Following up on last month’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) presentation to the Landmarks Commission, City Planning Director Eileen Fogarty spoke at the Commission’s February 8 meeting about the LUCE DEIR (Draft Environmental Impact Report), which is under review until March 8.
The Landmarks Commission can make comments on the DEIR but these comments must be submitted in writing. To facilitate the comment process, Fogarty gave each member of the Commission a copy of three sections of the DEIR dealing with Visual Resources, Cultural Resources, and Land Use and Planning.
The DEIR looks at the impacts of the proposed LUCE update and according to Fogarty, there are “very few significant impacts” as it was “designed to meet and exceed AB 32 and SB 375 standards” (the state guidelines for environmental impacts).
Fogarty divided the impacts into those that “would occur,” those that “could occur,” and those that are “unlikely to occur.” The “coulds” and “woulds” involve factors like air quality and traffic, while the “unlikely” (but not impossible) factors might include “potential losses of historic structures” to demolitions over the next 20 years.
Nina Fresco brought up a problem that she said the Commission has been confronted with on a number of recent occasions—the sequence of the approval process for projects. Often, she noted, a project will only come before Landmarks after it has been to other boards and by that time, it may be too late to save a property from demolition.
Fogarty replied that “in conservation districts, it would make sense” to allow a different sequence for review of projects, in order to make sure that a building is spared demolition pending Landmarks evaluation.
John Berley questioned whether the City actually has “conservation districts” other than its two Historic Districts. He asked how long it would take for the City to develop conservation districts.
Fogarty answered that the preparation of conservation districts would not be difficult but a second step would be the application of the designation to individual areas, which would require community support.
Berley persisted in pointing out that while “language” is fine for creating policies, a policy “must have teeth” to be enforced and he was concerned that the DEIR needed that kind of strength.
Concerns of other Commissioners involved preservation of courtyard architecture, the protection of landmark buildings in the vicinity of LUCE’s “activity centers,” and protection of the neighborhood around the airport.
City Land Use Attorney Barry Rosenbaum told the Commission that they could form a subcommittee to formulate the written comments. It was realized that there already was a LUCE subcommittee of three Commission members who could double as the DEIR committee. However, while the subcommittee would be able to draft a written report based on the discussion from the current meeting, they would not be able to hold further discussions with the rest of the board due to the Brown Act, which forbids the gathering of four or more members of a civic board apart from adjourned meetings.
Mirror Contributing Writerlynne@smmirror.com