The DEIR that ate Christmas!

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Text by Sarah Phelan. Photo by Ben Hopfer.

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I don’t know if Mayor Newsom took a copy of the city's 4,400 page draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for Lennar’s proposed massive Candlestick/Hunters Point Shipyard redevelopment on vacation at the swanky Mauna Kea Beach Hotel in Hawaii.

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This is what a room at the Newsoms' get away (from the folks wanting more time to read the DEIR) hotel in Hawaii looks like.

But if he did, he'd need an extra suitcase just to carry the darn thing, not to mention an ante chamber to store it, when he goes swimming, or whatever, in between readings.

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As our illustration shows, a volume of this massive six-volume report is the size of a phone book. And way denser.
That’s because it’s packed with all kinds of interesting information. Which is why folks have been asking Newsom to extend the public comment period on this document, which was released in mid-November, to mid-February.

This requested extension would give folks three months to read, digest and comment on one of the most important and legally binding documents to land on Newsom's desk since he became mayor. And the last month of this requested extension wouldn't be unencumbered by Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

But to hear Newsom’s appointees on the Redevelopment and Planning Commissions, those folks asking for a mid-February extension are just whining, or don't plan on reading the documents at all. And anyways, who cares if the public doesn’t get their comments in time. Because there’ll be plenty of opportunity to comment later on, right?

Wrong. The DEIR public comment period represents one of the few moments when comments have to be put into the public record—and replied to. That was not the case during all those hundreds of meetings that city staff and project boosters like to quote as alleged evidence that there has been plenty of public input into this process.

In fact, when folks were worried about the prospect of selling off a slice of Candlestick Park so that Lennar could build luxury condos on prime waterfront land, they were told, don’t worry, they’ll be plenty of opportunity to review this plan when the environmental impact report comes out. But now it's all, hurry up and finish, already.

But now that a draft version has been released, and is available online—or in the offices of the Redevelopment Agency and the Planning Department, it’s critical that folks read all of it, and not just the executive summary. It's also important that folks not versed in "DEIR speak" find professionals that are to give them independent feedback, and that they then submit written comments to Redevelopment and Planning, the city’s two lead agencies on this project, by the deadline that the city has set.

The city's original deadline was Dec. 28--the minimum 45-day public review period that’s required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), when a project has to be reviewed by state agencies. That’s why a lot of folks showed up at the city’s two DEIR hearings on Dec. 15 and Dec. 17 to voice their concerns. And while I sympathize with the plight of Alice Griffith residents, who continue to live with cockroaches and backed-up sewers and leaking roofs and broken windows, and unemployed workers in this town, rushing DEIR review won’t get housing built or jobs created any sooner. What it will do is increase the chances that the city will get sued.

Which is why folks who seriously want to read and comment on the DEIR asked the city for the Feb. 12 extension. Instead, they got a patronizing rebuff from Newsom’s commissioners, who gave them a 15-day extension, which ends Jan. 12. Along with the opportunity to voice their concerns one more time before Redevelopment on Jan. 5.

That’s why some folks are planning to ask Newsom not to be a Grinch, by faxing copies of a poster that features a cool looking Grinch to City Hall. So, while it won’t be snowing in Hawaii, it could be snowing faxes in the Mayor’s Office. As the poster notes,

“Don’t be a Grinch! Mister Mayor. Don’t steal Christmas and New Years. Your staff released the draft environmental impact report a week and a half before Thanksgiving.”

“Your staff had two years to work on it, but your commissioners just gave the public two months to read 4,400 pages. It’s unfair to steal the public’s Christmas and New Years’ to meet an arbitrary deadline.”

“Extend public comment on the Candlestick Point Hunters Point Shipyard draft environmental impact report (DEIR) to Feb. 12, 2010.”

This follows on the heels of a letter that a broad coalition of environmental and community groups, along with concerned Bayview Hunters Point residents, sent to Newsom before the Dec. 15 and 17 hearings, asking for the Feb. 12 extension, a copy of which follows: