The Mill Valley Planning Commission that the for the Blithedale Terrace project didn’t include enough alternatives to the 20 residential units that developer Phil Richardson has proposed for the site at the northwest corner of East Blithedale Ave. and Camino Alto.
The five-member panel will get a chance to dig into more alternatives at a special study session on the project next Monday, April 30, at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Those alternatives include a version of the project with 8 units and 4 second units, as well as one that retains a heritage oak tree slated for removal in Richardson’s proposal. Within those two alternatives, commissioners will have additional options to analyze, according to Planning Director Mike Moore.
The idea for the study session emerged from a in which the commission spent the bulk of it determining how to proceed. Commission Chair David Rand lobbied his colleagues at length to direct the city’s environmental review consultant, Oakland-based Lamphier Gregory, to go back and evaluate alternatives that hadn’t been looked at in the draft environmental impact report (EIR) on the project.
Rand did so because he believed the alternatives that were analyzed in the draft EIR – one with an office building replacing all housing and another with no project at all – were not sufficient to meet the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). An additional alternative that called for Blithedale Terrace residents to come and go via Camino Alto instead of East Blithedale is dead because the owners of the land through which that access would occur have refused to allow it.
“The real intent of this exercise is to meet the CEQA requirement to include a reasonable range of alternatives within the EIR,” Planning Director Mike Moore said. “That’s the point of this additional step.”
The study session is just that – the commission won’t be recommending to the City Council to accept or reject the EIR for Blithedale Terrace – which is the next step in the process. The commission will do that at a subsequent meeting, for which a date has not yet been set.
Once the EIR process concludes, then the commission and the council will decide on the merits of the project and give it an up or down vote.
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 is the for a variety of reasons, including its possible impact on traffic and safety in the area. The Blithedale Terrace property was included in the city’s 2003 Housing Element update as a place for a 20-unit residential development as part of the city’s efforts to meet from the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).