ABSTRACT: Selected sections of Alternatives to the Proposed Project (6.0), including INTRODUCTION (6.1), SUMMARY OF PROJECT OBJECTIVES AND SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS (6.2), NO PROJECT ALTERNATIVE (6.3), LEASE ALTERNATIVES (6.4), SALE WITH CONSERVATION EASEMENTS AND MITIGATIONS (6.5), DISCUSSION OF ALTERNATIVE FINDINGS (6.6) and ENVIRONMENTALLY SUPERIOR ALTERNATIVE (6.7), are presented.
6.0 ALTERNATIVES TO THE PROPOSED PROJECT
CEQA Guidelines §15126.6 requires the consideration of a range of reasonable alternatives to the proposed project that could feasibly attain most of the basis objectives of the project. The CEQA Guidelines further require that the discussion focus on alternatives capable of eliminating significant adverse impacts of the project or reducing them to a less-than-significant level, even if the alternative would not fully attain the project objectives or would be more costly. The range of alternatives required in an EIR is governed by the “rule of reason,” which requires an EIR to evaluate only those alternatives necessary to permit a reasoned choice. An EIR need not consider alternatives that have effects that cannot be reasonably ascertained and/or are remote and speculative.
6.2 SUMMARY OF PROJECT OBJECTIVES AND SIGNIFICANT IMPACTS
As described in Section 3.0 Project Description of this RDEIR, the primary project objective associated with the proposed project is to divest the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea of the Flanders Mansion property, which is in need of significant short-term and long-term repair and rehabilitation. In addition to this primary objective, there are several secondary objectives as follows:
• To ensure that the Flanders Mansion is preserved as a historic resource;
• To ensure that the Flanders Mansion building and property are put to productive use;
• To ensure that future use of the Flanders Mansion and property will not cause significant traffic, parking, or noise impacts on the surrounding neighborhood;
• To ensure that future use will not significantly disrupt the public’s enjoyment of the Mission Trail Nature Preserve or the Lester Rowntree Native Plant Garden;
• To ensure the environmental resources of the park are protected; and
• To ensure that the Flanders Mansion parcel continues to provide the public with as many park benefits as are practical.
The alternatives analysis is intended to focus on eliminating, or reducing in significance, those project impacts identified in the RDEIR as significant and unavoidable. Significant and unavoidable impacts are those effects of the project that would affect either natural systems or other community resources and cannot be mitigated to a less-than-significant impact level.
The proposed project would result in potentially significant impacts in the following categories, as described in this RDEIR: aesthetics, biological resources, cultural resources, and transportation/traffic. All impacts associated with the proposed project can be reduced to a less-than-significant level with implementation of mitigations identified in this RDEIR, with the exception of impacts related to (1) land use and planning and (2) parks and recreation. The following significant, unavoidable impacts were identified for the sale of Flanders Mansion:
• Sale of the Flanders Mansion Property would conflict with certain goals, objectives and policies identified in the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea General Plan/Coastal Land Use Plan related to parkland, including G 5-6, O5-21, P5-46 , and P-5-107, and
• Sale of the Flanders Mansion Property would result in a loss of an area of parkland available to the public that provides a wide variety of park benefits and is integrated into the Mission Trails Nature Preserve in a manner that facilities or significantly enhances the use and enjoyment of other areas of the Preserve. This would represent a permanent loss of publically owned parkland.
6.3 NO PROJECT ALTERNATIVE
CEQA requires the discussion of the No Project Alternative “to allow decision makers to compare the impacts of approving the proposed project with the impacts of not approving the proposed project” (CEQA Guidelines §15126.6(e)(1)). Under the No Project Alternative, the Flanders Mansion Property would not be sold by the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea and the property would continue to remain vacant in its current state. This analysis assumes that the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea would continue to implement necessary improvements to comply with the Superior Court’s ruling regarding deferred maintenance of the Mansion, requiring the City to implement reasonable interim measures as necessary to avoid further significant deterioration of the Mansion. This alternative assumes that no additional facility upgrades beyond those required by the Superior Court ruling would be implemented. Although limited use of the facility may occur under this alternative, the following analysis assumes that the property would remain vacant. In accordance with CEQA Guidelines §15126.6(e)(3), the following analysis compares the environmental impacts of the property remaining in its existing state versus the potential environmental impacts that would occur as a result of the proposed project.
