Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Comment letter on damaging stream environment at Dittos Lane in Los Gatos

(CGF submitted the following comment letter on proposed development that could harm Los Gatos Creek.  The City of Los Gatos needs to have much better defined standards than the ones it used in its analysis.  -Brian)

February 4, 2011

Joe Paulson, Senior Planner
Town of Los Gatos

Re:  Comments on DEIR 10-001 for Dittos Lane Apartments Planned Development Application PD-10-002

Dear Joe:

            The Committee for Green Foothills submits the following comments on the Draft EIR for the Dittos Lane Apartments.  We note that CGF appreciates and supports the intent of providing housing, especially affordable housing, in Los Gatos.  We express the following concerns regarding the DEIR for this project, without taking a position at the present time as to whether the project should proceed.

            Our concerns revolve around the adequacy of the description of potential impacts to the riparian area of Los Gatos Creek.  First, the DEIR needs to adequately describe and assess any potential impact to Los Gatos Creek as a wildlife migration corridor, especially for larger mammals like deer.  The corridor appears to be restricted but still viable, so if this project would further impede that corridor, then that needs to be disclosed and analyzed for its potential individually- and cumulatively- significant impact.

            Second, the standards for assessing overall riparian impacts in the area appear to be overly vague, and further analysis is needed to do adequate analysis.  The standards described in the DEIR are as follows:

ENV-3.1: Preserve riparian corridors and riparian
habitats and avoid disturbances to these areas.
ENV-3.2: Ensure development prevents damage to
native plants in the hillsides, riparian areas,
watersheds and other sensitive natural habitats.
ENV-3.3: Retain creek beds, riparian corridors, water
courses and associated vegetation in their natural
state to assist groundwater percolation and prevent
erosion and downstream sedimentation.
ENV-3.4: Require setbacks or other protective
measures as appropriate to protect riparian corridors.
ENV-3.5: Promote the planting of local native trees
and shrubs on land surrounding reservoirs and
streams, especially adjacent to areas where banks or
channels have been modified for flood protection

DEIR at 4.7-8

The resulting analysis:

Proposed site development would generally avoid
disturbance of riparian corridor vegetation and habitat.
Grading on the site perimeter would require the removal
of 56 trees within the oak/bay woodland that is
contiguous to riparian vegetation. No disturbance would
occur on the lower hillsides above Los Gatos Creek
banks or below the top of bank. As discussed above,
proposed landscaping plans include planting coast live
oaks and other native species. Appropriate mitigation
measures are included in the discussion below to ensure
protection of off-site riparian resources.


Additional analysis is needed to justify the claim that the 56 to-be-removed trees "contiguous" to the riparian area are not actually part of the riparian area.  The DEIR needs to describe what, if any, buffer exists between the development footprint and the riparian edge, and it needs to establish a standard of what constitutes an appropriate buffer.  The Town's neighboring city, San Jose, has a riparian buffer policy of 100 feet, and while that policy also has some exceptions, it is tightening up the policy.  The lack of any expressed policy in this DEIR is disturbing, but it does not excuse the Town from applying a reasonable standard, so that needs to be done.

Please contact us if you have any questions.

Brian A. Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County

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