Category Archives: Vallejo Marine Terminal

Vallejo declares VMT/Orcem appeal abandoned

[Editor –  More:   View the Attorney General’s scathing 13-page letter.  For opponents’ perspective, see Fresh Air Vallejo.  For official project documents, see Vallejo’s City website.   – R.S.]

City looking to set special hearing

Vallejo Times-Herald, By John Glidden, April 10, 2019 at 6:33 pm

Apparently, tired of waiting to receive cooperation from Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT), City Hall sent official notice on Wednesday informing representatives with VMT and Orcem Americas that city staff determined the project application has been abandoned.

Staff wrote that the lack of information and collaboration from VMT is preventing City Hall from finalizing the project’s final environmental impact report (FEIR) and presenting it before the City Council for certification under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

“As you know this is required for the VMT/Orcem Project. Without clarity or cooperation from VMT, the City has now determined that the VMT/Orcem Project application has been abandoned,” wrote Snannon Eckmeyer, assistant city attorney. “City staff intends to recommend denial of the appeal.”

Release of the city’s letter comes just a day after all three sides failed to meet as previously scheduled. Krista Kim, the attorney representing VMT principals Alan Varela and William Gilmartin, informed city staff and Orcem via an email sent out at 2:20 a.m. Tuesday morning that a calendar error would cause her to skip Tuesday’s meeting.

“I was going to attend on VMT’s behalf but I just got back from vacation this morning and realized my flight to DC is actually Tuesday morning at 6 a.m., rather than Wednesday at 6 a.m. as I had on my calendar,” Kim wrote in an email shared with the Times-Herald.  “Thus, I am actually heading to the airport in an hour or so and regret having to send this late cancellation.”

That, in turn, caused Orcem Americas President Steve Bryan to cancel his Tuesday morning flight from Houston to Sacramento.

“I assumed the meeting had been cancelled and I cancelled my flight and returned home,” Bryan wrote in an email to City Manager Greg Nyhoff after receiving Kim’s message.

City Hall wasn’t amused, re-iterating VMT continually failed to provide information about its control of the South Vallejo land both businesses hope to build on. In addition, city staff said they have sought Varela’s and Gilmartin’s signatures on an indemnification and assignment and assumption agreement, which staff say is needed to continue the appeal.

“Without clarity from VMT on if it wants to proceed with the application appeal process, the City cannot determine if several of the mitigation measures we have discussed are feasible,” staff wrote. “We have not received the barge implementation strategy and fleet management plan data from VMT, which is also necessary for certain mitigation measures. Neither VMT nor Orcem signed the reimbursement agreement necessary to complete the environmental justice analysis and to release the associated funding.”

All three sides met on March 26 to discuss the various topics, including VMT’s claim that city leaders are confused over the metes and bound descriptions regarding the city ground lease between Vallejo and VMT, and another section of land, Parcel 1, which VMT says it owns in fee.

According to the same city letter, both sides agreed to meet again in April to allow VMT time to gather the appropriate documents.

“At that (March 26) meeting, the VMT applicants requested we meet in person on April 9, 2019, to which you all agreed. The purpose of the delay was to allow all of you time to gather documents to support your position and bring resolution about how to move forward,” the letter reads.

However, Tuesday’s meeting never took place, due to Kim’s “error.” Attempts to reach Kim were unsuccessful on Wednesday.

Reached by email on Wednesday, Bryan said Tuesday’s meeting can be rescheduled.

“The more critical issue is that the City Attorney has now hired outside counsel to challenge VMT as to whether they even own the General Mills property,” Bryan wrote. “Seven years into the process the City suddenly does not accept that VMT owns the property project is on. The resolution of that issue has to be everyone’s urgent priority, before anything else.”

City Hall also released the unfinished draft version of the updated FEIR on March 26, stating that without the needed information from the VMT, the document is incomplete.

“The city has acted reasonably in all its attempts to get the parties to finalize outstanding issues. We have attempted to communicate with you on numerous occasions to try to get you to finalize the joint-applicant appeal,” staff wrote in a letter sent to VMT and Orcem on Wednesday. “We have received minimal communication from any of you on any of our requests.”

Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT) wants to build a deep-water terminal, while Orcem Americas is seeking to build a cement facility. Both projects would be located on the same 31 acres at 790 and 800 Derr St. next to the Mare Island Strait in South Vallejo.

The Vallejo Planning Commission voted 6-1 in 2017 to reject the VMT/Orcem project, agreeing with City Hall that the project would have a negative effect on the neighborhood, that it would impact traffic around the area and the proposed project was inconsistent with the city’s waterfront development policy. The project also has a degrading visual appearance of the waterfront, City Hall said at the time.

City officials argued in 2017 that since a rejection was being recommended, a FEIR was not required. At the time, city leaders called the first iteration of the document a draft FEIR.

Orcem and VMT appealed the Planning Commission decision, and in June 2017 when reviewing the appeal, a majority of the then-council directed City Hall to complete the impact report.

