Category Archives: Vallejo Marine Terminal

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.

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.

Orcem/VMT Letter: Environmental Misdirection

Repost from the Vallejo Times-Herald, Letters

Environmental misdirection

By Jeff Carlson, March 12, 2019 at 6:00 am

The corporate interests desperate to salvage an ill-conceived waterfront slag cement mill application, now staggering on its last legs under appeal, will attempt to pull off a sly last minute magic trick. Like most magic tricks, it relies on misdirection to draw the observer’s attention away from what they should really be looking at. Instead of talking about community values and our aspirations for the future character of our city for decades to come, the applicants want us to focus on the arcane intricacies of a technical environmental review process.

It’s a cynical calculated strategy designed to take a process intended to inform decision-makers and the public and turn it into an inaccessible debate among “experts” — impossible for the general public to follow or critically evaluate. Just check out the EIR analysis of traffic impacts from all the heavy diesel truck and crosstown freight train trips the project would generate at various intersections. See if you can make heads or tails of how they arrive at their numbers. Likewise for the modeling of the impacts to air quality from all the various pollutants the project would release. One more version of an environmental report and re-hash of emissions thresholds and mitigations adds nothing useful to the discussion, but the applicants are determined to create the illusion that the decision should hinge on nothing else.

The city staff who worked on this project application for years recommended that the permits be denied, not because the project crossed this or that threshold of significance in the environmental review, but because a heavy industry project in that location is fundamentally incompatible with the surrounding neighborhood land uses. The city commission primarily responsible for making rational decisions about land use compatibility and planning overwhelmingly agreed, and voted to deny the permits. The city’s general plan update process conducted at a cost of millions of dollars with broad public participation over a period of years resulted in a very different vision for a walkable connected waterfront, in line with the Bay Commission’s public access guidelines.

Why should we pay any attention to one more round of technical environmental analysis? If a deep-pockets corporation can pay experts-for-hire to come up with greatly improved numbers at this late date, it only goes to show what those numbers are really worth. It’s particularly galling after years of trying to avoid and game the environmental review process that the applicant’s would now so desperately cling to it as their last hope.

Former City officials and some members of the lead agency repeatedly demonstrated impermissible pre-approval of the project over a period of years prior to environmental review, beginning with the resurrection and transfer of a lease for public trust land with amendments that anticipate major impactful development. A one-vote majority of the Vallejo City Council colluded in secret with the applicants in a private planning initiative, and explicitly tied the goals of their ad hoc committee with approval of the project before even a first draft EIR was ready. CEQA requires that the public be allowed to evaluate and comment on an environmental analysis based on a stable project description. All the talk of trying to approve a final version of a radically altered project now without re-circulating a new draft EIR for public comment is not at all realistic and will never fly.

This decision is not about thresholds of significance or mitigation measures, it’s about what we value as a community and consider worth preserving and protecting. Residents in the proposed project impact zone already suffer some of the highest rates of pollution-related health effects in the state, including low birth weight babies and heart and lung diseases. No matter what a final EIR and the mercenary experts have to say, it won’t change the fact that instead of an accessible walkable waterfront, local residents would get heavy neighborhood truck traffic and another load of particulate and gas pollutants on top of the unfair burden they already carry.

Let’s ignore the magical misdirection and expert dog and pony shows masquerading as participatory public forums, and keep our attention focused where it belongs. The quality of economic development matters, and the old take-whatever-comes-along approach to city planning is completely irrational. The council is under no legal obligation to wait for another version of the EIR, and I’m sorry — the applicant’s fairness argument is laughable. This project was never worth anywhere near the resources and effort the city put into it, and the costs in terms of political division and acrimony continue to pile up. Time to pull the plug and turn out the lights on this magic show.

— Jeff Carlson/Vallejo

Relationship between Vallejo City Hall and VMT continues to sour

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.]

Vallejo City Council to get update on VMT/Orcem on Tuesday

By John Glidden, March 9, 2019 at 6:22 pm
The site of the Vallejo Marine Terminal/Orcem Americas project proposed for South Vallejo is shown. (Times-Herald file photo)

As the relationship between City Hall and VMT continues to sour, a short-handed Vallejo City Council will receive an update Tuesday regarding the decision by city officials to pause the release of a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the proposed South Vallejo project.

This week, city officials informed representatives with Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT) and Orcem California, LLC, that due to VMT’s lack of responses to several questions posed by City Hall, which they say is needed, the document’s release date has been pushed back.

“The city needs to know with certainty who is responsible for the project, and any conditions of approval which might attach to the land use entitlement being sought,” staff wrote in the report to the council about City Hall’s decision to hold the FEIR. “The city is prepared to resume processing once VMT is in a position to operate and clarifies that it does want to pursue the appeal by furnishing the needed information, or, alternatively, it gives all of its interest to Orcem, or some other party in interest to continue processing the appeal.”

Vallejo has been attempting for months to have VMT’s new principals, William Gilmartin and Alan Varela, sign an assignment and assumption agreement confirming they have assumed all responsibilities of the business from the original VMT principal Blaise Fettig and former past project manager Matt Fettig.

“…it is unclear whether the purported principals have the authority to manage and bind VMT to agreements that are necessary to finish processing the EIR, or if they are prepared to assume the responsibilities left behind by the previous principals,” staff explained.

Gilmartin and Varela have yet to sign the document.

Meanwhile, the issue between VMT and the city hasn’t stopped Orcem from demanding the city release the FEIR for public review. In recent weeks, Orcem has paid for several print advertisements in the Times-Herald, challenging City Hall to release the document.

The most recent advertisement was printed on Wednesday — the same day as Vallejo’s State of the City event.

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

The advertisement does not include any mention of VMT.

Staff additionally said VMT has stopped collaborating with City Hall by not executing needed agreements to update the Environmental Justice Analysis (EJA), hasn’t provided funding for their half of the EJA, and failed to provide answers to Vallejo’s data requests for the Barge Implementation Strategy and Fleet Management Plan.

Attorney Krista Kim, who represents Gilmartin and Varela, has communicated to the city that Varela and Gilmartin want to meet with city staff next week to “discuss a few important matters as those discussions are very relevant to how VMT would respond to your letter.”

The letter in question is a Feb. 25 piece of correspondence informing VMT of the city’s decision to stop the appeal process due to the lack of relevant information from VMT.

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 applicants subsequently appealed that decision to the City Council. In June of the same year, councilors directed staff to complete the FEIR so they could review the potential impacts the project might cause if built.

Those opposed to the project say it will pollute the surrounding area, while harming residents and wildlife. Orcem/VMT deny those allegations, saying the project is safe. They further argue  the project will provide jobs and tax revenue for the city.

Vallejo Mayor Bob Sampayan confirmed that Vice Mayor Pippin Dew-Costa, along with councilmembers Rozzana Verder-Aliga, and Hakeem Brown are attending a conference in Washington, DC and will not be at Tuesday’s council meeting.

The Vallejo City Council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday, inside the Vallejo City Hall Council Chambers, 555 Santa Clara St.