Back when the council made its controversial decision to approve the Library Committee’s recommendation to “prefer” the Park location, the council already knew that doing so was fomenting controversy and that moving ahead with such an approach would incur large extra costs to the town. Yet, because of McKeithen’s fierce defense of her ALBSC and support for them to get what THEY/SHE want (over what residents in town might want), and refusal to listen to the real concerns of residents, the council majority accepted those extra costs. Incredibly (perhaps just to me), the council very uneventfully approved an increase in the expected budget for LSA, the CEQA consultants, because the controversy would force them to do extra work, change a fairly simple CEQA approval process that had been budgeted at $69,000 into a more formal and exhaustive, but legally defensible EIR process, at an extra cost of about $100,000. See the council report from Michael Kashiwagi and Neal Martin presented at the November 16th council meeting (Item No. 19) (Sorry the town website makes it impossible to link to specific documents). Here is what Atherton’s contract town staff does, when faced with the immovable McKeithen, who refuses to defuse the controversy that her very own committee generates:
As the process has evolved some community members have expressed concerns about environmental impacts that might result if the new library were sited in Holbrook-Palmer Park. Specifically, concerns were expressed at the Park & Recreation Commission meetings on July 6, 2011 and October 5, 2011, at the ALBSC Community Meeting held on September 8, 2011 and at the City Council meeting on October 19, 2011. Those concerns generally relate to the loss of existing park and recreation space, traffic volumes and traffic safety in the park, and adequacy of parking. In terms of the California Environmental Quality Act and case law these concerns are classified as “public controversy”.
Also, one result of the Environmental Screening Analysis was the determination that the existing library building is a potential historic resource and if it were removed that action would constitute an unavoidable adverse impact requiring an EIR and possibly a Statement of Overriding Considerations.
Due to these concerns staff requested that LSA Associates provide an expanded work scope for the preparation of an EIR instead of an IS/MND for Town consideration. That proposal is attached and discussed below.
Staff has met with the Atherton Library Building Steering Committee to discuss the options for meeting CEQA requirements. It was pointed out that experience has shown that an IS/MND is easily challenged from a legal perspective. Should an IS/MND be prepared, certified and challenged, significant time and money would be lost and a court could subsequently require preparation of an EIR. While an IS/MND could be completed in 2 to 3 months less than an EIR, it is riskier and could be more expensive in the end. After discussing the issues at its meeting on November 2, 2011 the ALBSC voted to recommend that the City Council proceed with an EIR for the library project and further recommended the City Council authorize an additional $86,230 to LSA for preparation of an EIR for the Library project. A more detailed discussion of the proposal is provided under the heading “LSA Associates Revised Work Program” below.
So here’s the very beginning of a tally for residents to evaluate what the costs of having things done the McKeithen way in Atherton. We are speculating here and hope to get some refinement to these numbers—but at the very least, it will provide some increased transparency on this issue:
Costs to Town of McKeithen’s Tactics
- Total of three Lindenwood lawsuits: $500,000 (est., someone have this?)
- John Johns “silencing” settlements: $250,000 – (?)
- Library Project CEQA Review Overage: $86,230 (plus additional still unknown)
- Forfeited federal stimulus energy funding (shuttering the EPC): $30,000
- Library JPA funding no longer going to town?: $700,000 per year (?)
- Lost value of expertise and dedication of long-term employees forced out: (?)
- Lost value of resident good will towards the town government (?)
Approximate range of costs of McKeithen: $800,000 to $1,500,000