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Marina Center

The project applicant proposes a mixed-use development that would include approximately 313,500 sq. ft. of Retail, 104,000 sq. ft. of Office, 72,000 sq. ft. of Multi-Family Residential (54 dwelling units), and 70,000 sq. ft. of Light Industrial use. The project would include approximately 1,590 parking spaces, including about 462 spaces in a four-level parking structure. 


The project site is located in the City of Eureka on a 43 acre site that is generally bounded by Waterfront Drive to the north and west, Washington Street to the south, and Broadway (Highway 101) to the east. More info, including the Draft EIR, Final EIR, and public comments submitted, is available on the City of Eureka's Marina Center website.



Movement on Balloon Track; state lands resolution, Supreme Court decision for Marina Center project
Written by Thadeus Greenson, Times Standard   

9/30/11

Eureka’s Balloon Track property saw move­ment on two fronts in recent days, leaving something to cheer about for both propo­nents and detractors of the proposed Marina Center development.

With the Eureka City Council poised to consider approving a settlement agreement — years in the making — with the State Lands Commission, the California Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it is deny­ing a request to review a court ruling uphold­ing the California Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction over a coastal development per­mit for the project.

Security National’s CUE VI is ultimately seeking to transform the polluted 43-acre Balloon Track property, a former rail yard south of Eureka’s downtown commercial dis­trict that the company purchased in 2006, into a mixed use development anchored by a Home Depot store. For the last several years, however, the California State Lands Com­mission, the city and Security National have been working to settle a tideland dispute over portions of the property deemed to be in the public trust.

State Lands Commission Executive Officer Curtis Fossum said the entities have been working for a number of years to determine the state’s interest in the property and to reach a resolution in a complicated process that tries to sort through 100 years of history and assess values.

Under the agreement — which will come before the Eureka City Council Tuesday and the State Lands Commission at a future date for approval — Security National has agreed to pay $526,330 into the city’s Humboldt Bay Fund, which is used to finance projects that further commerce, navigation and public access to the bay. In exchange for the deposit, the city and state relinquish their title and interest to the tideland portions of the prop­erty, except for a “sovereign fee ownership” that lies in the middle of Clark Slough. That portion is slated to be incorporated in the project’s 11-acre wetland reserve, and its remaining public will not impact the devel­opment as planned.

Security National Vice President for Real Estate Development Mike Casey said the agreement should be considered a “win-win” for all involved.

“Basically, the parties worked together to create something that’s of benefit to every­one,” he said.

While there are currently no projects in the pipeline that will use the new Humboldt Bay Fund contribution, Eureka City Manager David Tyson said staff is kicking around some ideas. He said the fund has been used to benefit the city in the past, pointing to the city’s Bonnie Gool Guest Dock and small boat basin, both of which were funded in part with State Lands settlement money from the Costco site, as examples.

“I think this is a good agreement, and it cer­tainly brings some money to the city for future projects,” Tyson said.

If signed off on by the city and State Lands, the settlement agreement would go to Gov. Jerry Brown for his approval.

While the State Lands resolution would be a major step forward for the project, Security National learned this week that it will have to continue working to gain the California Coastal Commission’s approval moving forward.

In 2009, Eureka issued permits allowing Security National to move forward with Phase 1 of the project, which was slated to include a preliminary cleanup and the cre­ation of an 11-acre wetland reserve.

However, the permits were appealed to the California Coastal Commission, sparking a series of legal challenges. In July 2010, Hum­boldt County Superior Court Judge John Feeney threw out lawsuits filed by Security National and the group Citizens for a Better
Eureka challenging the Coastal Commission’s juris­diction over the project.

Citizens for a Better Eureka then took the case to an appellate court, and ultimate­ly petitioned the state supreme court for review.

Pacific Legal Foundation senior staff attorney Damien Schiff, who represented Citi­zens for a Better Eureka in the case, said the Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday not to review the case is unfortunate.

“We’re obviously disap­pointed because we think it raised an important question of how much power local governments have in cleaning up brown field properties,” said Schiff, who argued that the commission should have no jurisdiction over what he essentially deemed a local nuisance abatement issue. “At this point, if there is still going to be a cleanup, the CUE VI folks will have to comply with the commis­sion’s request for additional documentations and defend the permit against the folks who filed the appeal.”

