Suit to Be Filed Over Staples Ranch Development

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Ralph Kanz, Alameda Creek Alliance, (510) 535-9868
Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity, (510) 499-9185

Suit to Be Filed Over Staples Ranch Development

PLEASANTON, Calif. -  The Center for Biological Diversity, Alameda Creek Alliance, and
Safe Streets Pleasanton sent the city of Pleasanton a letter of intent
to bring suit under the California Environmental Quality Act for the
city’s failure to properly assess and mitigate the environmental
impacts of the proposed Staples Ranch development and Stoneridge Drive
extension. The letter informed the city that the environmental impact
report certified by the Pleasanton City Council on February 24, 2009
did not adequately assess the environmental impacts of the project. The
groups are concerned about potential impacts to habitat for sensitive
species at the site — species such as the California red-legged frog,
California tiger salamander, western pond turtle, and San Joaquin
spearscale, and steelhead trout.

“The EIR fails to
meet the legal requirements to reduce environmental impacts to less
than significant levels and does not adequately address the biological
impacts of the development and proposed road extension,” said Ralph
Kanz, conservation director for the Alameda Creek Alliance. “This site
is adjacent to important aquatic habitat in Arroyo Mocho that needs to
be protected and have adequate stream buffers.”

The
Staples Ranch, located at the intersection of Interstate 580 and El
Charro Road, is currently owned by Alameda County and under the
development proposal would be annexed to Pleasanton. Two tributaries of
Alameda Creek, Arroyo Las Positas and Arroyo Mocho, flow together
adjacent to the project site. The arroyos provide important wildlife
habitat and corridors. In 2003, when the Arroyo Las Positas/Arroyo
Mocho realignment project was completed by Alameda County, fish ladders
were installed in the arroyos as part of the project to allow for the
future passage of steelhead trout and riparian vegetation was planted
to improve wildlife habitat.

“The impacts of the
Stoneridge Drive Extension on the arroyos and the riparian habitat
created by the Arroyos project must be analyzed to insure that
sensitive plant and wildlife populations will continue to survive in
the area,” said Kanz.

The environmental impact
report does not analyze the Stoneridge Drive Extension, which was added
to the project at the last minute by the city of Pleasanton. Impacts of
Stoneridge Drive on nearby residential neighborhoods and the
environment were not analyzed, nor were potential mitigation measures
that would have reduced the impacts of the project on neighborhoods,
traffic, and the environment. The failure of the report to analyze
these impacts is a direct violation of the California Environmental
Quality Act’s mandate to mitigate the impacts of the project to
less-than-significant levels. The environmental impact report also
fails to adequately address biological impacts to the steelhead trout,
California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, western pond
turtle, and San Joaquin spearscale.

San Joaquin
spearscale is a rare plant that occurs on the Staples Ranch site. The
city incorrectly asserted in the environmental impact report that the
mitigations for spearscale implemented during the 2003 Arroyos project
were adequate mitigation for the Staples Ranch project, even though
plant habitat on the site would be destroyed.

“The
city’s own consultant admitted that the project must mitigate for
species currently found on the site, but instead they refused to do
what CEQA requires and left out mitigations for the spearscale,” said
Kanz.

The Center for Biological Diversity and
Alameda Creek Alliance are concerned that California red-legged frog
habitat will be degraded by the project. There have been no frog
surveys in the project area since 2002, prior to construction of the
Arroyos project, but red-legged frogs are known to occur nearby. If
invasive predators are removed from the creek and suitable upland
habitat is available, the red-legged frog could again occupy this area.
The environmental impact report for the adjacent city of Livermore’s El
Charro Project contains a mitigation measure requiring the control of
bullfrogs in Arroyo Las Positas, Cottonwood Creek, and the golf course
ponds.

“Mitigation measures for the Staples project
should include protection of a significant creek corridor and buffer
along the arroyos as wildlife habitat, maintenance of adjacent upland
habitat, and removal of nonnative predators from the creeks,” said Jeff
Miller, conservation advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity.

Steelhead trout in the Bay Area were listed as a federally threatened
species in 1997, and last year steelhead spawned in Alameda Creek for
the first time in 46 years. There are 15 local, state, and federal
agencies cooperating on fish-passage projects in Alameda Creek,
including dam removals and the construction of fish ladders and fish
screens. These restoration projects will make up to 20 miles of Alameda
Creek and its tributaries, including the arroyos, accessible to
ocean-run fish as early as 2011 or 2012. The potential impacts to
steelhead habitat from the Staples Ranch project were not analyzed in
the environmental impact report.

“The Staples Ranch
project should ensure that adequate riparian habitat and buffers will
be maintained to support the future restoration of steelhead and
provide quality habitat for all aquatic wildlife,” said Kanz.

Western pond turtles, a state species of concern, have been documented
on the Staples Ranch site during the Arroyos project and observed in
the Arroyo Mocho since completion. The environmental impact report does
not address how the Staples Ranch project will provide for the upland
habitat requirements of this species so that it will continue to
survive at the location.

Residents affiliated with
Safe Streets Pleasanton submitted environmental impact report comments
pointing out that the draft environmental impact report expressly and
unequivocally assured the interested public that Stoneridge Drive would
not be extended to connect to El Charro Road as part of this project —
exactly what the city and county are now proposing.

The groups are requesting that the city withdraw its certification of
the environmental impact report, prepare a new report that properly
analyzes the impacts of the proposed project, and provide mitigations
consistent with legal requirements and adequate to maintain native
wildlife species.

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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