Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Q & A on the Seeno project

A Statement from BeniciaFirst!

Question: Does this debate represent a clash between pro-development and anti-development forces?

Nothing could be further from the reality of the case we have presented. The central issue is the quality and practicality of the currently proposed plan. What Seeno is proposing is a dated plan for a commuter-driven park--one that is geared to attract conventional warehousing and shipping, with a commercial area located at the freeway. Such an outmoded model ignores the new realities upon which Benicia First has focused. We face an energy-constrained future economic environment as highlighted by the Global Warming Solutions Act, AB32, which mandates drastically reduced "vehicle miles traveled" generated by any new project. At the same time, there is a revolution in thinking about green industrial development together with an unprecedented demand for the kind of research and development campus for which Benicia is uniquely suited.

Question: If your concerns and hopes for achieving what you call a 21st Century project are spelled out in "Conditions of Approval" set by the City, would this not be a solution?

Essentially,this approach heightens one of the major drawbacks of the Seeno proposal. With a project that incorporates neither coherence nor a visionary comprehensive plan for a campus-style R&D park, attempting to reshape that project through hundreds of conditions simply underlines and emphasizes its flaws and its fragmented character. It would require permitting and overseeing virtually all detail of the development and attempting somehow to create coherence through endless, difficult management of detail. It would require enormous oversight responsibilities for the city extending through 25 years into the future. We do not think this feasible or realistic. Practical enforceability is questionable. Nor do we believe it possible to create an integrated, coherent, energy sensitive and future oriented project in this fashion.

Question: Didn't the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) with the recently produced Addendum give this project a clean bill of health?

No. The voluminous comments submitted by Steve Goetz and Don Dean, both professional planners, detail the numerous flaws and inadequacies of the FEIR and the present revised proposal. We cite here just one dramatic example: its treatment of traffic increases and resulting air pollution impacting Semple School. If you think the health and safety of Semple school children are important, consider this. The FEIR contained a gross error in its estimates of future traffic on I-780 and East 2nd St., adjacent to Semple School. Real world traffic projections put that figure far over the prescribed limit for locating new schools.

NOTE THIS CAREFULLY. The City Council must legally agree that these unavoidable negative impacts on air quality affecting the Semple School, are justified by "overriding considerations"; in short that the benefits of the Seeno project override those impacts. Would you want that Resolution of CEQA Findings signed?

Question: If this project is denied, won't that delay development for many years?

In reality the highly questionable phasing plan of the present proposal already delays the industrial development for five to ten years. Currently there is a great need and business climate for the kind of development that Benicia should be getting. Venture capital is flowing to precisely those research and development, future-oriented clean tech projects that are most desirable for Benicia. There will never be a more obvious window of opportunity for Benicia to get the green industrial development that enhances and serves the city while exploiting its unique demographics and location.

Question: With denial, what would happen next?

It would be essential for the city to send the strongest possiblesignal to Seeno that it wants to cooperate, proactively andimmediately, in helping the company to both advance a new plan and to recruit the kind of research and development ventures, (biotech and alternate energy enterprises and other supporting businesses) that are now demonstrating such promise for the future in the Bay Area.

Question: What can I do?

A first and extremely important step would be to attend the Council meeting June 3rd, (which starts early, at 6 p.m.) This is a crucial point of decision on this project to approve or deny.

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