25 August 2009

Stonefield Development Discussion at City Council Postponed

The matter of the 28-unit Stonefield housing development in Carbon Canyon was pulled from tonight's Chino Hills City Council meeting agenda and postponed until either the 22 September or 6 October meeting.

The reason is that the developer has appealed the decision of the Planning Commission to require traffic mitigation in the form of a $1.5 million improvement to the intersection of Carbon Canyon Road and Fairway Drive, adjacent to the site.

It has been the contention of Stonefield that, because the development is only 1.5% of the daily traffic on Carbon Canyon Road, it should only pay that percentage of the improvement.

This translates to a $22,500 contribution.

Now, there's a true indication of this developer's commitment to building community, eh? Never mind that Stonefield would increase by probably 33% or 40% (or whatever the percentage is: certainly much higher than 1.5%) of drivers attempting to enter or exit Carbon Canyon Road from or to Fairway (or its much quieter cousin across the road: Ginseng Lane). Forget that this is an increase that would, in the estimation of Chino Hills Planning Department staff, require safety measures in the form of acceleration/deacceleration lanes to allow from entry and exit from the state highway. Dispense with the fact that this is really the only benefit proposed mitigation of any traffic issue on Carbon Canyon Road can provide: to drivers entering or exiting that road to and from the smaller side streets.

No, this developer is so willing to work with the city on this that it will not just advocate for only paying $22,500 of the proposed improvement (which, by the way, cuts costs from previous alternatives to up to half), but it also seems perfectly willing to let the city offer nebulous and questionable benefits as mitigation for pollution and aesthetic impacts that should simply not be allowed, while really having nothing to lose in their profit margin.

If anyone ever needed an example of developers laying bare their truest motivations, instead of cloaking themselves as community partners, here it is. An absolute unequivocal stubbornness in the face of the sheer fact that this project, as now constituted, is wrong for this site.

One would think that the City Council would look at this obstinacy and then invoke its discretionary powers (as well as some form of indignation, given how much the city has bent over backwards to accommodate this developer) to force Stonefield to reduce the impacts of this project to bring pollution from grading under already-low AQMD thresholds and to cut back its footprint to remove the egregious aesthetic obstructions to the irreplaceable natural setting and viewsheds that exist (and have for untold thousands of years) in Carbon Canyon.

Here are 28 proposed homes that will undoubtedly sell, in an improved market, for well over $1 million in most, if not all, cases, and the developer is going to take an absurd position of paying 1.5%, a pittance, for traffic improvements that will only really benefit Stonefield residents, in concert with users of Western Hills Country Club and the Western Hills Estates mobile home park? Can the developer seriously suggest that a "fair share" contribution to improvements on that intersection will prevent them from making a "reasonable" profit? If they can, then provide the evidence: show the figures that will make contributing a larger share of the improvements a death blow to their "reasonable" profit. If that is the case, then I, for one, will happily yield the point.

Regardless, there's no reason for the City to not use its discretion to force Stonefield to comply with lowering environmental impacts in pollution and aesthetics by reducing the number of homes. As has been said here before, all this emphasis on reducing traffic impacts not identified as significant by CEQA standards is interesting given the relative lack of concern over pollution and aesthetic issues, which are so identified.

Still, if the number of houses was reduced to mitigate the pollution and aesthetic effects, then maybe the proposed traffic improvements at that intersection won't be necessary or could be cut down even further and cost them less. Hmmm . . .

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