OVA: Elnoka Plans “Deficient”

            The Draft Environmental Impact Report on Elnoka, a proposed continuing care retirement community bordering Oakmont, is “deficient” in its analysis of wildfire risk, traffic/transportation, zoning issues and noise and obstructed visibility, according to OVA’s comments on the issue.

            In his letter to Kristinae Toomians, senior planner for the city, OVA President Tom Kendrick challenges the developer’s assertion that the site does not lie in a High Fire Risk Zone. He said current maps and documents show “that it certainly does.”

            Commenting on Elnoka at the OVA Board meeting June 15, Kendrick said he suspects the city Planning Commission will ask for an updated EIR after spending the late summer and early fall evaluating comments on the project. This is likely to push further evaluation of Elnoka well into 2022.

            Elnoka would include 664 living units in apartments and cottages, a senior care center with 62 units, plus employee housing and central facilities for residents. It would be gated, with the main entrance requiring an added stoplight on Highway 12.

            In a letter accompanying Kendrick’s comments, Jean A. Kapolchok, whose firm specializes in land use planning and urban design, called the plans Wildfire section “inadequate”.

            “Given the 2017 Nuns fire and the 2020 Glass fire which directly impacted the project site and surrounding land,” she writes, “ it is puzzling why information regarding response times, evacuation times, intensity of fire, rate of fire spreading, sufficiency of State Highway 12 and Melita Road as evacuation routes do not appear in the DEIR fire analysis.” 

            Kapolchok said the DEIR gives “a misleading impression” regarding the project’s fire risk, saying that it is not designated as being in a very high or high fire risk area. She said the site is designated as high risk in the city’s 2020 Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

            Noting that the project would “require relocation of a large elderly population” during a disaster, she says the DEIR recommends the preparation of an emergency plan only AFTER project approval.

            Kendrick said the traffic analysis in the DEIR is based on data from April, 2017, and  “even this four-year-old information shows the current situation on Highway 12 is unacceptably congested on a regular basis” with 1,000 additional residents in the area. He said traffic bottlenecks create health and safety issues for age-restricted Oakmont Village.

            Addressing the issue of noise during construction, Kendrick said the DEIR should provide more details on specific noise-abatement plans, particularly for the proposed multi-level apartment buildings immediately adjacent to homes in Oakmont Village.

He also said present zoning would allow less than half the number of residences in the plan. Even then, he added, housing in Elnoka would be double the density of Oakmont Village.

            Kendrick said water availability is also under stress, especially in the increasingly frequent drought years. As a result, he said, the DEIR should show how a substantial additional number of water customers could be supplied with water. Also he said the document must address how the community would deal with frequent Public Safety Power Shutoff events.        

            He said the DEIR should address the issue of the visibility from Trione-Annadel State Park of the apartment buildings planned along Channel Drive. He said visibility from the park was cited by city commissioners when they denied project approval in 2011-12.

            Oakmont people responded to a call for comment to city planner Toomians. “I think Oakmont has been very well heard from,” Kendrick told the board.