Government Agencies Remind City to Take Stadium EIR Process Seriously

Concerns about traffic, wildlife and the San Diego River are highlighted in public comments

Government agencies and environmental groups are reminding city planners to thoroughly study all possible impacts of a proposed new stadium for the San Diego Chargers in Mission Valley.

NBC 7 Investigates obtained copies of the more than 30 responses sent to the City of San Diego’s Development Services Department, which last month requested comments about the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) now being prepared on the Qualcomm stadium site.

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) stressed the need for an in-depth “traffic impact study” of the Mission Valley site. The study, according to the letter from Caltrans, should include an analysis of every state-owned intersection controlled by a signal light and all “regionally significant “ road systems, including all state highways impacted by a stadium project.

The city should pay closer attention to state highways in Mission Valley (which include the 8, 15, 163 and 805 freeways) that already have “significant” traffic delays or “an increased risk of a potential traffic accident,” according to the letter. Caltrans also told the city its EIR should include information about every freeway entrance and exit ramp that would be impacted by the proposed stadium project.

Click here to read all of the comments submitted to the city.

An eight-page letter from the California Department of Fish and Game takes issue with the city’s apparent decision not to study the impact of a new stadium on “Biological Resources” in and around the Qualcomm site.

“The Department is concerned about potential direct and indirect effects on the San Diego River and Murphy Canyon Creek, the sensitive habitats they support… and the sensitive species…” that live along the river, said Gail Sevens, Environmental Program Manager for the Department of Fish and Game.

Seven’s letter reminds city planners they must consider including adequate “buffers” of up to 650 feet between any new development and the San Diego River. The department also wants the city to consider restoring the River and Murphy Canyon Creek to “nearer their historic conditions,” which would greatly increase their width and possibly shrink the acreage available for a new stadium, parking structure and new development, according to the letter it submitted.

In another letter, SANDAG, a regional transportation planning agency, reminded the city that any analysis of traffic generated by a new stadium should “consider the needs of motorists, transit riders, pedestrians and bicyclists…”

According to SANDAG, the EIR should consider the benefits of building a bike and pedestrian bridge linking Qualcomm (at Fenton Parkway) with Mission City Parkway, along with extensive, and possibly expensive, “dynamic message signs” along Friars Road that would alert drivers of slowdowns during stadium events. The SANDAG letter stresses the potential benefit of offering discount transit passes and ticket prices for fans who take mass transit, rideshare or who ride their bike to events at a potential new stadium.

Former San Diego City Councilwoman Donna Frye urged the city to study of the benefits of building a River Park on the Qualcomm site as an alternative to a new stadium. “A San Diego River Park will help address park deficiencies in Mission Valley, while providing recreational and economic value as a regional asset to our existing park, recreation and open-space system,” Frye wrote. “Examples include… an amphitheater for concerts, festivals and entertainment events… soccer fields, ball fields, running tracks, hiking trails (and) open space.”

As previously reported by NBC 7 Investigates, the law firm of Chatten-Brown & Carstens submitted the most detailed and critical comments about the proposed EIR. The law firm’s 34-page letter, backed up with dozens of pages of exhibits, objects an EIR “process that appears to be taking shape for hasty approval of a football stadium and mixed-use development.”

More than a dozen San Diegans used the public comment process to simply express their opinions about the wisdom, or folly, of a new stadium.

“Please do not waste any more tax dollars on this project,” said Ross Christie. “Please do not waste any more city employee time on this project. Please do not hire any contractors for this project at city expense.”

K.K. Desai disagreed. “We should go ahead with or without Chargers,” he wrote. “San Diego needs modern facilities built. Yes, it will give the City a leg up. Let us not give up because of Chargers dilly willy.”

Ken Faucher opined that a new stadium is ”… a waste of money needed to fix infrastructure (and) a supremo example of getting ‘the cart before the horse’. I don’t know anybody who is in favor of the plan.”

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