Postponement of Development Project Hearing Raises Question of CEQA “Greenmail”

By Carolyn Schuk : santaclaraweekly – excerpt

The City Council was ready for a full hearing on a high-density residential infill project, 45 Buckingham/66 Saratoga, last Tuesday night, when the project’s developer, Prometheus Corp., asked at the last minute that the hearing be continued until Jan. 7, 2014.

The Council’s action would have been to approve or disapprove zoning changes from Community Mixed Use to High Density Residential, and resolutions that would exempt the project from a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) – satisfying requirements with a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) and Mitigation Monitoring or Reporting Program (MMRP). Currently, the parcel is parking lots for Stevens Creek car dealers, auto repair shops, and several retail establishments including smoking paraphernalia and adult novelties shops.

The reason for the postponement given was that there were “issues that the developer needed to deal with.” However, the public documents (preview.tinyurl.com/nf683wt) for the project suggest that the Santa Clara project is perhaps the latest target of California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) “greenmail” by construction unions threatening unneeded, time-consuming and costly CEQA reviews in order to increase their control over project hiring.

In November, the city received a letter from attorney Ellen Trescott of the Sacramento-based law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo challenging the adequacy of the environmental review for a variety of issues including “hazardous waste mitigation, to cleaner burning construction equipment, greenhouse gas emissions, and traffic…Because there is significant dispute about the severity of environmental impacts associated the Project, the more proper course of action is to direct the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR).”

A Law Firm Known for Its Union-Driven CEQA Appeals

Trescott is representing a group called Santa Clara Residents for Responsible Development, which, according to her letter, “includes David Clark, R.C. Crawford, Phillip Francisco, Victor Galvez, Matt Hancoc, Ricci Herro, Gregory Small, Robert Stuhr, Corey Quevedo, Scott Thomas, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332, Plumbers & Steamfitters Local 393, Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, and their members and their families who live and/or work in the City of Santa Clara and Santa Clara County.”

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo has made a name for itself in the last few years by bringing CEQA appeals against development project approvals on behalf of various “residents” groups whose principal members are construction unions. In 2012 it represented similar groups in objections to a Pasadena power plant re-powering project, a Napa water pipe project, and a San Bernardino County solar energy project.

Closer to home, the law firm represented Santa Clara & San Benito Counties Building and Construction Trades Council in disputing the San Jose City Council’s approval of the environmental study for the One South Market high-rise apartment project. The group’s appeal lost 9-2, with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed calling the entire proceeding “just an abuse of the environmental process,” according to the San Jose Mercury report… (more)

Interesting read on “greenmail”. Could this be that the residents of the area object to the project and have hired a law firm that specializes in this matters?

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