Of all of the people who have expressed opposition to the Blithedale Terrace project since it was first proposed, few can claim they’ll be impacted by it more than Stephen Gregoire.
The resident of 563 East Blithedale Avenue lives directly adjacent to the 1.2-acre property at the base of Kite Hill near Camino Alto on which Tiburon developer Phil Richardson has .
Gregoire isn’t masking his feelings about the project. He has a large yellow sign posted on his property that says, “Save This Hill – 'No' to 20 Houses.” Gregoire didn’t create the sign. The Kite Hill Neighborhood Association did. But Gregoire said he’s happy to have it on his property, with hundreds of cars driving by it every day.
With the Planning Commission set to hold a certification hearing on the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) (attached at right) on the Blithedale Terrace project, Mill Valley’s largest new residential housing development in recent years, Gregoire isn’t alone among people who live in the area who say it will worsen traffic and add too much density to the area.
Alan Abrams, a member of the Kite Hill association, said he expects as many as 100 residents to attend Monday’s hearing to speak in opposition to the project.
“At every meeting the city has had since it was proposed, we’ve always pretty much filled the room,” he said.
City Hall has been deluged with letters of opposition in recent weeks, including those from the neighborhood associations of Kite Hill, Freeman Park and Scott Valley.
Nelson Avenue resident Judy Thier said the project will dramatically worsen traffic in the area and predicted that its residents will significantly increase traffic in her neighborhood, particularly considering the difficulty of turning left onto East Blithedale.
“Like many others, I reject the findings in the (EIR) that the development of 20 units will not create a traffic problem at this location,” Thier wrote in a letter to the commission. “Is it fair that we, on Nelson, who are already burdened with one of the most unacceptable volumes of traffic for a residential street in Mill Valley, should also be asked to absorb, not only their traffic, but also their parking issues?"
The project calls for 20 homes between 1,100 and 2,000 square feet arranged along three parallel rows up the hillside. Of the 20 units, two would be reserved for lower-income households and two for moderate-income households. Richardson said he expects the development to house around 45 people.
Richardson said that while he understands that there is opposition from neighbors, he emphasized that the project has yet to be presented to the public officially.
The city released the draft EIR in March 2010, analyzing the project’s impact with regards to aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, geology and soils, hydrology and water quality, noise, transportation and traffic, hazards and hazardous materials, land use, population and housing and public services.
The final EIR was prepared by the Oakland-based firm Lamphier Gregory, which also prepared the draft EIR. The final EIR features few major revisions from the draft beyond incorporating the comments on the draft – 103 letters from people and agencies in all – as well as responses to those comments.
The Planning Commission’s public hearing on the final EIR is set for Monday, March 26 at 7 p.m. at City Hall. The commission will make a recommendation to the City Council on the "certification" of the Final EIR.
The Final EIR must then be "certified" by the City Council following a public hearing and before any action can be taken on the Blithedale Terrace project. Certification of the EIR by the City Council would not constitute approval of the project, just that the EIR meets the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Copies of both the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Report (attached at right) can be viewed at the Mill Valley Public Library and the Mill Valley Planning and Building Department at City Hall, as well as on the city’s website.