For those interested in the Opus West Russell Ranch Project (the proposed development on the property formerly known as the Lowes site or Lot C), the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is now available, and a 45 day public review period has started.

At the request of many in the community and the city, the EIR looks at two options: what the developer is already entitled to do, as well as the addition of a third restaurant and a fitness club. The idea is to give all the office building staff on Russell Ranch more options to stay within the area, as well as provide more options for residents. By having any restaurants and/or the fitness center, the EIR will count more car trips, but those would be lower simply because of car trips to the area having multiple purposes (e.g., office and gym, or office and restaurant).

To put things in perspective, for the largest alternative, traffic is projected at 85% of the number of car trips projected for the Lowes project during the week. With either alternative, traffic will be most noticeable during morning and evening rush hours, and less during the weekend. All intersections around town can operate at “acceptable” levels, except for Lindero Canyon Road and Russell Ranch Road/Via Colinas, which would operate at an “E” level of service (LOS). For both alternatives, the LOS is considered unacceptable. According to the EIR, “the project’s impact to this intersection is significant and cannot be mitigated.”

The vast majority of office workers come from other areas via the freeway. For the 101, traffic northbound in the afternoon is already projected to operate at “F” LOS by 2030 (which is worse than it is now). As a result, the freeway impact by the project, according to the EIR, “is a significant impact that cannot be mitigated.”

There are other impacts related to air quality (primarily traffic related including the total distance traveled in the region), biological (e.g., oak trees being moved), and noise (primarily related to traffic). Biological can be mitigated to “less than significant”, but air quality and noise cannot.

In short, while a development without the fitness center and third restaurant will have less impact for car trips, both office development alternatives will have “significant” impacts for traffic, noise, and air quality. The EIR does NOT evaluate things like compounding destinations to reduce car trips. In fact, if someone walks from the office building to the restaurant and back, that’s considered 2 car trips. So, it is possible for the gym and additional restaurant choices to help keep office tenants within the Russell Ranch area, and actually bring the larger project closer in impact to the already entitled office space alone.

Opus West, the developer, is open to developing either alternative.

Full Article

You can download the PDFs for this from the City of Westlake Village web site at:

And, if you want to read the earlier Westlake Revelations pieces on Opus, they are listed here:

Update on Lot C/Opus West Russell Ranch

Lot C: Opus Deal Closed, Upcoming Meeting

Lot C Update: Deal in Progress

Measure Z Revelations

The Draft EIR

The public notice has the two paragraphs (below) which you may find informative. A public hearing date has not yet been set, but the Public Review Period is from November 8, 2007 to December 26, 2007. Submit your comments to the city by the end of that period.

One thing to note about EIRs. It is required by law that an EIR have alternatives in them, and they not be solely for the proposed project, but other project versions or uses of the property. The fact that these other versions exists does not necessarily mean that they are economically viable nor that the developer wants to build them.

The next steps will happen following the public review period:
* evaluation of and response to comments
* consideration of the need to re-circulate the EIR
* preparation of the Final EIR
* presentation of the Final EIR for certification

The Significant Effects on the Environment,
if any, Anticipated as a Result of the Project:

“The City of Westlake Village has directed the preparation of this EIR to examine the potentially significant environmental impacts associated with the project and to identify mitigation measures and alternatives capable of avoiding or substantially lessening those impacts.”

“The significant and unavoidable environmental effects of the project are:

* Impact AQ-1: Violation of Air Quality Standards and Contribution to Cumulative Criteria Air Pollutants â?? The project would generate air pollutants from construction activities (e.g., fugitive dust and equipment exhaust) and in the long-term from project operation and area sources (e.g., vehicle emissions, landscape activities, cooking, etc.). The pollutants that would be generated by the project include particular matter, carbon monoxide (CO), and precursors of ozone (oxides of nitrogen [NOx] and reactive organic gasses [ROG]), all of which are non-attainment criteria pollutants in the South Coast Air Basin. With mitigation measures, the projectâ??s construction generated emissions are below both the SCAQMD regional significance thresholds and localized significance thresholds. However, forecasted long-term project emissions of ROG, NOx, and CO exceed the SCAQMD regional thresholds of significance.

* Impact TRAF-1: Intersections Level of Service: The proposed project is expected to generate 7,415 daily vehicle trips, including 620 trips during the AM peak hour and 805 trips during the PM peak hour. With the projectâ??s trips distributed on the surrounding street system, all invested intersections would operate at an acceptable LOS without the project would continue to operate an acceptable LOS with the project except for the intersection of Lindero Canyon Road and Russell Ranch Road/Via Colinas. With the project, this intersection would operate at LOS E, which is considered unacceptable. The projectâ??s impact to this intersection is significant and cannot be mitigated.

* Impact TRAF-3: Congestion Management Plan Roadways: In the year 2030, Route 101 northbound during the p.m. peak hour would operate at LOS F and the proposed project would increase the volume/capacity ratio of segment by 0.0246. This is a significant impact that cannot be mitigated.”

Alternatives To The Proposed Project

“Section 4.0 of this EIR evaluates three alternatives to the proposed project. These alternatives are:

* ALTERNATIVE 1: NO PROJECT/NO BUILD: In this case, the no project alternative is the â??no buildâ? alternative, because if the proposed project or an alternative described in this EIR are not approved for the project site, no changes to the project site are expected. As such, for the purposes of this analysis, the no project alternative is the â??no buildâ? or â??status quoâ? alternative. This alternative consists of maintaining the site as a vacant lot covered with annual grasses, weeds, and scattered oak trees. It should be noted, however, that if the proposed project is not approved it is reasonably foreseeable that the project site will be developed with 376,000-sq. ft. of office space, as entitled for the project site and analyzed in Alternative 2. Such office use is reasonably foreseeable since the Westlake North Development Agreement grants a contractually-protected vested right to develop the site with 376,000 sq. ft. of office space.

* ALTERNATIVE 2: NO PROJECT/OFFICE USE AS ENTITLED UNDER THE WESTLAKE NORTH DEVELOPMENT AGREEMENT: The Westlake North Development Agreement grants a contractually-protected vested right to develop the site with office space and accessory commercial uses with a maximum floor area of 376,000 sq. ft.. Thus, if the proposed project is not approved, it is reasonably foreseeable that the site would be developed with such office uses. As such, Alterative 2 consists of developing the site with a 376,000-sq. ft. office park. Alternative 2 consists of two, four-story office buildings each 180,500 sq. ft. in size (totaling 361,000 sq. ft.) and two, 7,500-sq. ft. restaurant pads (totaling 15,000 sq. ft. of restaurant space). Alternative 2 also includes an at-grade plus 1-level parking structure. ”