In summary, the No Project Alternative would significantly lessen and/or avoid project-related impacts related to land use and planning and parks and recreation. This alternative would also significantly lessen or avoid impacts associated with aesthetics, biological resources, and transportation/traffic. However, this alternative would result in approximately the same level of impacts as the project in regard to cultural resources. The Mansion would continue to remain vacant, although it could be periodically used by the City. Unlike the proposed project, this alternative would not be subject to conditions or mitigation measures identified in this RDEIR. Overall, this alternative would significantly avoid most of the identified significant impacts, would fail to meet the primary project objective of divestment of the Flanders Mansion property, and would only meet some of the secondary objectives identified by the City.
6.4 LEASE ALTERNATIVES
LEASE FOR SINGLE-FAMILY RESIDENTIAL USE
This alternative would consist of the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea retaining ownership of the Flanders Mansion property and leasing the property as a single-family residence. This alternative assumes that the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea would implement some facility upgrades and maintenance requirements in order to comply with the Superior Court’s ruling. In addition, this alternative also assumes that the City, prior to the lease of the building, would implement additional facility upgrades to ensure that the Flanders Mansion is leasable. This alternative also assumes that exterior features, such as fencing, may be erected on the property to provide privacy to the future lessee. Future terms of the lease agreement would be determined at the time a lessee was identified. This alternative assumes that the various conditions and mitigation measures identified in this RDEIR would be applicable to the future use of the property.
In summary, this alternative proposes the lease of the Flanders Mansion as a single-family residence and would significantly lessen impacts associated with the proposed project in regard to land use and planning, parks and recreation, and transportation/traffic. This alternative would avoid impacts due to the permanent loss of parkland since the City would retain ownership of the property. Although this alternative would not result in the sale of parkland, this alternative would still result in the elimination of existing park benefits associated with the Property since public access would be restricted to the Property during the term of the lease. Exterior elements, such as fencing, would physically separate the property from the remainder of the Preserve and essentially result in the same levels of impacts as the proposed project during the term of the lease. This alternative would result in approximately the same level of impacts in regards to aesthetics, biological resources, and cultural resources as the proposed project. Mitigation measures would still be necessary in order to ensure that the future use of the Mansion as a single-family residence would not result in additional impacts to the surrounding Mission Trail Nature Preserve and the adjacent Lester Rowntree Arboretum.
LEASE FOR PUBLIC/QUASI-PUBLIC USE
This alternative would consist of the City retaining ownership of the Flanders Mansion property and subsequently leasing the facility to a low-intensity public/quasi-public use. The City of Carmel-by-the-Sea would still be responsible for implementing necessary facility upgrades and maintenance requirements in accordance with the findings of the Superior Court. Moreover, this alternative assumes that the City would be required to implement additional facility upgrades in order for the building to be leasable. Similar to the single-family lease alternative, this analysis assumes that some exterior improvements may be made depending on the type of public/quasi-public use. As a result, this alternative assumes that public access to and through the site could be restricted. This alternative assumes that exterior changes, such as fencing or other exterior elements, could be added as part of this alternative. While some limited public access may be permitted as part of daily operations or on a more limited basis, such as special events, this analysis assumes full public access would be restricted under this alternative. Future terms of the lease agreement would be determined at the time a lessee is identified. A number of the mitigation measures that would be applied to the single-family residential use lease alternative would be applicable.
In summary, this alternative would significantly lessen impacts associated with aesthetics, biological resources, cultural resources, and land use and planning. This alternative would also avoid significant and unavoidable impacts related to parks and recreation since this alternative would not result in the permanent loss of parkland. Park benefits associated with the Property may be minimized depending on the extent of exterior improvements and nature of the public/quasi-public use. As identified above, this alternative has the potential to generate substantially more traffic than a single-family residential use and, therefore, has the potential to result in additional traffic-related impacts. The future lease agreement could still be subjected to certain conditions and mitigation measures identified in this RDIER, but it is assumed that this alternative would avoid the majority of project impacts associated with biological resources and cultural resources. This alternative would not achieve the primary project objective or secondary objectives related to the minimization of traffic-related impacts. Park benefits may also be reduced under this alternative.
