THE OAKTOBER SURPRISE
The Environmental Law attorneys representing CAMP– Community Association for Modoc Preserve has sent the County of Santa Barbara a 16 page (not counting exhibits) comment letter on the revised MND.
Or, as we call it…an Unmitigated Disaster! Literally, omitting “special status” oak trees in their Alignment A that by County ordinance require…you guessed it…MITIGATION!
Top notch CEQA attorneys don’t come cheap (please donate to Modoc Preserve Legal Defense Fund)…but, CAMP’s 16 page legal response to the revised MND (excluding exhibits) submitted for the administrative record should we decide to litigate this issue, is a piece of work…it points out numerous inaccuracies…discrepancies, deficiencies, obfuscations, omissions…etc…several individual elements, like the incredibly invisible native oak trees (HOCUS POCUS…ABRACADABRA…POOF!…;-) discussed below, stand on their own to highlight that the revised MND fails as an informational document…but, taken in totality, no reasonable person versed in CEQA law would ever consider approving the revised MND…we didn’t even have to point out the noticing failure of the initial draft MND back in May…and, their redux done correctly in September…which was obvious to everyone in the affected neighborhoods bordering the Modoc Preserve, no matter which side of the issue you were on…”fair argument” box checked…;-)
The County staff has recommended that Alignment B be approved. CAMP opposes both Alignment A and Alignment B as set forth in the Revised MND dated September 8, 2022, and requests that the Board of Supervisors place the entire Multi-Use Path up onto Modoc Road or let the ATP grant expire so that these funds can be used where they are most needed to increase bike safety in Santa Barbara County. The
County has already moved the western half of the Multi-Use Path onto Modoc Road using existing asphalt infrastructure in County Right of Way (ROW), north of the valuable tree belt that lines Modoc Road. CAMP calls their proposed alignment placing the entire path onto Modoc Road the “Greenbelt Alignment“. Any decision by the Board of Supervisors to approve the proposed Project as currently formulated will result in multiple violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
First, the Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (“MND”) prepared for the proposed Project contains numerous inaccuracies and fails as informational document.
Second, Alignment B is not viable since it cannot be constructed in a manner consistent with the Conservation Easement in the Modoc Preserve that the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County currently holds.
Third, Alignment A, as currently designed, is not tenable for multiple reasons, not the least of which being that it would destroy 29 majestic Canary Island Palm Trees and a number of native Oak trees not included in the MND’s tree survey.
Therefore, CAMP respectfully requests that the Board of Supervisors reject the MND for the proposed Project at this time, and instead, consider the Greenbelt Alignment.
The County of Santa Barbara Public Works Department has vigorously been marketing their Multi-Use Path (MUP) alignments to several hundred thousand tax paying residents and local citizens based on a lie.
On Page 41 of the revised MND the County states:
- Impact Discussion:
e. Implementation of Alternative A would require the removal of approximately 48 trees,
including no native and 48 non-native trees. Implementation of Alternative B would
require the removal of approximately 21 trees, including three native and 18 non-native
trees (see Table 8). The impact to native trees is considered significant because more
than 10 percent of the native trees of biological value found at the project site would be
Please notice 6 native Coast Live oaks marked in these images within feet of the current Class II bike lane on the south side of Modoc Road…Alignment A…
The MND represents to the public and the decision makers that zero (0) Coast Live Oak trees will be removed under the Alignment A scenario.
The evidence demonstrates that this statement in the MND is false.
The County’s own tree base map for the proposed Project, obtained under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) identified a stand of 7 oak trees situated over what is now Alignments A and B along Modoc Road just before Via Zorro.
The MND’s error is compounded by the fact that the full complement of Coast Live Oaks that are present along this specific stretch of Modoc Road were identified on the original tree base map but were omitted from the subsequent Alignment Maps. The subsequent maps even misidentified one oak tree as a eucalyptus tree. (Ibid.) The stand of Oak Trees is clearly in both Alignments A and B and subject to removal by the proposed Project. Trees marked in blue are marked for removal.
When the existence of the stand of oak trees and these other errors were brought to the attention of the senior environmental planner with the County of Santa Barbara, he admitted that the County was aware of this error and subsequently provided a revised tree impact summary noting that 6 Native Coastal Live Oaks may be removed under the proposed Project. (Exhibit E [Morgan Jones E-mail].)
This updated information was not included in, or analyzed in, the revised MND provided to the decision-makers or the public. The revised MND still indicates that 0 Coast Live Oaks will be removed under Alignment A.
An additional inaccuracy in tree species identification in the MND occurs near Modoc Road and Clara Vista Road. There, the County once again misidentified an Oak Tree as a 33” Eucalyptus Tree. (Exhibit A [Tree Base Map, Sheet 2 of 4, identifying Tree # 77 as “Q” ]; see Exhibit C [August 27, 2022 Alignment Map still reflecting a Eucalyptus Tree, not an Oak Tree]; Exhibit F [Photographs of misidentified Oak Tree].)
Since the full complement of oaks trees subject to removal were not identified or addressed in the MND, the MND fails as an informational document. Moreover, the MND fails to provide mitigation measures for the oak trees that would be removed under Alignment A. For these reasons alone the MND should be rejected.
As if that were not enough, the County omitted very important information that they had, and failed to include in the MND, that calculated the amount of habitat and shade canopy that would be lost in Alignment A. Click to read about these SHADY DEALINGS.