 

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Coastal Commission has jurisdiction over Balloon Track

6/29/11

A lawsuit by the so-called “Citizens for a Better Eureka” (CBE) has bombed out in the California 1st District Court of Appeals, which affirmed the lower court’s decision that the California Coastal Commission (CCC) does indeed have jurisdiction over Balloon Track property.

CBE argued the CCC didn’t have authority to hear appeals filed by environmental groups, Humboldt County Planning Commissioner Ralph Faust and two members of the CCC itself over a Coastal Development Permit approved by the City of Eureka in 2009. The higher court disagreed.

“[W]e affirm the judgment denying CBE’s petition for writ of mandate that seeks to prevent the appeal from going forward,” the court wrote in its decision filed Wednesday. Read it here.

The Appeals Court agreed with the Coastal Commission and wrote in its ruling that “the Phase 1 development [of the Marina Center project] ‘goes far beyond just nuisance abatement.’” Phase 1 is designed to prepare the property for a big box mall rather than simply address nuisance issues.

CBE was represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation.  Balloon Track owner Rob Arkley is a past board member of PLF.

 

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Victory At The Ballot Box May Not Save Measure N
Written by Amy Coombs, EcoNews   

December 2010

Even as hazardous waste cleanup begins at Eureka’s Balloon Track, the threat of development continues to mount. 

In July citizen groups filed suit against the City of Eureka, contesting the environmental review behind Measure N. If they are successful, development plans may come to a grinding halt and Measure N may       be contested. http://www.humboldtbaykeeper.org/administrator/index.php?option=com_content&task=add

The City of Eureka-sponsored Measure N was passed by voters in November, and allows the Balloon Track to be rezoned for commercial and retail use. Located at the edge of the Humboldt Bay, the strip of marshland and train tracks is slated to become the Marina Center—a 42-acre mix of offices, residences and retail space. 

Three groups filed suit against the City of Eureka in July, claiming the environmental impact review (EIR) used for Measure N is inadequate. 

“In fifty years it’s likely this area will be partially under water,” says Pete Nichols, executive director at Humboldt Baykeeper, which joined The Ecological Rights Foundation and the Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC) on the suit. 

The review fails to accurately plan for rising sea levels due to climate change, and omits some of the impacts to wetlands caused by development and pollution, says Nichols. As climate change progresses, coastal wetlands and marshes will play an increasingly important role in mitigating storms and rising sea levels. Statewide climate resiliency research highlights the importance of areas like the Balloon Track in mitigating these problems.  

These challenges pose a threat to the EIR as well as Measure N. According to California Environmental Quality Act, government-sponsored ballot measures must involve environmental review, and if the EIR is thrown out, Measure N will face an uncertain future. 

Yet Sydnie Olson, director of community development at the City of Eureka, says this scenario is unlikely. “Our belief is that the court will find this to be an adequate document, and that we will win,” she says. 

Even if the court finds problems with the review, the City will be allowed to fix missed procedural steps and make other corrections. 

“We can keep correcting until we have an uncontested EIR,” says Olson, although she notes that key players could opt out if alterations prove too expensive and time consuming. This could potentially halt the EIR and jeopardizing Measure N.

 

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Security National, Baykeeper settle Balloon Track suit; agreement has SN paying Baykeeper $1.8 million, allowing input on cleanup
Written by Thadeus Greenson, Times-Standard   

9/23/10

In a rare moment of solidarity, Humboldt Baykeeper and Security National both hailed a settlement in a lawsuit brought by the environmental group over contamination on Eureka's Balloon Track property as a good thing and a step forward for the community.

Filed in 2006, Baykeeper's suit was initially brought against Union Pacific Railroad but was inherited by Security National when its subsidiary, CUE VI, purchased the Balloon Track property from the railroad company in October 2006 with its sights set on building the Marina Center, a 42-acre mixed-use development featuring residential, office and retail space as well as an 11-acre wetland reserve.

The suit sought an injunction mandating Security National to clean up the property and to prevent contaminated storm water discharges from running into Humboldt Bay from the property, which contains contaminants from old underground fuel tanks and rail maintenance activities.

Wednesday, Baykeeper and Security National both issued press releases announcing the settlement and stating they are looking forward to a cleanup of the property.

”We are pleased to achieve this settlement and to put this lawsuit behind us,” Security National Vice President Randy Gans said in the release. “Thankfully, from this point on, what will matter on the cleanup are facts and science, rather than rhetoric and generalizations. The end result of this settlement is a win for the community.”

