Anastasi Project Fends Off Calls for an Environmental Impact Report

Planning Department in October 10 hearing agrees to let developers submit a second draft of the less stringent Mitigated Negative Declaration.

By Jim Childs

November, 2007. The owner of a two-acre site at Washington Boulevard and Oak Street has received a second chance to avoid preparing a full Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on its proposed, six-story condominium project in the University Park Historic Preservation Overlay Zone.

At an Oct. 10 public hearing at City Hall, Hearing Officer Maya Zaitzevsky rejected a Mitigated Negative Declaration - an abbreviated environmental document that would have allowed Anastasi Development Corp. to avoid a full environmental study.

But she reluctantly agreed to let Anastasi submit a new MND, in which the developer will try to respond to issues raised in public submissions and comments. Anastasi is also seeking approval of a tentative tract map and a zone change for the 142-unit project.

WAHA and other community members joined the HPOZ Board in opposing the project's design for its failure to comply with the HPOZ's Preservation Plan, which requires that new developments be consistent with surrounding historic structures.

Most of the surrounding neighborhood consists of century-old, two-story houses, in contrast with the project's proposed four- and six-story apartment blocks.

At the Oct. 10 hearing, Chair Maya Zaitzevsky of the Planning Department's Expediting Section said planning staff had received voluminous and substantive public-comment on the original MND. She said the issues raised in the extensive written comments had convinced her that a draft Environmental Impact Report would be required to address them.

Zaitzevsky said there was no reason to continue with the hearing and take additional public testimony. She said the administrative procedure would be continued to a future time, after a draft Environmental Impact Report had been circulated.

City Planner Theodore Irving conceded the Planning staff's MND was deficient but said Anastasi now believed a new MND, prepared by an outside source, could respond to the issues raised in public comment. Anastasi's project manager, Chris Zalewski, then formally requested he be allowed to avoid the time and expense an EIR would require by attempting to resolve some of the issues through a revised MND.

Zaitzevsky reluctantly agreed to the request but cautioned that if she found the revised MND is lacking she will still require that an EIR be prepared. Her decision terminates the project's current MND and stays the Zone Change and the Tentative Tract Map actions.

The hearing, in Room 1020 of City Hall, coincided with City Council's hearing in room 340 of a proposed monument designation for Felix Chevrolet. Many speakers were involved with both issues, so WAHA members Mitzi Mogul and Laura Meyers used cell phones to direct them as they shunted between the two rooms.