The request seemed further vindicated when it became apparent that most of the people who showed up at the DEIR hearings, including those opposed to extending the review period, admitted that they had not actually read the documents in question. And the commissioners' failure to honor the extension request represents a new low in a process that threatens to become a classic lesson in the dangers of public-private partnerships.
Opponents of giving the public a decent chance to read the DEIR argue that there have already been hundreds of meetings on the proposed project. But as Bloom pointed out, the character and focus of EIR is different from any other document that has been produced for discussion. "If an issue is not raised during the EIR process, it cannot be raised subsequently," Bloom said. "Releasing an EIR during the holiday season and providing the minimum amount of time allowable under the law for public review undermines the public's ability to evaluate an EIR and disenfranchises people at one of the most critical points of the project approval process."
Bloom also noted that a standard strategy for drastically limiting public input while appearing to be transparent is to spend time evaluating nonbinding documents while providing the minimum time required to evaluate the legally binding stuff.
"The Phase 2 Urban Design Plan released in October 2008 was in public discussion until it was approved in February 2009 — five months," Bloom observed, noting that nothing in that document was legally binding. Neither was Lennar required to disclose negative effects of its plan. But an EIR is a legally binding document. "It's a fiction that a 45-day DEIR public review extension would have cause a domino effect of indefinitely delaying the approval of the project," Bloom added.