Baykeeper Executive Director Pete Nichols said that, under the settlement, Security National will pay Baykeeper $1.8 million to help repay legal and research expenses and will give the group's technical experts some input into the characterization and cleanup of the former rail yard.

Though Baykeeper is getting $1.8 million under the settlement, Nichols said that number only represents a fraction of the resources Baykeeper has put into the suit over the years and is less important than other concessions in the settlement agreement.

”We actually took a bit of a hit on this, but we feel getting the work done properly is the most important thing,” Nichols said, adding that Baykeeper has employed five lawyers and 12 experts as a part of the litigation. “The settlement establishes a process for us to be involved in the development of work plans and the cleanup.”

Moving forward under the settlement agreement, Nichols said, Security National and Baykeeper's technical experts will work together to review development and cleanup plans, and that any disagreements will be resolved by a neutral third party appointed by the court.

”Given our participation and the fact that there could be third-party review of these documents, we feel that's going to result in the best overall cleanup of the property,” Nichols said.

Security National Vice President for Real Estate Development Mike Casey said, from his perspective, there's a more important aspect of the settlement.

”I think the most important provision for us is they've agreed not to sue us anymore,” Casey said. “In our view, it's unfortunate that we have to spend a lot of money to pay lawyers, but if that's what it takes to move the project forward, then so be it.”

As a part of the lawsuit, Nichols said Security National was forced to allow Baykeeper experts access to the Balloon Track property. In three site visits, Nichols said Baykeeper conducted soil samples that revealed a number of hot spots on the property that showed significant levels of contamination such as dioxins, metals and arsenic. Under the settlement plan, Security National is required to remove contaminated sediment at numerous locations and to prevent further discharges of pollutants into Humboldt Bay and Clark Slough.

As far as the hot spots are concerned, Casey said Security National won't be doing anything differently than what the company had initially proposed for its phase-one cleanup of the property -- the plan that was ultimately approved by the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board. However, Nichols said it was some of Baykeeper's studies, made possible through the litigation, that helped guide that cleanup plan.

A coastal development permit to implement that plan was issued by the city of Eureka but has been appealed to the California Coastal Commission. Lawsuits brought by Security National and local group Citizens for a Better Eureka challenging the Coastal Commission's jurisdiction over the permit were thrown out of court by Humboldt County Superior Court Judge John Feeney in July. Security National had said it was considering appealing Feeney's ruling, and has reportedly refused to comply with a number of requests for documents and information from the coastal commission.

Wednesday, Casey said the company is still deciding whether to appeal Feeney's ruling, and is currently evaluating the impact the settlement may have on “those issues.”

Casey and Gans did say, however, that the company is moving immediately to implement an interim stormwater management program to keep contaminants from draining off the property. A coastal development permit for that project was approved by the Eureka City Council on Tuesday.

Nichols said Baykeeper thinks the interim management plan proposed is a sound one.

”We think the plan they put forward is a plan that has been shown to work in the past,” Nichols said.

While Baykeeper and Security National -- who have wrangled publicly over the Balloon Track property for years -- were on the same page Wednesday in lauding the settlement as a step forward, it's not a trend that seems likely to continue.

Nichols said Baykeeper is still moving forward with lawsuits it has filed challenging the environmental impact report certified by the city of Eureka for the Marina Center project and the Eureka City Council vote to put zoning changes necessary for the project on the November ballot.

Part of Baykeeper's concern over the environmental impact report was over a cleanup plan for the site -- a concern that seems to have been addressed through the settlement.

”That was a concern of ours, but we also have many, many, many other concerns,” Nichols said. “We'll be re-examining that and moving these lawsuits forward.”

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Humboldt Baykeeper and CUE VI Agree to Next Steps for Balloon Track Cleanup

CUE VI to Perform “Hot Spot” Removal Actions, Further Characterization and Cleanup in Settlement of Federal Lawsuit

9/21/10 After nearly 5 years of litigation, CUE VI and Union Pacific Railroad have agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Humboldt Baykeeper over contamination on Eureka’s Balloon Track property. The case was before the United States District Court, Northern District of California, in San Francisco.

The suit, filed in 2006 by Humboldt Baykeeper and the Ecological Rights Foundation against Union Pacific Railroad, asserted that significant contamination from toxics that remain on the property from historical operations continues to negatively impact surface water and the environment. At the center of the case were contaminated storm water discharges resulting from soil contamination on the Balloon Track and its proximity to Clark Slough and Humboldt Bay.

 


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