Since then, numerous agencies have issued letters of concern with the project as they reviewed the first version of the DFEIR.

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    Vallejo releases unfinished Orcem/VMT report after community demands

    Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald

    Community demands spur release

    By John Glidden, March 26, 2019 at 12:02 pm | UPDATED: March 27, 2019 at 1:35 pm
    The site of the Vallejo Marine Terminal/Orcem Americas project proposed for South Vallejo is shown. (Times-Herald file photo)

    Amid growing pressure from the community and applicants, the city of Vallejo on Tuesday released an unfinished draft version of the updated Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the Orcem/VMT project proposed for development in South Vallejo.

    In a message posted to the city’s website, staff cautioned that the lengthy document, in its current form, is not ready to be presented to the council for certification and possible project approval under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

    “As of this date, clarification is needed as to who is the responsible party for certain indemnity and mitigation measures, and who has site control and ownership of the project site,” staff wrote in its message. “While this clarification is obtained processing of the EIR has been paused.”

    Reached by phone Tuesday, Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan said he agreed with City Hall’s decision to release the report.

    “(The city has) been pressured to release the EIR,” he said. “Both sides have asked that it be released, and the public has the right to go through it.”

    However, the City Council has yet to certify the contents of the FEIR, he warned.

    Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT) wants to build a deep-water terminal, while Orcem Americas is seeking to build a cement facility. Both projects would be located on the same 31 acres at 790 and 800 Derr St. next to the Mare Island Strait in South Vallejo.

    VMT/Orcem opponents and supporters wait to hear the decision from the Vallejo City Council in 2017 at City Hall in Vallejo. (Chris Riley — Times-Herald file)

    Release of the report comes nearly two years after the council directed city staff to complete and finalize the EIR.

    Orcem has been one of the more vocal voices, spending money on various advertising in the Times-Herald, demanding City Hall release the document for public review.

    Steve Bryan, president of Orcem Americas, said his team was surprised by the sudden release of the document.

    “We haven’t had time to review the document, but we were very surprised today,” Bryan wrote in an email. “Like everyone else, we were expecting the Final EIR. The City Attorney’s February 25th letter stated the City was ready to release March 1st, not another Draft FEIR.”

    Opponents of the project have insisted on release of the report. They’ve expressed concern the development, if built, will harm the surrounding neighborhoods and city.

    Peter Brooks, president of Fresh Air Vallejo, a group opposed to the project, said on Tuesday that the group was not surprised by the release of the unfinished document.

    “We are prepared to go through the report with a fine-toothed comb,” he wrote in an email to the Times-Herald.

    The Vallejo Planning Commission voted 6-1 in 2017 to reject the VMT/Orcem project, agreeing with City Hall that the project would have a negative effect on the neighborhood, that it would impact traffic around the area and the proposed project was inconsistent with the city’s waterfront development policy. The project also has a degrading visual appearance of the waterfront, City Hall said at the time.

    Vallejo Marine Terminal and Orcem officials in the front row react after the Vallejo Planning Commission voted 6-1 in March 2017 to reject the proposed project.

    City officials argued in 2017 that since a rejection was being recommended, a FEIR was not required. At the time, city leaders called the first iteration of the document a draft FEIR. The report released on Tuesday is an updated version.

    Orcem and VMT appealed the Planning Commission decision, and in June 2017 when reviewing the appeal, a majority of the then-council directed City Hall to complete the impact report.

    Since then, numerous agencies have issued letters of concern with the project as they reviewed the first version of the DFEIR.

    The FEIR was expected to be released last year until leaders received a 13-page letter from Erin Ganahl, deputy attorney general for the State of California, writing that the project’s DFEIR, an Environmental Justice Analysis (EJA), and the Revised Air Analysis were misleading.

    “The environmental documents for the project fail to provide adequate legal support for the city of Vallejo to approve the project,” Ganahl wrote on behalf of state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “The DFEIR fails to adequately disclose, analyze, and mitigate the significant environmental impacts of the project; the EJA improperly concludes that the project would not disproportionately impact low-income communities of color, and thus misleads decision makers and the public by minimizing the projects significant environmental justice concerns.”

    Just this month, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) issued a letter concluding that if the Orcem portion of the project was built, it would increase air pollution.

    “The project as proposed will increase air pollution in an already overburdened community and increase the health burden placed on the community from toxic air contaminants including diesel particulate matter, a known carcinogen,” BAAQMD officials wrote after reviewing the stationary sources proposed by Orcem.

    City Hall said in its Tuesday message that staff expects to provide the City Council a progress report on the project by April 23.

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      VMT/Orcem: City Council frustrated, impatient, proposal on its last legs?

      Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald
      [Editor –  More:   View the Attorney General’s scathing 13-page letter.  For opponents’ perspective, see Fresh Air Vallejo.  For official project documents, see Vallejo’s City website.   – R.S.]

