MHRGC is providing the following summary and commentary to help our community sift through this 260-page document (1000+ pages with appendices) and glean out the most noteworthy details to consider when submitting questions or comments to the City.
CALL FOR ACTION: Submit comments to the City by Email, USPS, or via City website MHRGC encourages all residents to submit their questions and comments on the environmental impacts of this proposal. The Final EIR must respond to ALL comments and questions submitted during the review period, so your comments do count! Comments must be received electronically or postmarked on or before July 14, 2020.
By email: email@example.com with subject line “Draft EIR Comment” By mail: Attn: Adam Paszkowski, Development Services, 17575 Peak Ave, Morgan Hill, CA 95037 Via City website: https://www.morgan-hill.ca.gov/1765/Morgan-Hill-Technology-Park-EIR
When the Trammell Crow draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was released to the public in May, members of our MHRGC team read through this lengthy and complex document and quickly concluded what we have been saying all along: This project, as currently designed, should not get approved by our City!
The draft EIR points out many "Significant and Unavoidable" impacts, especially for findings related to traffic and air quality, yet we recently learned that Trammell Crow is prepared to say they can mitigate ALL environmental issues. Believe it or not, they can simply pay extra fees for the opportunity to further gridlock our traffic and grossly pollute our city with truck emissions. How can our City even consider a project that would result in air quality that is unsafe for our families? This is especially worrisome when you consider the draft EIR is based on unrealistically low Truck Trips for this project. City planners told our community this EIR would provide for “worst case” analysis but it does not even come close to a realistic impact if this becomes a fully functioning Distribution Center. So what exactly is the purpose of the EIR? The Environmental Impact Report is intended to inform decision-makers and the general public of any potential environmental issues that could result from the proposed Trammel Crow project before the City considers approving it. This EIR process, in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), is intended to provide information to evaluate the project and its potential for significant environmental impacts; examine methods or "mitigations" to avoid or reduce significant impacts; and also to look at alternatives to the original proposed project.
Will the EIR actually protect our community? In theory, the Trammell Crow EIR should protect us, as residents, from any development activities that would be detrimental to our community. Unfortunately, we do not have faith in the efforts or outputs associated with this EIR process. The consulting firm that prepared this EIR is the same firm that found ways to "avoid the need altogether for a public review period“ for the very significant Shoe Palace expansion project. That action, to most of our community, appears unethical, unprofessional and against everything the CEQA process is intended to represent. Why do City Planners continue to use this same consultant for our most significant Morgan Hill projects?
We have spent quite a bit of time digging through the draft EIR to understand the magnitude of the project as it relates to impact on our city. We are sharing many of our findings here. To be upfront about our efforts, this is what we can accomplish:
Help community members review the stated impact of the project.
Pinpoint topics of interest and, where possible, paraphrase to eliminate confusing legal terms. Text provided also makes it easy to search within the actual EIR PDF to further explore a topic for more details.
Provide a few key talking points to assist community members in asking questions, writing letters to the city, and preparing verbal comments for the virtual city meeting in late June.
And this is what we CANNOT do:
Explain why our City must forge ahead with Trammel Crow’s EIR process while its citizens are following strict COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place rules set by County of Santa Clara, knowing the community wants to be involved in meetings for this important decision-making process.
Fully document all possible questions that tie into the credibility of the consulting company who was hired to produce this draft EIR.
Expound on the apparent “game playing” associated with EIRs: The report is paid for by the developer, coordinated by the City, and then written specifically to help the developer mitigate all negative impact issues, and allow the City to get approval to move forward, despite serious impacts it could cause residents of the city.
Spend a great deal of time documenting all issues within the EIR. Our primary focus and time is now directed to preparing a Voter's Initiative, which is independent of the complex EIR process.
Section 2.0 - Project Information and Description
The primary scope of this project proposal is a mix of industrial, commercial and residential uses on an 89-acre site.
Industrial and commercial parcels located on 61 acres on western half of site
1.04 million square feet in 6 buildings on 57.8 acres, consisting of light industrial including advanced manufacturing, warehouse/distribution, supporting office and similar light industrial
o Maximum heights of 50 feet
o 124 loading docks
o 1435 standard vehicle parking spaces
o Estimated 248 trucks per day in and out of site
o Driveway access to industrial portion off west side of DePaul Drive.
45,000 square feet of industrial office in one building on 2.31 acres
50,000 square feet of retail/commercial on 2.92 acres on Cochrane Road frontage
Approximately 319 residential units on 28 acres in southern portion of the site
Estimate of 1,500 new jobs added to Morgan Hill (1300 industrial and 200 commercial)
Max clear ceiling heights of 50+ feet are specifications used almost exclusively for automated distribution centers.
Dock density aligns with distribution use and FAR EXCEEDS norm for advanced manufacturing use.
Estimate of 248 truck trips per day equates to 124 docks x 2 turns, inbound and outbound. Apparently this data is not based on a “worst case scenario” but actually derived from General Land Use Code, ITE 10th Edition. This is not realistic considering the tenants are unknown. We predict truck traffic to be exponentially higher when the development is in full production.
If all the subsequent reports are based on 248 truck trips , how will Trammell Crow be measured, monitored, metered and, if they exceed, penalized ?
Number of jobs advertised is 1500, but how was this number derived? What type of jobs and salary ranges are expected? Given the specifications for the development, we foresee the low wage warehouse jobs to be replaced in the near future with robots as E-commerce companies aim to fully automate their distribution centers. Sorting, picking, and even janitorial work is being replaced by robots.
Despite the request for a zoning variance and specifications that clearly align with distribution activities, this initial scoping description does not overtly call out the possibility of 100% warehouse/distribution; however impacts of 100% distribution are evaluated as an alternative below (Section 7.6 Project Alternatives) BUT the traffic model used comes from data for a "traditional" warehouse that is used for more static storage purposes, not a high volume distribution center.
This EIR states the City has objectives for warehouse/distribution? But for the longest time our community has been told, "this is advanced manufacturing, not a distribution center." No hiding the truth any longer!!!
Section 3.0 Impacts and Mitigation
The proposed project would result in significant impacts from construction air quality emissions, operational greenhouse gas emissions during construction, hazardous materials, operational and construction noise and traffic on local intersections and utilities and service systems.
22.214.171.124 Traffic Impacts
Traffic trip estimates for the project were based on 2017 data from Institute of Transportation Engineers. All intersections below would operate at unacceptable levels and require mitigation. (See Table 3.9.3 beginning on page 163)
Cochrane Road and DePaul Drive
Mission View Drive and Cochrane Road
Mission View Drive and Avenida De Los Padres
Mission View Drive and Half Road
Condit Road and Main Avenue
Condit Road and Diana Avenue
Condit Road and Tenant Avenue
Murphy Avenue and Tennant Avenue
Note: All intersections except Mission View Drive and Half Road, Main Avenue and Condit Road are controlled by the City of Morgan Hill.
According to this EIR, significant impacts for Air Quality, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Hazards and Hazardous Materials, and Noise and Transportation, apparently can all be remediated by Trammel Crow to have Less than Significant Impact. These are most likely based on best case scenarios and unrealistic estimates.
A common thread throughout: first the report lists "significant impacts" for traffic and air quality. Then with a few strangely absurd mitigation efforts, these issues become "less than significant impacts". How can we trust a report like this?
City stated there are not enough firefighters to address a single serious incident and MH is dependent on South Santa Clara County Fire District to provide an effective response force. They also confirmed that traffic congestion affects response times in core areas of the City. Why wasn’t this taken into consideration during the EIR studies?
Regarding traffic: - Traffic volume estimates are seriously flawed based on old data from 2017 plus severe underestimates of truck traffic going to/coming from the site on a 24x7 schedule. - Number of city intersections listed gives an idea of the huge impact the project will have in terms of possible traffic gridlock over a wide area of the city. - No mitigation is likely to take place to overcome the significant traffic impacts on the Mission View Drive/Half Road and Main Avenue/Condit Road because these intersections are controlled by the County, not Morgan Hill.
Section 6.0 Significant and Unavoidable Impacts (Page 195).
