Notice of Preparation
DATE: July 16, 2010
TO: Office of Planning and Research, Responsible Agencies, Trustee Agencies, Organizations and Interested Parties
LEAD AGENCY: City of Livingston
Contact: Donna Kenney, Community Development Director
City of Livingston
1416 C Street
Livingston, CA 95334
(209) 394-8041, ext. 123
SUBJECT: Revised Environmental Impact Report for the City of Livingston 2025 General Plan Update
In discharging its duties under Section 15020 of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines, the City of Livingston (as Lead Agency) intends to prepare a Revised Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the City of Livingston 2025 General Plan Update (GPU). In accordance with Section 15082 of the CEQA Guidelines, the City of Livingston (City) has prepared this Notice of Preparation to provide the Office of Planning and Research, Responsible Agencies, Trustee Agencies, and other interested parties with sufficient information describing the proposed project and its potential environmental effects.
The City’s Community Development Department had circulated a Notice of Preparation in July 2007 for this same project when the EIR for the City’s 2025 General Plan Update had originally been initiated. The determination to prepare a Revised Environmental Impact Report was made by the City in order to comply with the decision of the Superior Court of California in the case of Merced County Farm Bureau v. City of Livingston (2009).
As specified by the CEQA Guidelines, the Notice of Preparation will be circulated for a 30-day review period. The City of Livingston welcomes agency and public input during this review. In the event that no response or request for additional time is received by any Responsible Agency or Trustee Agency by the end of the review period, the Lead Agency may presume that such Agency has no response.
Comments may be submitted in writing during the review period and addressed to:
Donna Kenney, Community Development Director
City of Livingston
1416 C Street
Livingston, CA 95334
The comment period closes on August 16, 2010
Project History and Description
In the spring of 2004, the City began to discuss the need for an update to its existing General Plan, which had last been updated in 1999. The City’s General Plan Update (GPU) process formally began in April 2005. The process resulted in the publication of a draft updated General Plan and the associated EIR in July 2008.
The proposed project area primarily consists of the following components: the 20-year Buildout Area that includes the areas within the existing City boundary; the existing and proposed Spheres of Influence (SOI); and, the City’s projected 50-year growth boundary which includes the Urban Reserve Areas (see Figure 1 Livingston Boundaries Map). These components, combined, are referred to as the General Plan Planning Area Boundary (Planning Area).
The existing City limits contain approximately 3.5 square miles (2,255 acres) (Figure 1). The existing SOI, not including those lands currently located within City limits, contains approximately an additional 977 acres of land. The total acreage for the area within the existing City limits and the existing SOI is approximately 3,232 acres (2,255 acres within the City limits plus 977 acres within the current SOI). The City’s proposed SOI would add approximately 2,905 acres of land. The Planning Area Boundary would ultimately expand the City to include an additional 2,261 acres of Urban Reserve, resulting in a total of 8,398 acres (3,232 acres within the City limits and current SOI + 2,905 acres within the proposed SOI + 2261 Urban Reserve) and would include all land roughly bounded by Merced River and Olive Avenue to the north, Washington Boulevard to the west, Westside Boulevard to the south, and Cressey Avenue to the east (Figure 1).
On July 27, 2008, the City released the draft Environmental Impact Report (Draft EIR) for the GPU for a 45-day public review and comment period. After the close of the public comment period on the Draft EIR, the City published the Final EIR and thereafter the Planning Commission considered the Final EIR during a meeting on September 23, 2008. The Planning Commissioners voted 3 to 2, recommending that the City not certify the Final EIR. On October 21, 2008, the City, through its City Council, certified the Final EIR and approved the Project.
By a lawsuit filed on November 25, 2008, Merced County Farm Bureau challenged the certification of the EIR and the approval of the 2025 General Plan Update by the City of Livingston and City of Livingston City Council on various grounds. The Court sustained some grounds for the challenge and rejected others. The City of Livingston is now proposing to revise sections of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that had been prepared for the 2025 General Plan Update (2008) in compliance with the Superior Court of California decision in the case of the Merced Farm Bureau vs. City of Livingston (2009). Based on this court decision, the City intends to review and revise the following sections of the original EIR:
• Project Description
• Agricultural Resources
• Population, Employment and Housing
• Cumulative Impact
The City may also include GPU land use designations that might address certain policies related to agricultural preservation to satisfy the Court’s ruling. The Court found that the City is not required to revise the EIR or GPU as to matters unchallenged or unsuccessfully challenged by the Merced County Farm Bureau. Since the remainder of the previously certified EIR was deemed legally adequate, the revisions to the EIR will not be required to contain other topical discussions apart from those identified above
The Project Description in the Revised EIR will be clarified to include:
· Explanation of population projections used in conjunction with the SOI expansion analysis;
· Further discussion of possible agricultural buffer(s);
· Timing and potential impacts of expanding urban services into agricultural areas;
· Discussion of a potential “allocation policy” which determines annexation policy and therefore, growth; and
· Discussion or reference of previous Master Plans.
The GPU Planning Area contains approximately 6,496 prime agricultural acres that are anticipated to convert to urban uses in association with implementation of the General Plan. Of the 6,496 acres, approximately 608 acres are subject to active Williamson Act contracts. In addition, a portion of the agricultural lands within the Urban Reserve are in farmland conservation easements.
The Revised EIR will discuss feasible mitigation measures to address the loss of agricultural land due to conversions. Possible measures may include use of agricultural conservation easements and buffers. The measures will be further discussed and analyzed for potential implementation as part of the GPU.
Population, Housing, and Employment
In previously developing potential population projections for the GPU, the City calculated densities based on maximum potential build-out for the zoning designations, as well as projections and information on the issuance of building permits This resulted in the City’s projected growth rate being approximately 7.46 times greater than the City’s current population and approximately 5.53 times greater than population projections published by the Merced County Association of Governments (MCAG). The Revised EIR will further analyze the impacts of the population growth projections against the MCAG projected growth rate for the City for the next 50 years. Potential impacts of an increase in population for the GPU Planning Area will be analyzed and potential mitigation measures developed, which, to the extent feasible, will be recommended for implementation. Established methodologies to Project population growth will be defined and MCAG population projections for the Project Area will be analyzed.
The cumulative impact evaluation of the Revised EIR will be modified to reflect the analysis for Agricultural Resources, and Population, Housing and Employment.
The alternatives analysis of the Revised EIR will focus on feasible alternatives to the Project that also meet the Project objectives. This may include a Reduced SOI Alternative, an alternative which converts less prime farmland, and/or any other feasible alternatives to the Project that meet Project objectives. These alternatives will be analyzed according to impacts to all environmental issue areas. The Alternatives Analysis will also include a comparative analysis with the No Project Alternative to demonstrate the potential environmental effects if the GPU were not implemented.