CCF asks Coastal Commission 25 questions
In an open letter to the local Coastal Commission program manager Chris Kern, Coastside Community First President Charlie Gardner has responded to Kern’s earlier letter to the city of Half Moon Bay with (by my count) 25 questions.
Kern’s letter said it is not possible to mitigate the taking of wetlands to build a road. Five of the questions in the letter are about whether it is indeed possible to mitigate the taking of wetlands to build a road. The remainder focus on a new issue: the Pacific Ridge settlement, which resulted in Coastal Commission approval of a traffic light on Highway 1 at Terrace Avenue.
Gardner has asked Coastsider to publish CCF’s letter as an open letter to the Commission. We’re running his letter on the second page of this story, as we did with Kern’s letter.
June 11, 2006
Coastal Program Manager
North Central Coast District - California Coastal Commission
45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219
Dear Mr. Kern:
Thank you for your same-day response to HMB City Manager Deborah Auker concerning Foothill/wetlands issues. Coastsiders have been asking a number of questions about these and related issues, which you’ve certainly demonstrated an alacrity in answering. Coastside Community First respectfully requests your response to the following Foothill-related questions:
1. Your June 6th letter to Ms. Auker states that wetlands can be mitigated for eight reasons, which do not include roadbuilding. How then did Caltrans receive Commission approval to go through wetlands at Shamrock Ranch, and mitigate them with wetlands restoration a few miles away, at Montara? Is that proscribed by the Coastal Act and Bolsa Chica decision, as your letter would indicate?
2. Your quote in the May 3rd HMB Review mentions a ‘conflict resolution’ process whereby wetlands mitigations for roadbuilding can occur. Why is this process not mentioned as a possibility in your letter?
3. Is it the Commission’s opinion that it is not possible to build a roadway bypass linking Highways 92 and 1 that avoids wetlands? If that is the case, is there some reason that HMB could not receive Commission approval through ‘conflict resolution,’ as Caltrans did, to mitigate any unavoidable wetlands intrusion?
4. A number of questions have been raised concerning the Pacific Ridge settlement agreement, to which the Commission is signatory. As you know, the agreement requires your staff, regardless of any EIR findings and in contradiction to your staff’s prior recommendation, to recommend in favor of a permanent stoplight at Terrace. Is it customary for the Commission to require of its staff a particular recommendation on an application? Are there circumstances under which you consider it appropriate to require staff to make a recommendation contrary to their actual opinions? In the past, has your staff recommended for or against applications before the Commission according to its prior instructions? If so, which applications had predetermined staff recommendations? Were the applicants and the public made aware of such arrangements? If no applications have had staff recommendations dictated by the Commission, does that mean that the requirement in the Pacific Ridge settlement agreement is unprecedented?
5. Are you required to publicly support the settlement agreement? If so, is your June 6th letter colored by that requirement? If you disagree with elements of the agreement, in particular its restrictions on your or your staff’s freedom to recommend on applications, are you free to state so in response to this CCF query?
6. Would you permit your staff to create a recommendation against a stoplight at Terrace, if that was their considered professional opinion? If you did, would the Commission publish that recommendation, or would it be publicly suppressed as contrary to the terms of the settlement agreement? Would you or your staff be subject to disciplinary action from the Commission if you or your staff recommended against the Terrace stoplight?
7. If you or your staff recommended against a Terrace stoplight, and that recommendation was publicly suppressed by the Commission as contrary to the agreement, would you consider releasing it to the public anyway? Do you believe that you or your staff would then be subject to civil actions from the parties to the agreement for doing so? Is there a whistleblower status that might protect you or your staff in that event?
8. The Commission of course does not need to follow your staff’s recommendation when considering an application. Since it is not necessary to have your staff’s positive recommendation to approve a stoplight at Terrace, why in your opinion does the agreement contain an unnecessary requirement that restricts your staff’s expression of professional opinion? Do you agree that it appears to be an attempt to suppress predictable staff criticism of a Terrace stoplight? Are you aware of any other explanation for such an extraordinary restriction?
9. The Commission voted unanimously in favor of the settlement agreement, despite controversial elements as described above. Are the minutes, transcripts or the like of the Commission’s deliberations, as well as your staff’s contribution to that process, available to the public? If so, could you provide links to those documents for public perusal in your response to this query?
Coastside Community First, and the Coastside public in general, very much appreciate your willingness to answer questions on these and other subjects. CCF requests that you publish your response to the above questions on coastsider.com, so that the answers can be widely studied and commented upon.
Thank you in advance for your timely reply.
COASTSIDE COMMUNITY FIRST
Charles M. Gardner