The project would result in the following significant and unavoidable impacts if approved:
The project would result in Significant and Unavoidable Impacts/delays to 10 Highway 101 segments (Page 196):
· US 101, Northbound from San Martin Avenue to Tennant Avenue (AM Peak Hour)
· US 101, Northbound from Tennant Avenue to East Dunne Avenue (AM Peak Hour)
· US 101 Northbound from East Dunne to Cochrane Road (AP Peak Hour)
· US 101, Northbound from Cochrane Road to Coyote Creek Golf Drive (AM Peak Hour)
· US 101, Southbound from SR 85 to Bailey Avenue (PM Peak Hour)
· US 101, Southbound from Bailey Avenue to Coyote Creek Golf Drive (PM Peak Hour)
· US 101, Southbound from Coyote Creek Golf Drive to Cochrane Road (PM Peak Hour)
· US 101, Southbound from Cochrane Road to East Dunne Avenue (PM Peak Hour)
· US 101, Southbound from East Dunne to Tenant Avenue (PM Peak Hour)
· US 101, Southbound from Tennant Avenue to San Martin Avenue (PM Peak Hour)
Significant freeway improvements would be needed, including extra freeway lanes. In essence taxpayers would bear the brunt of those costs as it would not be feasible for the developer to pay these significant costs. Regarding traffic, based on the unjustifiably low estimate of 248 truck trips per day for light industrial uses:
The AM northbound commute, traffic would significantly worsen from San Martin Ave to Coyote Creek Golf Drive.
The PM southbound commute, traffic would significantly worsen from Bailey Road to San Martin Avenue.
There is no remediation plan possible since the highways and on/off ramps are controlled and maintained by the State of California.
Highway 101 would become gridlock during these hours, and on Fridays even worse.
Air Quality (Page 33-49)
Diesel exhaust is the predominant Toxic Air Contaminant (TAC) in urban air estimated to represent about ¾ of the cancer risk of TACs. The EIR states that a Significant and Unavoidable Impact of the project would result in much higher NOx emissions from operational truck activities worsening air quality with levels that exceed air quality standards. MHRGC Comments:
Because the estimate of 248 truck trips per day to/from the site is artificially low, measurements of toxic and greenhouse air pollutants like ROG, PM10, PM2.5 could likely be much higher with the actual development, resulting in health risks that cannot be remediated by actions like those identified in the EIR.
Because the homes to the east and southeast, along with the high school (outside the area of Westmont Assisted Living Center and De Paul Health Center) are beyond 1000 feet from the site, and not expected to be exposed chronically, PM2.5 levels were not evaluated. How can we be certain of this? • Mitigations for Air Quality Under Truck Routes do not make sense: "establish appropriate truck routes that avoid trucks transiting through residential areas in accordance with General Plan Policy NRE-11.4." HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE WHEN LOCATED NEXT TO WESTMONT SENIOR LIVING CENTER? Therefore, with the implementation of mitigation measures MM AIR-2.1 and MM AIR-2.2, the cancer risk to the project MEI would be less than significant? Impact AIR-4: The project would not result in substantial emissions (such as odors) adversely affecting a substantial number of people.
Agricultural Resources (Section 126.96.36.199 Page 28)
Project would convert prime Farmland pursuant to the Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program of California Resources Agency to non-agricultural use. City of Morgan Hill has adopted an Agricultural Lands Preservation Program in 2014 to preserve agricultural lands subject to development. This project will reduce farmland acreage that the state of California and the City of Morgan Hill are trying to prevent from happening
Section 7.6 Project Alternatives
The EIR also evaluated project alternatives as a means to compare the impacts of possible alternatives to the proposed project
Alternative 1: (Section 7.6.1 Page 200) No project no development would leave the site as it is today, undeveloped with a vacant single family residence. This alternative would avoid all the significant impacts to air quality, agricultural resources and local intersection and freeway impacts.
The EIR states this alternative would avoid all of the negative impacts of the project but would not meet any of the project’s primary objectives. Why would an alleged impartial EIR chartered by the City of Morgan Hill be concerned about the primary objectives of the developer and their project? Alternative 2: (Section 7.6.2 starting on page 201). If the site is developed in accordance with existing zoning General Plan designations of Commercial, Commercial/Industrial and Residential Low, the project would consist of:
585,000 square feet of general light industrial space
305,965 square feet of general office space
218,000 square feet of commercial/retail space and
319 residential units
Based on data in Table 7.6.1 on page 202, this alternative results in 6,692 more daily truck/auto trips, 160 more peak hour trips and 547 truck/auto more PM peak hour trips.
Alternative 2 has more or less same impact as proposed project; maybe slightly worse. This alternative model seems to be purely nonsense.
