Nearly six years after it was proposed, the largest residential housing development targeting Mill Valley in recent years is almost ready for its reckoning.
The city of Mill Valley this week posted the final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the 20-unit Blithedale Terrace project, which was first proposed in May 2006 by Tiburon developer Phil Richardson in the Kite Hill area near the intersection of East Blithedale Avenue and Camino Alto.
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.
The project has drawn criticism from residents of the Freeman Park and Kite Hill neighborhoods for its potential to worsen traffic and add too much density in the area.
“I don’t believe there is an appetite from anyone who lives here to see this project move forward at all,” said Susan Kirsch, the president of the Freeman Park Neighborhood Association.
Richardson, who bought the 1.2-acre property eight years ago, hopes the unveiling of the final EIR is a step toward changing that perception.
“This project has never been presented to the public,” Richardson said. “But we’re getting there.”
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/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 is set to hold a public hearing on the final EIR on 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). Once the EIR is certified, the city will begin the approval process.
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.
Richardson said he hopes to have an informational meeting after the EIR is certified but before it goes to the commission for approval.
“It’s the best and most efficient way for people to get answers to their questions,” he said.