City officials in Capitola, California say they are not trying to kill the Home Depot project, but that it’s traffic impact is just not workable in its current form. The city was willing to pay up $3,559 to file an appeal of the County’s Planning Commission, which approved the plan on December 14th. The Home Depot proposal is part of a 17-acre parcel at 41st Avenue and Soquel Drive, called the Redwood Square Shopping Center, a $20 million renovation that also includes a Best Buy, a Safeway and other business and office space. The original plan was approved two years ago. “We’re not looking at stopping the project,” Capitola Mayor Dennis Norton told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “All we’re asking is that they mitigate the traffic problems that they’ve created with the shopping center.” The city’s appeal will be heard by the County Board of Supervisors. The city’s appeal means that the Home Depot project is now stuck in traffic. Neighbors to the project have complained that the new complex will make a bad traffic pattern ever worse. Despite the conditions placed on the project by the Planning Commission, the city charges there will be traffic overflow around the shopping center. The city wants a new traffic configuration, and a better analysis and mitigation plan specifically for the Soquel Village area, where many residents live. Mayor Norton claims that the Home Depot developers have “never done a complete traffic study,” and that the “circulation analysis for the Home Depot project is not adequate under the California Environmental Quality Act.”
In Bakersfield, California, residents have stalled the construction of several big box stores because of inadequate environmental reviews under the state’s CEQA. For more background on that case, search Newsflash by “Bakersfield.” This Home Depot will surely be built, and the city’s objections today will not really bring much relief to the residents of Soquel Village. At best, this appeal will gum up the works for a few months, but the real work to stop the scale of this project should have been done by the County at the beginning of the hearing process two years ago. Still, this story is a reminder of why local citizen’s groups need to hire their own traffic engineer if they hope to play on a level field with developers. As long as self-serving traffic studies conducted by developers are accepted by permitting boards as objective, the land use process will remain a wired outcome.