      City Council frustrated about update on status of Vallejo Marine Terminal

      By John Glidden, March 14, 2019 at 4:10 pm

      Frustration ruled Tuesday night’s Vallejo City Council meeting, as councilors and community members expressed irritation over the lack of significant communication from the principals of Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT).

      The meeting discussion was the latest in the long saga surrounding the VMT/Orcem project, which is being proposed for development in South Vallejo.

      “How much longer do we go?” asked Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan. “We need to put this to bed once and for all.”

      City Hall previously said and reiterated its position on Tuesday that staff was ready on March 1 to release the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the VMT/Orcem project but the lack of needed signatures and pertinent information from VMT’s new principals — William Gilmartin and Alan Varela — caused the city to check that decision.

      Vallejo City Attorney Claudia Quintana said the new principal’s failure to sign an assignment and assumption agreement makes it unclear who is making the decisions for VMT. In addition, the city previously claimed VMT has failed to provide answers to Vallejo’s data requests for the Barge Implementation Strategy and Fleet Management Plan.

      In Match 2017 the Vallejo Planning Commission rejected VMT/Orcem’s application to build a a deep-water terminal (VMT) and cement facility (Orcem) on the same 31 acres at 790 and 800 Derr St. next to the Mare Island Strait in South Vallejo.

      The companies appealed the decision and later that year a divided council ordered staff to complete the environmental report.

      There were also questions asked about who actually owns the land, the city of Vallejo or VMT? Quintana said that in certain documents VMT has argued that it owns land belonging to the city. This is the same area of land which has been leased to Orcem.

      Sampayan’s frustration was joined by councilmembers Robert McConnell and Katy Miessner.

      McConnell inquired if Orcem has standing in an appeal, even though it doesn’t have control of the proposed project site.

      He also asked a series of questions that Quintana said she couldn’t answer until the city could meet with VMT and Orcem representatives together.

      McConnell questioned that if some of the land may be owned by Solano County, did the county Planning Commission need to review the project? What kind of cleanup was completed on site when the previous owners left and has the city of Vallejo ever inspected the property?

      McConnell wonder aloud if the city has lost out on other opportunities to develop the land while VMT fails to signal if it wants to have its appeal heard.

      “If there were such opportunities that were passed over by the city of Vallejo, it may well be prejudicial to us, as well,” he said.

      He also asked about VMT itself, saying he conducted an online search of the business, which yielded little results.

      “Who are we dealing with here?” McConnell asked.

      It appears that VMT’s website is no longer active.

      Both Varela and Gilmartin work for the Oakland-based ProVen Management, a general engineering contracting firm started by Varela. The Times-Herald called the Oakland-based business on Wednesday and was told that both men were “out of the office.” A voicemail left with the business was not returned. Emails to Gilmartin, Varela and their attorney Krista Kim were not returned on Wednesday.

      City staff said Tuesday that they have reached out to VMT over 40 times during the past two months, trying to get the necessary actions completed.

      Meanwhile, Miessner expressed her concerns with Vallejo’s use of Stantec Consulting Services, to update the project’s Environmental Justice Analysis. The council agreed to use Stantec earlier this year.

      She read from a blog shared on the Stantec website “Watch out Nimby! You have an enemy…”

      Miessner said she would prefer the city not use Stantec. She called into question the company’s objectivity and possible ties to the cement industry.

      She also called Orcem’s recent paid advertisements in the Times-Herald as “bizarre.”

      “Let’s put an end to the delays,” Orcem’s most recent quarter-page ad reads. “Let the public see the FEIR. Let the City Council vote.”

      “If I were a developer, trying to work with the city, I don’t think I’d be insulting the staff I’m trying to work with. It’s very bizarre to me,” she said.

      She also said VMT has yet to fund its portion of the Environmental Justice Analysis report, and execute the fourth amendment to the reimbursement agreement required for consultants working on the FEIR to finish their work. VMT’s share of EJA is about $22,778.

      City officials said during the meeting, and again on Wednesday that Orcem deposited its share for the EJA but had yet to release the funds so they could be used.

      “Of course it’s available,” Steve Bryan, president of Orcem Americas, said on Wednesday about the funds. “I sent them the money.”

      Bryan said he wants the accurate and complete FEIR to be released for public review.

      “We paid for a complete one,” he added. “I’m confident it will go out.”

      In addition, Bryan said he has spoken with VMT recently and he confirmed “they are going to answer” the city.

      Quintana said the city is looking to release the environmental documents as informational-only until VMT provides the needed information and signatures.

      On Wednesday, the city sent VMT and Orcem, along with their respective legal teams, a letter asking for a sit down between the three sides.

      In the letter, staff write that the council has given them 90 days to return “with a resolution to these issues and a determination as to whether the appeal and FEIR will be processes as previously requested or the the VMT/Orcem project application has been abandoned.”

      Vice Mayor Pippin Dew-Costa, and councilmembers Rozzana Verder-Aliga, and Hakeem Brown were all absent from Tuesday’s council meeting as they attended a conference in Washington D.C.

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