The Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is finally done regarding the proposed apartment development at 2525 Main St., in north Santa Ana. It totaled over 500 pages and cost $350K to complete – which was charged to the developer of this project.
EIR reports are how local planning agencies comply with the Federal CEQA statute. CEQA is an environmental protection statute that is concerned with the physical changes to the environment (CEQA Guidelines Section 15358(b)). The environment includes land, air, water, minerals, flora, fauna, ambient noise, and objects of historic or aesthetic significance (CEQA Guidelines Section 15360).
As you might imagine the City of Santa Ana received quite a few public comments while the EIR was compiled. However most of the comments did not focus on environmental issues but instead had to do with concerns related to the “economic and social effects” of the proposed project.
Did you know that almost no EIRs for infill projects of the size of the 2525 Main St. project result in findings that do not have significant impacts for noise, traffic and dust? As such I was very surprised that the EIR for this project found that these impacts were less than significant.
This EIR took a long time to compile because the developer did not go with a mitigated negative declaration (MND), which has a shorter time frame and studies less areas. The developer did not go that route because they were concerned traffic and dust issues would not be able to be mitigated, but that turned out not to be the case.
The EIR in fact concluded that the proposed apartment development was a consistent land use for the site. As you might know this property is not currently zoned for an apartment development. It is zoned for office or retail use. The Santa Ana Planning Commission and/or the Santa Ana City Council will have to approve a zoning change in order for this project to advance.
The EIR ultimately found that a multifamily apartment complex fit into the city’s general plan, and in fact noted that the project could be an ideal buffer for the single family homes in Park Santiago.
How is that possible? Well if the developer was to tear down the dilapidated office building that is currently on the site and build a larger office tower the notion is that this would create a much larger traffic impact on the surrounding neighborhood as office complexes get hundreds if not thousands of visits on a daily basis while housing tenants tend to go to work then come home – with a few errands and diversions in between.
The EIR also determined that there were no significant impacts with regard to the population, as the area of Santa Ana in question has roughly 5k people per sq. mile while much of central Santa Ana hass more than 16k people per sq. mile.
The EIR also stated that there would be less than significant impacts on the cities’s infrastructure (such as sewer and water), and specifically that there is more than significant capacity for the City to provide all the required utilities to the site.
In regards to housing the EIR established that the city is a job-rich city and a housing-poor city and that there is an extreme need for housing in general in the City of Santa Ana. Granted the development in question won’t include any affordable housing units but the developer will be paying for 77 such units to be developed elsewhere in the City of Santa Ana.
With regard to public services the EIR pointed to the fact that the City of Santa Ana is in need of students because the local school district is under-enrolled and that less than one police officer would be needed to police the project, but found impacts that were less than significant because the project’s fiscal benefits far exceeded the cost of services.
Finally with regard to traffic the EIR found no significant impacts and that any other use would produce more trips than multi-family use.
The one aspect of the project that will be a significant change from the current use of the property will be the aesthetics but the developer has modified the project to include tiered building height from 2 to 5 stories on the east side of the development, to minimize the visual impact on the Park Santiago Neighborhood.
The 2525 Main St. plan proposes 496 units and 908 parking spaces (ratio of 1.83 parking spaces/unit), a revised unit mix (73 Studios, 307 One bedrooms, 88 Two bedrooms and 28 Three bedrooms). The apartment buildings will be wrapped around an eight-story parking structure containing 904 parking spaces. Courtyards, landscaping and various on-site amenities are also proposed.
We are planning on writing additional articles about this project and its impact on the surrounding area in north Santa Ana in the next week.