Historic Benicia Arsenal Advocates address City Council on Housing Element decision
January 30, 2023
Benicia City Council Benicia City Hall
250 East L Street
Benicia, CA 94510
RE: 2023-2031 Housing Element – January 31 Agenda Item 10.A
Dear Mayor Young and Council Members:
At the January 24 meeting, despite testimony from many community members advocating for a better alternative, the City Council approved a Housing Element that threatens Benicia’s precious historic resources, puts future residents directly in the path of environmental hazards, and fails to further fair housing goals. [Agenda, Minutes, Video]
It didn’t have to be this way. Throughout the 12-month Housing Element update process, concerned community members raised these issues and pointed to better alternatives. And unlike many cities, Benicia had a large number of viable and desirable housing sites to choose from. The Council rejected many suitable sites, often at the request of a handful of neighbors, and yet chose not to consider the larger issues of historic preservation, fair housing, and environmental hazards that civic-minded community members have raised throughout the process. The comments from these community members represented longstanding City policies and values enshrined in the Benicia General Plan.
At the January 24 Council meeting, a near-capacity crowd asked the Council to approve the Environmentally Superior Alternative as identified in the Housing Element Environmental Impact Report (EIR). As stated on page 6-23 of the EIR, the Environmentally Superior Alternative would meet all the project’s objectives. This alternative would have reduced impacts on historic resources in the Arsenal and downtown and helped address hazards and fair housing concerns while still meeting the City’s housing needs and State of California requirements.
The rationale for the Council’s decision was apparently that, based on advice from the City’s consultants and staff, the Environmentally Superior Alternative might not actually be feasible. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires that alternatives evaluated in EIRs be feasible. If the Environmentally Superior Alternative was not feasible, the Housing Element EIR is inadequate and should not have been certified.
cc. City Clerk, Community Development Director, Benicia Herald, Benicia Independent, Vallejo Times-Herald, Vallejo Sun
See earlier on BenIndy:
- January 22, 2023 Housing Update should be adopted with “Environmentally Superior Alternative”
- January 22, 2023 Benicia Historical Society joins others in calling for ‘Environmentally Superior Alternative’
- January 19, 2023 Protect our historic districts and places on the National Register – the highest level recognition of historic significance
- July 21, 2022 Let’s Have an East-Side City park in the Historic Benicia Arsenal !
- September 6, 2021 Benicia Petition: Stop Approval of 163 Condos and Apartments on Jefferson Street’s Historic Officers’ Row