6.5 SALE WITH CONSERVATION EASEMENTS AND MITIGATIONS
This alternative would consist of recording conservation easements on certain portions of the Flanders Mansion Property in order to minimize potential impacts to the Lester Rowntree Arboretum and a number of existing trails that would need to be reconfigured as a result of the proposed project. Specifically, this alternative consists of applying a conservation easement (or reducing the parcel size) over portions of the Lester Rowntree Arboretum that are located within the boundaries of the Flanders Mansion parcel. This alternative would also consist of recording an easement or reducing the size along the eastern portion of the driveway to preserve existing trail access in the Mission Trail Nature Preserve (Serra Trail) and the Lester Rowntree Arboretum. A scenic/conservation easement covering the westerly/southwesterly boundary of the site to include areas bordering ESHA would be recorded to minimize potential biological impacts. The purpose of these easements would be to prevent a future property owner from erecting exterior elements or causing changes to the property within areas that are particularly sensitive, provide access to the Lester Rowntree Arboretum, and provide areas of the site that provide park benefits. These easements are intended to reduce and/or avoid significant impacts due to the permanent loss of parkland, ensure that park benefits associated with the Property are preserved, provide continued public use of certain portions of the property, and protect environmental resources. The total land area covered by the easement would be approximately 0.5 acres. The total remaining area of the property under this alternative would be 0.752 acres, and it is assumed that all conditions and mitigations identified in this RDEIR would be applicable. Figure 6-1 provides a graphical representation of the alternative parcel configuration and easement. Implementation of this alternative would retain existing park benefits associated with the Flanders Mansion Property, while still allowing the City to divest itself of the property. This alternative assumes that impacted trails would also be reconfigured and additional trail connections would be provided to address project impacts. This alternative is not use specific; therefore, it is assumed that either a single family or low-intensity public/quasi-public use could occupy the property.
This alternative would lessen potential impacts to parks and recreation due to the loss of parkland and associated park benefits. This alternative would minimize impacts to the adjacent Lester Rowntree Arboretum and reduce impacts to biological resources and aesthetics. This alternative would significantly lessen the extent of project impacts in terms of land use and planning and would also minimize potential impacts related to cultural resources. Although this alternative would still result in the sale of the Flanders Mansion Property, this alternative would retain existing park benefits associated with the Property by effectively restricting the usable area of the parcel in order to minimize impacts to the Mission Trail Nature Preserve. This alternative would minimize potential impacts as compared with the proposed project and would still achieve the majority of the project’s objectives.
6.6 DISCUSSION OF ALTERNATIVE FINDINGS
In the Superior Court’s findings concerning the adequacy of the 2005 EIR, the Superior Court found that the City “abused its discretion and violated CEQA because it failed to proceed in the manner required by law and approved the sale of the Flanders Mansion when the potential lease of the Mansion…is an alternative to sale that has not been shown to be infeasible.” CEQA Guidelines §15091 specifically requires that “no public agency shall approve or carry out a project for which an EIR has been certified which identifies one or more significant environmental effects of the project unless the public agency makes” specific findings regarding each of the significant environmental impacts. CEQA Guidelines §15091(a) (3) further requires that a public agency must make findings of infeasibility regarding the rejection of an alternative that would avoid or substantially lessen the significant environmental effects identified in an EIR. CEQA Guidelines §15091(a) (3) states that specific economic, legal, social, technical, or other considerations may make an alternative infeasible. Findings of infeasibility must be supported by substantial evidence (CEQA Guidelines §15091(b)).
CEQA further states that a public agency shall not decide to approve a project unless the agency has “determined that any remaining significant effects on the environment found to be unavoidable…are acceptable due to overriding concerns.” (CEQA Guidelines §15092(b)(2)(B)). Overriding concerns may include specific economic, legal, social, technological, or other aspects of the project that outweigh the adverse environmental effects (CEQA Guidelines §15093(a)). The Superior Court found that the City “could not legally adopt a statement of overriding considerations without making supportable findings regarding the infeasibility of alternatives.” The Court found that even if a particular alternative, in this case the lease alternative, would be more costly to the City, absent substantial evidence in the form of an economic analysis…the project cannot be approved because the City failed to demonstrate alternative infeasibility. The City of Carmel-by-the-Sea will consider evidence and findings during the project deliberation process in compliance with CEQA.
