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Agenda Topic D-2: Suggestions for EIR Process Education

From: domainremoved <Lynne>
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2019 10:14:44 -0800

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Dear Council,

Thank you for this timely topic. This kind of education is urgently needed. Resources exist that could be leveraged, or used as is, to start immediate efforts on this topic. I'm referring to handouts used by other cities or organizations that give "best practice" suggestions. The booklet The Art of Commenting: How to Influence Environmental Decisiomaking with Effective Comments (2nd edition), by Elizabeth D. Mullin, is particularly useful and could form the content foundation of any training plan. Perhaps copies of this booklet could be purchased in bulk for use in a training effort. For example, copies could be given to the Planning, Environmental Quality, Complete Streets and Housing Commissioners, with additional copies available for purchase as a discounted rate. The training could start in a grass-roots way with Commissioners and the public invited to read the book (by a certain date) and then holding public meetings to discuss strategies before Planning Commission meetings that have EIR-related topics.

I am traveling or I would link to some of the handouts that I've found to educate myself on this topic. I will follow up to supply links upon my return to Menlo Park.

Instead of waiting for Staff to start working on this topic in January, you could jump-start the effort by doing the above and also asking for volunteers to serve on an ad hoc committee focused on developing and making recommendations. The volunteers could work independently or with the two Council subcommittees. The Environmental Quality Commission could also help. Longer term, I also recommend that the Finance & Audit Committee start to evaluate the fiscal impact of the EIR proposal. Patti Fry has written you (via CCIN) on this topic and I like her suggestion.

Other recommendations:

  1. At all public notice phases of the EIR process, starting with the scoping phase, include an educational aspect on the topic of making effective comments. This could be built into the agenda with suitable handouts to accompany the presentation.

  2. Raise the visibility of current EIRs and their CEQA phase at the City's website. This information should exist in one easy-to-find spot. Right now, they are buried and the terminology used may not trigger the public's ability to find them. Only path I know of to date:

Open Government Portal<https://www.menlopark.org/484/Open-government>

     * Public Notices<https://www.menlopark.org/803/Public-notices>
           * Development Notices <https://www.menlopark.org/803/Public-notices>
              * California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Notices <https://www.menlopark.org/Archive.aspx?AMID=76>

3. Add EIR response educational materials to the EIR portal, on the same portal page where one can easily go to find a complete list of EIRs.
4. Add a link to the ConnectMenlo Program level EIR and what this means for project-level EIRs. The public needs to understand how District 1 EIRs relate to the program-level EIR.
5. Add a resource list of agencies the public can contact regarding questions pertaining to environmental law and comments on EIRs.
6. Establish a Notify Me list explicitly for EIRs. At each phase, send a push notice regarding the EIR's phase and response deadline. There many be other needed info.
7. Review and update the City's Public Noticing Policy<https://www.menlopark.org/DocumentCenter/View/273/Public-Noticing-Policy> Put the current policy in a more prominent place or link to it from the EIR portal. Right now, it's very buried at the Planning Division<https://www.menlopark.org/144/Planning-Division> portal. One finds it via the Policies link or now as a standalone link at the bottom of the page. However, the average person would not know about this policy and it's also overdue for an update.

Lynne Bramlett
Received on Tue Nov 12 2019 - 10:06:36 PST

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