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City OKs funds to review freeway expansion EIR

SOLANA BEACH — City Council voted unanimously at the July 14 meeting to allocate no more than $85,000 for consultants to review an environmental impact report on the proposed expansion of Interstate 5.
City Manager David Ott originally planned to ask for $75,000 but after preliminary discussions, he said he believed the increased amount “would be more appropriate.”
Because City Council isn’t meeting again until Aug. 25, he wanted to ensure staff had adequate funding to review the document which, with attachments, is 8,000 pages long. Ott said he hoped to spend less than $85,000.
Councilman Dave Roberts said some residents expressed concern about spending the money during the current economic climate.
“I think $85,000 from undesignated reserves is a good expenditure of resources to thoroughly critique this project because this is our one chance to get any concerns that we have documented and we need to have these experts,” Roberts said.
Mayor Tom Campbell said the process will be similar to the one used to review the EIR for the fairgrounds expansion. Campbell said he thought the end result for that was good but there appeared to be a lot of duplication.
He asked Ott to partner with other cities when possible to avoid that. Ott said Solana Beach is currently the most engaged in the project but he is working with neighboring cities and other stakeholders such as the Sierra Club.
The California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans, is proposing to expand up to possibly six lanes a 27-mile stretch of I-5 from La Jolla Village Drive to Harbor Drive in Oceanside.
The project is slated to include the addition of carpool lanes, access ramps, auxiliary lanes and possibly one general purpose lane in each direction. The estimated cost is approximately $4 million.
Some private property is expected to be taken. Ott said staff is following up to ensure Solana Beach residents who will be affected receive sufficient notice.
Caltrans has scheduled several public hearings to provide information on the project. Council members also voted to send a letter to Caltrans stating it intends to have a videographer at the Solana Beach workshop, set for Aug. 24 at Skyline Elementary School.
Roberts said he “was quite angry” to hear a voice message from a Caltrans representative saying the city could not record the event.
Citing the First Amendment, the city attorney said she was “unaware of any legal authority that would preclude a member of the public that’s attending that meeting to videotape a public meeting.”
Campbell said the purpose of recording the workshop is to provide information to anyone who can’t attend. The videographer would be paid from the $85,000; however, it could be funded by private donations.
In response to the letter, Caltrans said the city could record the event.
The Clean and Green Committee has scheduled an informational meeting from 7 to 9 p.m. Aug. 19 in Debin Hall at the Solana Beach Presbyterian Church, 120 Stevens Ave.
The EIR is available on the Caltrans website and at city libraries. The deadline to submit written comments is Oct. 7. Caltrans must respond to all comments submitted in writing.