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A proposed commercial and residential project that has bogged down in the West Hollywood City Planning Department has hit another snag, leaving some West Hollywood residents to question the ongoing approval process for the Walgreens project at Santa Monica and Crescent Heights Boulevards.
The project is scheduled to begin in January 2013 and occupy nearly one acre on the southern side of Santa Monica Boulevard between Havenhurst Drive and North Crescent Heights Boulevard. The strip mall that currently occupies the site will be demolished, and replaced with 35,975 square feet of mixed-used residential and retail space, including a Walgreens. Specialty retail stores will be constructed at ground level, while 20 residential units will be built on the second and third levels.
While the new project is designed to bring new housing and services to the community, it comes with some controversy. The latest issue involves the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) asking for an extension to review and comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The Board alleges that it was not made aware of the EIR in time to review and comment before the deadline of May 9. As a result, the city has extended the review period for 45 days, ending on July 11.
Terry Leftgoff, a consultant representing a group called WeHo Neighbors located near the property, recently sent a letter to West Hollywood associate planner Jennifer Alkire asking for the review period to be extended.
“Clearly, something is seriously amiss when the city and its EIR contractor fail to provide notice of the DEIR to the very agency that is the reason this EIR is required,” Leftgoff stated in the letter.
Once an EIR is completed, it is sent to the state clearinghouse, which is responsible for sending out the report to all agencies involved. The report was reportedly sent on time, but did not have the correct contact information listed, which is supposed to be provided by the city.
“We are giving all agencies the benefit of the doubt,” Alkire said. “We want all agencies to comment back, so I mailed out the report again and will give a full forty-five-day extension for the board to comment.”
Steve Unger, executive officer of the RWQCB, said there was some delay on their part as well. The usual process involves a board member distributing the report among the rest of the board, which reportedly did not occur on time.
“We were a little slow in our office,” Unger said. “But we did receive it, we just did not have it in time to properly comment on it, which is why we asked for the extension.”
The EIR was compiled because of a concern over the possibility of toxic soil being located under the project site, which is near a dry cleaner. According to the letter from Leftgoff, who was unavailable for comment, the project developers previously failed to disclose information about toxic contamination at the site, which is what prompted the city to require an EIR.
“There are not only concerns with toxics,” said Dennis Grant, a representative of WeHo Neighbors. “There are concerns with traffic, noise, hazards and access issues.”
According to Grant, the issues have been a concern for a few years. Since then, WeHo Neighbors has collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition demanding further research on the project.
The developers submitted their application in January 2007. Initially, the project included 52,000 square feet of space, but it has since been reduced. The issues about possible groundwater contamination from the dry cleaners surfaced in 2008, prompting the city to require that an EIR be prepared for the project.
Top Hat Dry Cleaners is the current dry cleaner located near the site. In 1999, an analysis was conducted on the soil to detect for a chemical known as Tetrachloroethylene (PCE). It is considered to be a carcinogen and can possibly cause cancer, but according to the analysis, there is not enough PCE in the soil to affect people. However, some of the residents are still concerned the testing at the site was not thorough enough.
With the extension of the review period, members of the public have additional time to provide public comment.
Copies of the draft EIR are available at the City Hall Planning Division counter at the West Hollywood library, 715 N. San Vicente Blvd., and at www.weho.org/planning. If approved the project will be completed in March 2014.
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