she said.
Activist Ryan Embree said the traffic circulation within the project should be studied. He said there should be a way to increase the open space and landscaping requirements even if it included eliminating one of the small buildings.
Serra Retreat resident Ozzie Silna said if just some of the parking spaces are added up from some of the proposed projects there are 2000 parking spaces in which all of the vehicles will come out onto Civic Center Way.
Colony resident Carol Moss said she is not sure the EIR asks the right questions, She said, “How  do you measure the personal service of PC Greens to that of Whole Foods? If we get Whole Foods, we lose PC Greens. Imagine trying to get that personal attention from Whole Foods.”
Julie Carmen Hoffman asked,“Is there a measure for other components?” She pointed out the applicant Steve Soboroff sold Cross Creek Plaza for a huge profit causing the current owners to raise the rents and prices driving out the mom and pop businesses. “Is there a measure of the health of the community and our stores?” she asked.
Brian Eamer said when the EIR comes out, there will be a statement if the impacts that are found might be unmitigatible and then the deciding body can adopt a statement of overriding consideration. The planning commission will rubber stamp it or approve it,” he added.
Activist Patt Healy expressed concern about the applicant not meeting the landscaping requirements and also suggested that maybe a building would have to be eliminated instead of the project being granted a variance.
“There is just too much development, the city has to say no at some point,” concluded Janet Flora Katz.

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