Alternative 3: (Section 7.6.4 on page 204) This alternative identifies the amount of development that could be placed on the site to reduce identified impacts below relevant thresholds. details a project that would not result in all of the significant and unavoidable impacts in the proposed Trammell Crow project.
If reduced scale by 20%, eliminates operational air quality impact
If reduced by 65%, avoids impact on freeway;
If reduced by 70% avoids city intersection impacts
Below is what a 65% reduction project looks like:
General light industrial buildings would be reduced from 1,044,600 square feet to 365,610 square feet;
Industrial office building reduced from 45,000 square feet to 15,750 square feet;
Commercial uses reduced from 50,000 square feet to 17,500 square feet;
Residential units reduced from 319 to 112 units.
Alternative 4: (Section 7.6.5 on page 205) Allows for 1,105,000 square feet of distribution/warehousing uses. The 50,000 square feet of commercial space and 319 residential units remain the same. This use would have lower auto trip and higher truck generation than light industrial uses. (See Table 7.6.1 on page 206 for comparison). (See Table 7.6.2 for distribution center traffic comparison with proposed project).
o The analysis indicates that only 9 city intersections not 11 will be negatively impacted and only 4 freeway segments will be impacted, not 10 (See page 211). Also see Table 7.6.4 on page 214.
o Results in unavoidable operational NOx emissions due to truck activity.
o This alternative results in significant and unavoidable greenhouse emissions similar to the proposed project. (Table 7.6-6 page 221.
o Overall the warehouse alternative slightly improves environmental impacts (except operational noise and utility impacts).
o Still provides 1,500 jobs according to the report. (What kind of jobs?)
The distribution center alternative is actually being positioned in this EIR as slightly more desirable from an impact standpoint over the scope of the proposed project, but in reality we know this is going to be a massive distribution center and yet the data is skewed as "best case analysis", not the realistic assumptions that should be made.
The analysis takes no qualitative considerations into account, such as quality/pay of jobs and a massive eyesore of a huge industrial project.
Trammell Crow wants the flexibility to have light industrial, advanced manufacturing and warehouse/distribution uses on the same site; They want to include a high dock-density that by definition makes the facility a high-cube warehouse (per ITE definitions) BUT then they say they don't fall into that category because in this case it's "really" Advanced Manufacturing which they have mapped to ITE LUC General Light Industrial and the high dock-density is ONLY for 'flexibility' AND they have no tenant in mind. But all those assumptions (which are simply not believable) give the public NO PROTECTION. That is NOT how a standard analysis should be done in adherence with CEQA.
The proposed project has a distribution use called out but deliberately does not specify what % is considered, which means it could become 100% distribution.
This analysis separates 100% distribution from the proposed light industrial that could also be 100% distribution. Very confusing...Are we going in circles here?
Estimate of 385 truck trips per day is unjustifiably low in a distribution center over 1 million square feet; which means 124 docks are only turning approximately 3X per day; in reality they could have one truck after another lined up waiting to load/unload 24x7.
How can 101 traffic be improved with 385 vs 248 truck trips per day?
Clearly the best alternative is no project at all; secondly the Reduced Intensity Alternative; a dramatically scaled down project so that traffic and air quality impacts are minimized. (See Table 7.7-1 on page 223)
This could be the first time City of Morgan Hill has ever received a draft EIR for a project that has so many “Significant and Unavoidable Impacts”. While this is unusual, it is all the more reason to send Trammel Crow back to the drawing board to come up with a MUCH BETTER development idea that provides long term sustainable public benefit to Morgan Hill.
While we believe the content of the draft EIR speaks for itself, we are also familiar with what often happens during the EIR review process. Residents do not usually have much clout in this process. Why is that? Remember that the EIR is financed by Trammel Crow at a hefty price of $300,000, the EIR lead agency is our own City of Morgan Hill, and the consultants who produced this EIR document also rely heavily on the developer and city for future business. As we mentioned before, the EIR is written in a way to help a developer mitigate all impacts, and allow a city to get approval, to move forward with a project despite serious impacts it will cause the residents of our city.
WHICH IS WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP!!! We encourage all residents to submit their questions and comments on the environmental impacts of this proposal. The Public Review Period ends on July 14, 2020. MHRGC team members are submitting their own questions and comments too!
Morgan Hill City page with links to EIR documentation and FAQs: