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Castaic High EIR, flawed and inadequate document?

Posted: October 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 4, 2012 2:00 a.m.

We all know the story and the background. After the William S. Hart Union High School District spent almost a decade of searching for a Castaic high school site, a draft environmental impact report for the Romero Canyon site was released July 24.

As residents of the Castaic community, we ask the Hart district and the Hart Governing Board to consider the significant discrepancies and omissions throughout the document. We will mention only some of the most significant concerns of more than two dozen inadequately addressed within the draft environmental impact report:

1. Dual Access: The report now provides for a single access consisting of one lane in and one lane out over a steep curved road  Traffic studies and public safety concerns call for dual access from both the north and the south from the first day of school and not at some uncertain date years after it opens.

2. Cost of Development: Of the $300 million Measure SA Bond proceeds, the district has budgeted $160 million for the high school. The architect’s estimated school construction budget is approximately $82 million, leaving a balance of $78 million for the school building pad, off-site roads and improvements, utilities, water tanks, etc

Using this math, the district continues to report that the high school project is “within budget.” Cost differential was identified as a potential “fatal flaw” in the mid-2010 high school site comparative evaluations.

However, the district has refused to share any cost estimates and a comparative analysis with the alternative Hasley-Sloan site, which would seem to be a prudent analysis that should be revealed to the public. At what point is the cost differential to be considered being a “fatal flaw”?

We believe the cost difference number to be in excess of $25 million and could be as much as $30 million to $40 million. Is the best use of taxpayer dollars being used for the future high school?  Would you spend your own money like this?

3. Time to complete: Clearly the proposed opening date of the future CHS continues to be a moving target with empty promises — the date is now moved to sometime into the fall of 2015.

Whatever the estimated opening date, the hybrid site will require an additional year to allow for site settlement due to the fill depth, according to the draft environmental document.

4. Original Romero site determined not to meet stated school development objectives: After spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer Measure SA dollars over two years, the conclusions of the draft environmental impact report do not support the original Rasmussen Romero Site. As noted in the document, “Overall, geology and soils impacts would be greater due to the increased amount of landslides or potential landslides on this site compared to the proposed (hybrid) project site.”

Further, the document concludes, “Because of the greater amount of grading, this alternate would be more costly than the proposed site. Therefore, this alternative would not meet the objective to maximize the use of state funds for site acquisition and construction of the needed school facilities.”

Unless we are missing something here, the new hybrid site will require all of the grading costs of original the Rasmussen Romero site plus the additional site acquisition costs.

5. Lack of investigation of “hybrid site”: The new hybrid site is a combination of the original Rasmussen Romero site with the adjacent Lombardi site, which was purchased in November 2011. The district failed to authorize necessary and required investigative reports for the hybrid site, including critical geotechnical, soils and landslide investigations.

The document repeatedly states in multiple sections, “Prior to start of earthwork, the district’s project geotechnical engineer or engineering geologist shall document and test findings and engineering conclusions in a signed and date-stamped report.” The district cannot certify the document based on critical future soils and geotechnical studies that have not been performed.

6. Lack of investigation and comparison of the Hasley-Sloan alternative site or the Palmer golf course site: For an EIR document to be validated, it must “genuinely and thoroughly assess all reasonable alternative sites.” (Stand tall v. Shasta Union High School District). Clearly this has not been done within the draft EIR. For the record: Hasley-Sloan meets all the stated objectives within the draft EIR, is currently owned by the district, can be delivered in a significantly shorter period of time, offers the best use of Measure SA funds with savings in excess of $25 million dollars, has less impact on the environment, and had previously been identified as a the No. 1 preferred site by several jurisdictional agencies including the Hart district.

The Hart district board members must execute their fiduciary responsibility to the community, to the taxpayers, and to the voters and make the appropriate decision to send the draft EIR back to staff and to The Planning Center for re-evaluation.

The views expressed are the opinion of the authors and do not reflect the views of the Castaic Town Council or The Signal. Richard Hood, Retired Teacher, Castaic Town Council Member; Dean Paradise, Civil Engineer, Castaic Town Council Member;  Marv Metcalf, General Contractor, Castaic Town Council Land Use Committee Member;  Jim McGrory, Castaic Town Council Member; Stephanie Ebia, Realtor, Castaic Town Council Member.


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