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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

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THE EFFORT TO SAVE CLOVER VALLEY


By Marilyn Jasper
Clover Valley Foundation, Sierra Club Placer Group


http://www.pclfoundation.org/projects/ceqasuccessclover.html

Clover Valley is located about 30 miles east of Sacramento in the Sierra foothills. It consists of 622 acres, 2 miles long, approx ¾ mile wide with steep slopes, wetlands, oak and riparian woodlands, diverse wildlife, a perennial creek, meadows, grasslands, scenic ridges, historic and 33 prehistoric sites (one dating back 7,000 years). The Clover Valley provides a buffer between Rocklin, Loomis, Lincoln and Placer County lands.

This area is important for several reasons. It is the last vestige of what Placer County and the foothills really looked like. With rock walls, stone corral, and 33 prehistoric sites, along with the cornucopia of ecological resources, it could be a unique historic nature preserve completely secluded and protected from any traces of rampant urban sprawl just on the other side of its steep slopes.

The call to arms occurred when the project/issue was discovered by accident when a notice went out that the city of Rocklin was going to approve a “Mitigated Negative Declaration” on the project.

This particular development project involves all the major regulatory agencies, not only at the CEQA level, but also at the permitting process level. The lead agency is the City of Rocklin and the project proponents consist of a partnership headed by Buzz Oates, Rick Massie, Phil Oates, and David Garst.

The opposition to the project started with only a couple folks, but later grew into a 501(c)3 non profit and ultimately formed a coalition that involved many other organizations as each stepped up to support the effort to “SAVE CLOVER VALLEY.”

The CEQA process was first utilized to force the City of Rocklin to abandon their plan to slide with a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND). We had over 100 people show up at the Planning Commission to testify that the MND was in violation of CEQA. Since a Programmatic EIR was certified in 1998, the proponents and the city proceeded with a Tiered EIR in 2002. However, in addition to our environmental attorneys shooting it full of holes, we were able to obtain a copy of a Cultural Report that had been hidden from us. The city knew about the report before the Draft EIR was released (we obtained a memo that proved they were aware of the new report). Instead of 6 prehistoric sites, there were 33, and all were eligible for National Registry. Shortly after this discovery, the city abandoned the 2002 Tiered EIR and decided to proceed with a full EIR. This one was certified in 2007, and led to our filing the lawsuit.

Just before the Rocklin City Council cast their votes to approve the project, with about 200 of our supporters in the room, they patronizingly told us what a wonderful job we did in “improving” the project and thanked us. To our coalition, the project’s reduction to 558 units still increased traffic (14,000 additional trips), took out over 7,000 oaks (half of which are blue oaks), encroached on creek minimal setbacks, and allowed many other “significant but unavoidable impacts.” It was as if someone said they were going to improve the project by cutting out one lane of a four-lane freeway through vernal pools and wetlands. We do not believe the project has been “improved;” it’s been changed, but is still unacceptable.

We also tried a referendum but lost. We had 2/3 support for saving the valley going in. We raised $70,000; the opponents spent close to $900,000—final FPPC filings have not been made yet. The campaign turned nasty; the proponents said they were saving open space and reducing traffic (with the cross valley highway). Many of our supporters became confused and voted “yes,” thinking they were helping to save the valley.

One of the major challenges was/still is fundraising for the lawsuit. We have not saved Clover Valley yet; we have filed a lawsuit under CEQA and expect a probable court date either late 2008 or early 2009. We also anticipate an appeal process (theirs or ours) and will be fundraising for that as well.

With our CEQA lawsuit, Clover Valley Foundation and Sierra Club are co-plaintiffs. The Town of Loomis also sued in a separate lawsuit. The loss of the referendum had unintended consequences with many people now believing the valley is lost to development. We are working double time to correct that misperception and bring our supporters back into the fold.

Another challenge is keeping supporters active. After nine-years of working to save the valley (writing letters and articles, following up all leads, contacting/meeting with regulatory agencies, tabling at any and all events, attending public hearings, giving presentations to other groups, etc.), some folks have moved on to other issues. However, a good solid hard-core base of supporters remain determined to save this remarkable place.

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