Residents still divided over Hall property

Approximately 275 people turned out to attend a special meeting of the Planning Commission on Sept. 3. The proposed plan to develop a controversial park in Cardiff-by-the-Sea is in its final stages as an environmental impact report was released one week prior to the public hearing. City staff responded to more than 1,400 public comments since the draft report comment period ended March 1.
The document, which is more appropriately measured in inches rather than pages, analyzed the environmental effects of developing the proposed site as city officials envision it.
Potentially significant impacts on the environment were separated into categories that included traffic circulation, air quality, noise, aesthetics and lighting, hazardous materials, water quality, geology-soil instability, paleontological, biological and cultural resources.
The city purchased the 43-acre Hall property, located just west of I-5 and south of Santa Fe Drive in 2001 for $17.2 million. After a public workshop in 2002, the council revised the initial $35 million design to include buffer areas between the site and residential neighborhoods to the west, a teen center and amphitheater.
Plans also include a dog park, baseball and five multi-use sports fields, an aquatic center, a basketball court and a skate park. Passive uses would encompass a portion of the park with gardens, picnic areas, trails and a scenic overlook.
Proponents brought their children dressed in soccer uniforms and carrying signs that demanded the park be built. Speakers addressed the commission for more than four hours with various concerns including increased traffic in the neighborhood and the lack of adequate sports fields in the city.
Ingram Losner said the community supported an active-use park.
“This (turnout) shows how much the community wants to see more sports fields,” he told the commission.
But several speakers questioned the ability of neighborhood streets to accommodate increased park traffic. “How can we expect to have adequate access to the park when the infrastructure, the roads just aren’t there?” Shelly Stevens asked after the meeting.
The report details more than a dozen intersections and street segments that would be significantly impacted by development of the park. The southbound I-5 ramps at Birmingham and Santa Fe drives along with the northbound ramp at Birmingham would suffer congestion in addition to the intersection at Windsor Road and Villa Cardiff.
While the report offers mitigating measures to relieve congestion at certain intersections — including increased signal lights, closing Mackinnon Avenue to through traffic and installing roundabouts — it fails to present a tenable solution to the significant effects of traffic on the previous intersections.
The report cites economic constraints and the future widening of I-5 by Caltrans as reasons why no viable alternative was found to the projected traffic increase. During special events, secondary traffic effects would be significant unless adequate parking is made available.
Peter Stern, who lives near the site, told the commission that the community is generally supportive of a park. “No one is against the park,” he said. “The question for you is what kind of park is compatible with the neighborhood.” He said if the plan were limited to two active-use fields without lights the park would have the green light from neighbors. “We could start on the park tomorrow,” he said.

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