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Friends of Rose Creek sues City over new trolley station’s impact
By Dave Schwab, October 17, 2019

A Pacific Beach environmental watchdog group has sued the City alleging an environmental report on the new Balboa Avenue Trolley Station doesn’t comply with the California Environmental Quality Act in failing to address proposed densification near Rose Creek.

“The environmental plan excluded significant analysis of potential impacts to Rose Creek by artificially drawing the boundary of the plan area to exclude the creek and bike path despite numerous requests by the community to identify the impacts, both during scoping and in comments to the draft EIR,” said Karin Zirk of Friends of Rose Creek. “If the City wants to encourage more users in this sensitive habitat, then the City needs to provide park rangers, trash pickup, and other maintenance services to protect this rare coastal wetland.”

“We will consult with our client and respond through the courts,” replied City spokesperson Leslie Wolf Branscomb to the Rose Creek lawsuit.

The Balboa Avenue Trolley Stop is one of nine planned for the Mid-Coast Trolley under development to extend trolley service from Santa Fe Depot downtown to UTC and serving Old Town and UC San Diego beginning in 2021. The new Balboa station is in a transit-oriented zone promoting higher housing densities and mass transit including bicycles and other multi-modal uses, as well as relaxing parking requirements for development.

On Aug. 1, San Diego City Council unanimously passed a specific plan calling for greater housing density and multi-modal connectivity for the new Balboa Station serving Pacific Beach/Clairemont. The council, however, stopped short of dedicating Rose Creek as public parkland, as some were advocating as a condition of project approval.

Zirk filed the lawsuit on behalf of Friends of Rose Creek, a nonprofit whose vision is for lower Rose Creek to be turned it into an open-space park providing habitat restoration and recreational and educational opportunities, on Oct. 9. The environmental group hosts annual trash pick-ups and clean-ups of the creek.

Zirk said the Rose Creek suit is part of a larger reaction to City land-use policies. “The City is trying to avoid addressing the cumulative impacts to our natural spaces, which we see not only in the Balboa Plan but also in the De Anza Revitalization Plan and the Fiesta Island amendment,” she said. “They are all being done separately, and the cumulative impacts of all the projects, the connection between them, is not being addressed.”

Added Zirk: “I would like to see the City fully analyze the environmental impacts of Rose Creek. The City has identified impacts, where they just say no mitigation is feasible. We disagree. We think their environmental plan should be amended to include mitigation measures.”

Zirk contends the new Balboa Trolley stop is going to be problematic in numerous ways.

“It’s going to increase noise pollution and make the traffic worse, with at least a seven-fold increase in trash from the four tons per year we now pick up to 28 tons per year,” she said. “We can’t keep up with that now, and the City is providing nothing new to address this issue. We also have people trampling through critical sensitive habitat.”

Zirk noted Escondido-based DeLano & DeLano environmental and land use law firm has been engaged to represent Friends in its lawsuit. She added the legal alternative was chosen only as a last resort.

“We didn’t want it to come to this,” said Zirk. “We wanted the City to take care of all the natural resources and amend the specific plan, but the City has chosen not to do that.”

Zirk said a March 2020 court hearing has been set for the Friends of Rose Creek lawsuit.



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