tv [untitled] November 1, 2010 3:00am-3:30am PST
the record and then staff can address you. you have concluded public comment on closed items. we are now on consideration of findings and final action. the public hearing for this category is closed. the item under consideration is item two, case number 2,008.0081e. before you is a proposal for certification of the final environmental impact report for the fairmont hotel project. >> good afternoon, president miguel and president chase. i am with the planning department's staff. the item for you is certification of the final environmental impact report for the 950 mason st. the fairmont hotel residential project, case 2,008.0081e. a draft of the final motion was distributed you -- to you with
the comment in response document. an evaluation was filed with the planning department on january 16, 2008. the planning department circulated the notice in january 2009, notifying by mail and e- mail of the intent to prepare and eir and to solicit public comment on the scope. planning staff posted the notice on the planning department website and at various locations in proximity of the proposed project, as well as advertised it in a newspaper of general circulation. written and oral comments received during the open process were considered in the preparation of the eir for the proposed project. the draft was published and circulated on april 28, 2010, for a 40-day comment period ending on june 16, 2010.
the historic preservation commission held a hearing of the project on may 19. comments received from the historic preservation commission related mainly to cultural resources, historic resources evaluation, and mitigation issues. these were memorialized in a comment letter on june 9. the planning commission held a public hearing to receive comments on june 10. 16 members of the public and five planning commissioners provided oral comments at the draft eir hearing. the planning department received 123 comment letters through the mail, hand delivery, fax, and e-mail. the draft hearing and all comment letters are contained in and responded to in the cnr document. that was published and distributed on october 7, 2010. the planning department has therefore fully complied with
the provisions of california environmental quality act, ceqa guidelines, to communicate the eir process and potential impact to the public and decision makers. overall, the environmental review process followed for the proposed project has been procedurally correct and substantively adequate. despite individual responses to comments, the cnr document also includes text changes to the eir. they make minor changes and corrections. some text changes were due to the project, while others were in response to comments received. none of the refinements or corrections in the document result in a change to the findings or conclusions of the draft eir. the draft eir together with
the cnr document are before you for certification today. staff are not being asked to consider the merits of the project, as this is not relevant to the adequacy of the eir. project approval is on the agenda for today's meeting following certification. this discusses the impact to the project that would or would not result in significant environmental impact, or would be reduced to less than significant levels with identified mitigation measures. specifically, it found that implementation of the proposed project would have significant environmental impact related to cultural resources, noise, air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, hydrology and water quality, and hazardous materials that could be mitigated to less than significant levels.
there is one impact that would remain significant and unavoidable despite the implementation of mitigation measures. we found that implementation of the proposed project would result in a significant and unavoidable impact on cultural resources related to demolition of the tonga room, which has been identified as a historic resource under ceqa. the draft is before you. certification is not approval, but acknowledgement that the eir has been completed and is adequate, objective, and accurate. if the planning commission certifies the eir, they can proceed to considering approval of the proposed project. if the planning department decides to approve the project, they will need to adopt a statement of consideration that explains how the benefits of the project out with the unavoidable environmental impact of the project.
the planning commission will be asked to adopt such a statement along with the adoption of mitigation measures and a monitoring and reporting program as part of the agenda item following the eir certification. since publication, the planning department has received an additional comment letter. however, concerns raised by these comments have been adequately addressed in this eir and cnr and do not warrant further discussion. a detailed memo was distributed to the planning commission and is available here today. we have heard from speakers today who raised a number of issues pertaining to the proposed project. some of the comments did not address environmental issues and expressed its support or opposition to the project. public opinion regarding the merits of the project is not relevant to discussion of the legal adequacy and accuracy of the final eir. some comments raised
environmental issues that were raised in public comment before the draft eir and were adequately addressed in the cnr document and do not warrant further discussion. however, there was one comment that may need clarification that was brought up at the hearing today. this is the issue of mitigation member emcee be one, reference to exterior connectors between the proposed new tower and podium. the planning department's presentation technical specialist will address this issue after my presentation. in conclusion, no substantial evidence has been presented today that would change the conclusions reached in the final eir. the department recommends you adopt the draft measure before you, which says you have reviewed and considered the contents of the report and found it to be adequate, accurate, and reflecting independent judgment and analysis, and that the procedures to which the eir was
prepared comply with ceqa guidelines and the administrative code. this concludes my presentation on this matter. i and my staff are available to insert questions. thank you for your consideration. president miguel: thank you. >> tim fry on behalf of the planning department. a clarification on regards to the mitigation measure mcp-1a. i am referencing the comments on page 111. this was removed after the publication of the draft eir because the architect submitted further information that this would confirm with the
standard, incorporating the part of the project into the actual project. therefore, mitigation was not required. the part of the project is subject to review and approval by the historic presentation -- preservation commission, which uses the standards for their review and approval, which is why this mitigation was removed for this portion of the project. president miguel: thank you for the explanation. i will have additional comments, but before i do, is there anyone from the project sponsor's side that can set aside the rumors that have been appearing in the press regarding the future of the tonga room, just to get that off the table?
>> my name is susan, and i represent the owners of the fairmont project. we do have a presentation for you a little bit later that i think we get to make. in that, we will address the tonga room. committed to trying to find a solution for the tonga that would allow it to thrive in a place where it could thrive. that is not at the fairmont hotel.
they have entered into the letter of intent with a nightclub operator, as described by mr. bloch accurately, to take all of the character-defining features of the tonga room and relocate them to another location which will then have a tonga room restaurant. president miguel: thank you. i just wanted to clarify that point because it is in the eir. commissioner antonini: sorry. i think the environmental impact report, which as we know is a combination of the draft eir comments and responses, in my opinion is accurate and objective, but i would like to talk to a few points that were brought up. the first point i guess is that there were a number of speakers who asked for analysis of other alternatives. but my understanding of ceqa law is you do not have to evaluate every alternative, and those which are unfeasible do not need to be analyzed. i think that restoration is a good idea but probably was not feasible in 1961 when they built the podium and tower. it is even less feasible now, so i do not think that has to be included in the eir. they did analyze alternatives
regarding the parking, location of the ball room, the tonga room. there is even an analysis that keeps it at its present location. i am satisfied with the alternatives presented as possibility. others were concerned with the loading docks and the trash. mike understanding after reading this and other materials is that this is going to be done internally and is going to be a big improvement over the existence attrition. there were other commanders to brought up pictures of the earlier -- even though we are talking about the eir and not the sign at this point, it is important for the public to realize the design has changed significantly and is much different than it was significantly. there are punch windows and storm windows, and it is much more architectural with the historic hotel then it was. that is the one we are looking
at now. the same is true of staging. i understand there will not be staging on the street. it will all be interior. the other alternative that was pointed out is adaptive reuse. i really do not think that is an economically feasible alternative and does not need to be analyzed, saving the tower. in fact, and i hate to speak badly of my countrymen, who was the architect for the original tower, but he also did the library in santa clara. i was a student. both of them i like a lot in the early '60s, but compared to the other architecture in those days it was not too bad. but they demolished the library at santa clara university already for lack of functionality. i am not sure if it is worth it to adapt and use. that is an alternative that does not need to be analyzed. some comment was made that the lobby of the historic hotel, which is now before us today --
that renovation has been done. certainly, i prefer it to the bordello look of the 50s to '90s. but that is not part of this project. that actually is more in keeping with the original reed brothers lobby when the hotel was first built. i understand a lot of the demolition is being done in a way that construction can drive right through from one site to another. that is a good feature. that is what i read in there. finally, i think there was a point made in regard to -- somebody brought up the parking, which has been analyzed in various ways. less parking, same amount -- not a less parking alternative, but a parking alternative more similar to what we have now. i question whether more parking will create more traffic. it might be a lot less traffic, given the amount of activity that occurs on nob hill.
finally, there was a question about the employment maintenance situation, which will be spoken to later on as we go to project approval. i do not believe for purposes of the analysis here that whether or not the units are pied a terres does not have a bearing on those presently employed. that is not necessarily something that is within mthe ier. -- eir. that issue will be dealt with in the future and does not have to be completely addressed in the eir. i am pretty happy with it but will see what the other commissioners have to say. commissioner sugaya: one question to mr. fry, please. could you elaborate a bit? initially, we had an analysis that said -- there was an analysis that led to a
mitigation issue. that meant that that analysis had some reason to believe there was an impact. so there was a mitigation measures that referred to the future design having to meet the secondary standards, i believe. but now we have rescinded that mitigation measure because one of the consultants said that it met the standards. >> tim fry on behalf of the planning department. commissioner sugaya: could you clarify? >> the scope of work -- that mitigation remains in place for many other components of the project, because we still want the hcp-required action on the certificate of the appropriateness. there are certain aspects of the building that are not protected under article 10 of the planning room, -- planning law, like the venetian room and the cirque
room. the impact would be mitigated so we would not affect those interior resources. for the external portion only, after the draft the i r -- eir was published, they submitted a specification on how the work would proceed. that was enough information for the department to determine that the work would meet the secretary of the interior's standards and that mitigation was not required for those exterior connections. commissioner sugaya: we are refering with respect to the exterior connections to which portions of the project? >> that lead from the historic claremont hotel to the new podium and tower -- fairmont hotel to the new podium in power structure. commissioner antoninipresident o
continue since nobody is going to speak to this but me and commissioner antonini. will battle it out. i do not think it is adequate. somebody submitted a letter to the commission and did not get through it completely. there are a number of points in that letter i would like to make part of the record. i do not want to go through the whole thing. if the written copy can be given to the secretary, i think that should be sufficient. i am also somewhat thinking that the testimony presented by the union representative with respect to employment issues does have some merit. i am not completely familiar with how eir's arrived at employment statistics and what they are used for, but it seemed
to make a point that there are some discrepancies in how that was conducted. that is based on his experience of other hotels, what the reality of the situation is. i am somewhat in agreement with testimony given with respect to the cable cars, not so much because they are a landmark in the city, which they are, but i think the analysis fell short of looking at what the pedestrian activity levels are and how those may be impacted by construction. i am also troubled by the noise analysis. it continued to say that the ideal place to measure noise is in the middle of the lot. i do not believe that for a minute. it is not only the machinery that is going to be making noise. it is going to be noise produced when they start to tear the building down. that was dismissed in the comments and responses as something that needn't be taken
into consideration. i do not believe that is true. not true is the wrong word. i believe there should be further analysis of that particular potential impact. i cannot tell you whether it would be an impact or not, but at least it should be looked at. those are a few comments that i had where i feel it is not adequate at this point. commissioner antonini: commissioner moore, did you want to make some comments first? commissioner moore: i would agree with some of the concerns about traffic, particularly where my own comments addressed cumulative traffic impact. i do not believe they have substantively been answered. i know you're forced to find an answer. however, the answer often is not substantial and additional
facts. there is a construction project between mason and powel. it is a sewer line replacement parallel to the length of the building, which will be under construction for many years to come. i happened to walk up and down the street every day at least twice, if not four times. i observed throughout the day how impacting this very small, well-orchestrated project is, which is only parallel to the building, a replacement of the sewer line. it literally takes up the whole street except for the line for the cable cars. during particular hours of the day, cars backed up all the way down to stockton street. they are going single file. they have to go through people getting off the cable car,
changing from one line to another. it is an absolutely impossible imposition on anybody who wants to move with reasonable speed up and down the street. the other day, the same report had brinks security getting out of the bank, while the fire extinguisher had to look at every fire extinguisher of the hotel. you had the left lanes blocked, the right lanes blocked. it was a total mess. this is a minor indication of what will happen, particularly with defense not being moved when rush-hour starts at 4:00. i venture to say that the traffic analysis is not properly done, and i urge that this be reconsidered. commissioner antonini: i move to certify the eir.
>> second. >> commissioners, for the record let me state that the action on the certification of the final eir is the sole responsibility of the planning commission, and not the hpc. commissioners, there is a motion on the floor. commissioner sugaya: i would like to know if any historical preservation commission member has a comment on the eir from their perspective. you do not have to say anything. as long as you are here, i don't care. >> thank you. commissioners, on the motion on the floor? commissioner antonini: aye. commissioner borden: aye. commissioner moore: no. commissioner sugaya: no.
vice president olague: no. commissioner moore: aye. >> that motion fails, with commissioners more, so gaya, and -- moore, sugaya, and olague voting agains. this requires a four votes to survive. that has not happened. do you have directions to staff on clarifying the eir? commissioner moore: move to continue. it is done. president miguel: could i have the project's sponsor please come up and give me an idea of what would be inappropriate time for the continuation?
commissioner moore: it is not up to staff to make a motion. president miguel: we first have to be able to make the corrections that are necessary here. >> i think if you want to continue the item in the face of a deadlock of non-certification, you need to give a specific direction as to what is adequate. president miguel: i would assume the u.s. to answer those commissioners who commented on what they found to be inadequacies and try to answer those inadequacies and bring back a document that would be satisfactory to the two commissioners who spoke to inadequacies. >> i think that is true. i think it would be helpful if there are any other concerns, if they articulate here so that we come back fully addressing whatever concerns they voiced today or have not articulated. i mean, if we are continuing, we
should have a document come to you that speaks to the concerns as completely as we possibly can. president miguel: ok. well, i think we would also like to try to do this as expeditiously as possible. based on what you have heard so far for reasons of setting a continuance, what do you think would be a realistic period of time? >> you know, there are very few questions actually directed at ms. jane. commissioner moore and commissioner sugaya made statements about a difference of opinion about what we said. i did not hear a lot of prescription about what we could do differently that would cause you to feel that this would not be a significant impact. commissioner moore: i will defer to them if they want -- president miguel: i will defer to them if they want to
elaborate on that. commissioner sugaya: this is strictly a planning commission motion at this point. >> everything in susan's letter, everything sue hester said, testimony from the employee at the hotel union, transportation issues commissioner morrore raised. commissioner moore: i would expect to be proper addressed a proper structural the violation statement which is conclusive to all partisans that this building is not reusable. there are very clear discussions that -- between numbers of professionals in the city to of looked at the structure. the letter which is included in the back of the response document is not sufficient professionally to substantiate a finding on the structure. >> that can be cleared.
i think commissioner sugaya was very clear. that is very helpful. was a concern about the existing structure, that you feel that reducing the structure would take away some significant impact associated with the demolition as a historic structure, or because of the impact of the demolition? i am trying to understand the context. commissioner moore: all of the above. commissioner sugaya: i guess the question is was there -- i mean, if the project sponsor's goal is demolition, as one of the audience members said, there are no alternatives, right? so that is a catch-22. how can you have an objective that is demolition of the building? that is questioning very -- >> those are objectives, but you
can certify a document. you can either support the project or not support the project and not embrace all of their objectives. commissioner sugaya: true. i think commissioner more is trying to get to one of the arguments for demolition is that the building cannot be used. the ceilings are too low. the column spacings interfere. we had one architect testified that he thought quite the opposite. it would seem as though the eir should take a look at whether or not the project sponsors supposed substantiation of demolition holds water or not. >> would you like that to be done not only from a feasibility, but as a variant or alternative? is that what you're saying? commissioner sugaya: i think as commissioner sugaya: i think as a variant or alternative would
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