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Clark Road Project ~ HISTORY   

As you may know, the 144 acre parcels above and east of the Clark Road-Boas trail have been threatened by a series of ill-conceived development proposals the 1980s. Legal actions, brought about by poor design and incompatibility with the City of Richmond's General Plan have led to their abandonment in the past. The most recent proposal, called the Clark Road Project, was initiated in 2002 and called for 180 homes (slightly scaled back from the 1999 proposal for 204 homes).

A group of neighbors, concerned about potential landslides, erosion, loss of wildlife habitat, stress on El Sobrante roads and services, formed the Canyon Park Friends of Open Space (CPFOS) in order to defend the El Sobrante Hills and specifically the Clark Road Project from overzealous developers. Working under the wing of the El Sobrante Valley Legal Defense(ESVLDF), we organized a benefit concert, hosted by the East Bay Waldorf School, in the summer of 2002. The concert was a great success, served not only to raise funds for our cause but as a means to get information out to the people of the area.

LSA Associates released the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Clark Road Project in June 2003. This report is intended to be a detailed accounting the probable impacts that the proposed project might inflict upon the community at large, the site and its residents, flora, fauna and topography specific, and is placed before the public in order that they might and comment to the City of Richmond as to the desirability of project. Dissatisfied with the accuracy and completeness of the EIR, many of you wrote to the City of Richmond to express your concerns. Joining you were spokespersons from schools, churches, unions, and local conservation. The sheer number of well-reasoned and heartfelt letters was truly overwhelming and was an eloquent expression of this community's feelings towards these hills. These comments, by law, must be addressed by the authors of the EIR and the responses as well as the comments must be made available to the public (as a published volume known as the EIR Final Addendum) before work on this project can proceed. To the best of our knowledge, funding for the EIR Final Addendum has not been given and so the project is in abeyance at the moment.

Another issue that must be resolved before this project can continue is that of the Richmond Hillside Development Ordinance. This law, enacted in 1997 as a direct result of a lawsuit filed by the ESVLDF, EBRPD and the Sierra Club, restricts grading on steep slopes, large-scale alteration of natural terrain, and massive destruction of mature trees. In an opinion offered by the City of Richmond's legal department, it was found that the Clark Road Project falls under the jurisdiction of the provisions of the Hillside and therefore cannot be legally built whilst the Hillside Ordinance remains in its current state. The same hold true for several other proposed developments in the El Sobrante Valley. The head of the Richmond City Planning Department then moved to ask that they be allowed to re-write the Ordinance, claiming that it was "unspecific" and "unclear", (although it was clear enough to the City's lawyers to render the above opinion, and clear enough for the city attorneys to agree to as settlement of a lawsuit). We feel that it was a thinly-veiled attempt to alter the Ordinance in order to allow the very types of projects it was designed to protect. The matter was brought before the Planning Commission, and after 2 very long sessions, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to retain the Hillside Ordinance as it stands, with several of them calling for the strengthening of it. The very large and impassioned group of residents who attended and spoke at these meetings was surely a major factor in this decision - thank you all for your efforts and your eloquence!

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