Guest view

Gavilan: The view from the hill
By Steve Kinsella
Summer session is under way. Fall semester registration is in
progress, and enrollment is growing to record levels. Gavilan
College is moving forward with the due diligence process for the
land purchase for a future San Benito County campus. Community
forums have been held, and with the community’s input, preliminary
concept maps for a campus have been designed. We are now engaged in
the environmental review that will determine the impacts of the
proposed project on the air, traffic, environment, and wildlife of
the region. The review process must be followed as defined by the
California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA was adopted in
1970 to ensure that agencies considering development projects study
and document the environmental impacts of those projects, and avoid
or mitigate those impacts, to the extent feasible.
Gavilan: The view from the hill

By Steve Kinsella

Summer session is under way. Fall semester registration is in progress, and enrollment is growing to record levels. Gavilan College is moving forward with the due diligence process for the land purchase for a future San Benito County campus. Community forums have been held, and with the community’s input, preliminary concept maps for a campus have been designed. We are now engaged in the environmental review that will determine the impacts of the proposed project on the air, traffic, environment, and wildlife of the region. The review process must be followed as defined by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). CEQA was adopted in 1970 to ensure that agencies considering development projects study and document the environmental impacts of those projects, and avoid or mitigate those impacts, to the extent feasible.

The CEQA process is complicated and has drawn some questions from the community. As many are aware, Gavilan College is now proposing to develop a campus on 80 acres of a 156-acre parcel at the corner of Airline Highway and Fairview Road. A private residential development has been proposed for the rest of the parcel. Although the two developments are independent of one another, they will eventually share roadways, infrastructure, and open space. Because of these shared components, as well as the two projects’ concurrent planning and adjacency, CEQA encourages the Gavilan College Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to describe the big-picture impacts of the ENTIRE development: the combined college campus and residential project, in addition to evaluating the environmental impacts of each of the individual projects.

This does not mean, however, that the college entitlement and/or CEQA process “covers” the residential development. The private developers will have to initiate their own process with San Benito County at the time they are ready to move forward. While the county can be expected to refer to the report prepared by Gavilan College in considering the private development, it may request additional information (including a new EIR) from the residential developer. The residential developer derives no material benefit from the Gavilan College CEQA process, and the Gavilan College CEQA process does not inherently speed up or confer approval on the residential development.

Numerous government agencies are involved in the CEQA process. (Go to www.ceres.ca.gov/topic/env_law/ceqa/flowchart/index.html to see a CEQA process flowchart.) At this point, the lead agency, Gavilan College, has sent to the responsible agency, San Benito County, a notice of preparation that the EIR is under way. All of the local and state agencies involved are invited to provide comments on the EIR content. Gavilan College will then prepare a draft EIR, incorporating the agencies’ comments. We will then file a notice of completion and make the draft available to the public for review. The public will have the opportunity to comment, and these comments and responses to the comments will be incorporated into the final EIR. The EIR will include environmental findings and recommendations for mitigation of any identified impacts.

Any CEQA process involves a lot of work on the part of numerous government agencies. For that reason it is more efficient to take a larger view, and study the impacts of an entire project rather than providing an incomplete picture by studying only a small part of a planned project, or duplicate efforts by taking a piecemeal approach. Although sharing components of our project with the planned residential development necessitates a somewhat larger scope for the Gavilan College EIR than might otherwise be the case, the costs will be more than offset by the savings we will realize from joint infrastructure, roads, and open space.

As we work through this process it is helpful to remember what we stand to gain when it is complete: the beginnings of a full-service college campus for San Benito County and the opportunity for future generations of San Benito County students to attend college close to home.

If you’d like to be on an email list for notification of the availability of the draft EIR, please send an email to [email protected]

Steve Kinsella is president of Gavilan College.

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