07 January 2014

Madrona Appeal Public Hearing in 2 Weeks!

It has been oft-discussed on this blog (and will be subsequently), either as its previous iteration as Canyon Crest or in its present form as Madrona, but the proposed 162-unit housing development on 367 acres in the Brea portion Carbon Canyon between Olinda Village and Sleepy Hollow will be the subject of a public hearing by the Brea City Council, starting two weeks from tonight, on Tuesday, 21 January, on an appeal of a 3-2 Planning Commission approval over five years ago of the Canyon Crest version of the project.

That Planning Commission decision (with one of the narrow majority resigning his seat this past August to become  . . .  wait for it . . . a P.R. consultant for . . .  you guessed it . . .  Madrona) came around the time of the onset of The Great Recession, but just before the conflagration of the Freeway Complex Fire in November 2008 and then the bankruptcy of Canyon Crest's owner, The Shopoff Group.   The site then reverted to a Shopoff creditor, Old Standard Life Insurance Company of Spokane, Washington, which, in turn, became, you got it, bankrupt, via questionable business practices and is now under a court-supervised receivership.

Retooled and very, very slightly scaled back, Madrona emerged as the latest version of a plan that goes back to the late 1990s.  This was when there was a general plan and development standards that allowed for a project of this scale to be proposed for Carbon Canyon.  Even though these conditions changed dramatically in the mid-2000s, an ill-advised legal agreement allowed the developers of Canyon Crest to continue their plans under the old system.  This does not mean, however, that the city council has to approve the project with those antiquated standards in mind. 

Quite the contrary, as the city attorney will no doubt do at the hearings, the city has every legal right, power and ground to approve the appeal and deny the Madrona project because of several unavoidable significant adverse impacts identified in the Environmental Impact Report as mandated by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Certainly, the developer can (and will, if denied by appeal) threaten to sue, but the fact that those impacts are identified gives the city all the reasons necessary to turn Madrona down.

Yet, staff has identified three (really, four, but two were bundled together) "statements of overriding consideration" that can be used to approve Madrona on the basis that any so-called "overriding consideration" leads to benefits to the city that offset those pesky unavoidable significant adverse impacts identified in the EIR.  This massive loophole in CEQA provides the quintessential "out" for any governmental body looking to approve a project despite the environmental hazards that are specified in the EIR.

The hearing on the 21st, almost certainly to be continued into February and, perhaps, March will give the Madrona applicants and opponents opportunity to state their respective cases, as well as allow for public comment.  The council will then deliberate on the argued merits and demerits offered by the two sides and either deny or approve of the appeal.

Over the next two weeks, arguments against Madrona will be restated here, with special attention paid to the real, everyday effects that will be visited upon the citizens of Brea, but also by those who live or work or commute in and around that city and Carbon Canyon. 

Because, this is an issue that has wider-ranging effects than might appear at face value.  It is one far beyond the polarizing extremes of NIMBYism on one side and the inviolable sanctity of private property rights and the free [real estate] market on the other.

Meantime, for those interested and concerned, keep Tuesday, 21 January @ 7:00 p.m. in the Brea City Hall Council Chambers in mind as the date for that appeal hearing approacheth!

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