Based on the Superior Court’s findings, the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea is in the process of preparing an economic feasibility analysis that evaluates the feasibility of potential project alternatives vis-à-vis the relevant project objectives and various economic considerations. Findings of feasibility will ultimately be up to the discretion of the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea as part of the project approval process required pursuant to CEQA Guidelines §15092.
6.7 ENVIRONMENTALLY SUPERIOR ALTERNATIVE
CEQA requires that an environmentally superior alternative to the proposed project be specified, if one is identified. In general, the environmentally superior alternative is supposed to minimize adverse impacts to the project site and surrounding environment while achieving the basic objectives of the project. The basic project objective associated with the proposed project is the divestment of the Flanders Mansion Property. The “No Project” alternative could be considered the environmentally superior alternative because all significant and unavoidable impacts associated with the proposed project would be avoided. However, this alternative does not achieve the basic project objective. CEQA Guidelines §15126.6(e) (2) states: If the environmentally superior alternative is the “no project” alternative, the EIR shall also identify an environmentally superior alternative among the other alternatives.
The 2005 DEIR, as modified, identified that the Lease Alternative (previously referred to as “Alternative 2” in the 2007 DEIR) would be the environmentally superior alternative because that alternative would reduce impacts to historic resources and park resources since the City would retain ownership. In addition, the 2005 DEIR also determined that the Lease Alternative would minimize potential impacts on adjacent parkland since the property would be retained by the City. Moreover, it was also determined that this alternative would avoid significant and unavoidable impacts related to 1) land use and planning, and 2) parks and recreation. The 2005 DEIR, as modified, also recognized that the Reduced Parcel Size/Mitigated Alternative (previously referred to as “Alternative 6” in the 2005 DEIR) would be the environmentally superior alternative if the Lease Alternative was determined to be infeasible. During the project deliberation process, the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea rejected the Lease Alternative as infeasible. However, the Superior Court determined that the City violated CEQA because it did not adopt findings of infeasibility supported by substantial evidence.
Consistent with the findings of the 2005 DEIR, as modified, the Lease Alternatives identified in this RDEIR are considered environmentally superior. Both of the Lease Alternatives would significantly reduce potential environmental impacts as compared to the proposed project. While the Lease Alternatives (i.e., single-family residential or public/quasi-public) would avoid significant project impacts, these alternatives would fail to meet the primary project purpose, in addition to secondary project objectives. Depending on the type of use, lease of the property could result in additional impacts related to traffic and transportation. As identified elsewhere in this RDEIR, a public/quasi-public use would generate additional daily traffic trips. Lease of the Flanders Mansion may also result in impacts due to the loss of park benefits during the term of the lease. However, these impacts would be limited to the duration of the lease agreement, and upon termination of the agreement public use of the property could resume.
The Sale with Conservation Easements and Mitigation Alternative would lessen potential impacts associated with the proposed project while achieving the primary project purpose. This alternative would also satisfy secondary objectives. The sale with Easements and Mitigations Alternative would result in the sale of parkland and, therefore, would still result in impacts related to the permanent loss of parkland. However, this alternative would ensure that park benefits associated with the Property would be maintained by conveying permanent easements to the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea that provide continued trail access, minimize impacts to the Lester Rowntree Arboretum, and protect surrounding sensitive resources.
Both Lease Alternatives and the Sale with Conservation Easements and Mitigations Alternative would significantly reduce the extent of impacts as compared to the proposed project, and both can be considered environmentally superior to the proposed project. However, the Lease Alternatives would retain City ownership of the Property and preserve flexibility on how the property is used in the future (i.e., after the term of the lease). If the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea determines that the Lease Alternatives are infeasible for specific economic, legal, social, technical, or other considerations, the Sale with Conservation Easements and Mitigations Alternative also would be considered the environmentally superior alternative.
Figure 6-1 Sale with Conservation Easements and Mitigation Alternative