Livermore city staff will review the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) for the proposed off-road vehicle park on the Tesla property.
Tesla is owned by the Parks Department, whose Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division is expected “to acquire, develop, and operate state-owned vehicular recreation areas,” according to its official literature.
In the late 1990s the State of California Parks Department purchased the 3,400 acres in the southeast corner of Alameda County along the Tesla-Corral Hollow Road. The intent of the purchase was to expand the existing adjacent Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA ) off-highway vehicle (OHV) park into the Tesla Park land. Last fall, State Parks officials unveiled the preferred concept for the 3,500-acre expansion of the Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area.
Under the preferred concept, Tesla would be developed for a wide range of off-road vehicle skill levels, from training routes for young and beginning riders to advanced trails for the highly experienced. In addition, it would have new entrances, parking, classroom/meeting space, services areas and sites for camping and picnicking.
Park officials have twice tried and failed to complete environmental impact reports for the project. The DEIR is due out this spring.
The city council directed staff to review the DEIR when it is published, provide information to the council. Then if the council desires, the issue could be placed on an agenda for further discussion.
The directive came after pleas by representatives of many organizations asking the city to become involved in the process. The discussion was not an agenda item. It took place when Councilmember Bob Woerner raised the issue under the matters initiated portion of the agenda.
Woerner commented, "We heard a whole lot of people talk about Tesla. I suggest we have city staff review the EIR. It would be a reasonable expenditure of city staff time."
Councilmember Stewart Gary wondered what the council would do with the information. For example, would the council take a position on the expansion. "We heard one side of the debate. There is another side," said Gary.
Woerner said he didn't say what the outcome of the review would be. Speakers said that they recognized that this is a state issue. "There are a whole lot of concerned citizens looking for help in looking at what's going on. Staff would read the report, look at the impacts and determine if mitigations are adequate."
Livermore Community Development Manager Stephan Kiefer said that the staff had been monitoring the issue since 2012. Staff would look at the DEIR to determine if it were consistent with the city's general plan policies and whether or not there would be an impact on the urban growth boundary.
There is an effort to preserve the area. Leading the effort is Friends of Tesla Park, an organization comprised of 250 other groups. Friends of Tesla Park organized the presentation at Monday's council meeting. There were no representatives from groups who support expanding off-road use.
Friends of Tesla Park was represented at the council meeting by Nancy Rodrigue. She told the council that the goal is a non-motorized park. "There is strong local support for the idea. Tesla is part of the Livermore Valley and the community's history." She stated that preserving the area is consistent with the city and regional land use plans including the South Livermore Plan. "We are asking the city to comment on the DEIR and express support for preservation. The actions would be consistent with the values and policies that have protected the area's surrounding open space."
A series of speakers spoke to a variety of issues ranging from loss of habitat for listed species, erosion, and pollution, as well as the historical value of the Tesla area. There were concerns that the environmental review is part of a larger General Plan revision. Each of the speakers provided a letter and documentation supporting their statements, which they gave to the city clerk.
Tamara Ruess, president of Friends of the Vineyards, described her organization as dedicated to the preservation of Livermore agriculture, wine country and open space. That includes preserving Tesla as a non-motorized park. She said that in the past, the city has commented on projects not directly within the city limits including Del Valle, Brushy Peak, and Doolan Canyon. Ruess noted that expansion of off-highway use is not consistent with any regional land use plan including East Bay Regional Park District, Livermore Area Recreation and Park District, Alameda County General Plan and the Alameda County Conservation Strategy. All identify Tesla for preservation of some type.
Jeff Kaskey from the Livermore Heritage Guild pointed out that the town of Tesla was once a vibrant labor town. It was part of the foundation of Livermore. He was concerned that off-road use would degrade any remaining historical artifacts. "Asking people to drive more slowly through such sites, isn't the same as protecting an historic area."
From the Ohlone Aubudon Chapter, Stephanie Floyd pointed out that there are three nesting golden eagles in the Tesla territory. It is the first nesting area south of the impacted Altamont wind area for raptors and other avian species. Damage to Tesla would be counterproductive to efforts to reduce bird deaths in the windmill area, she stated.
Mary Putoff from the Society of American Indians urged the council to consider becoming part of the preservation effort in order to protect Native American artifacts and sites in the Tesla area.
The Sierra Club, with 28,000 members, was represented by Donna Cabanne. She pointed out that seven threatened and endangered species and their habitat are located on the Tesla land. There are over 55 other listed plants and animals found there. "It is an unexpectedly wide range of resources."
Terry Russo said that the proposed plans to allow trails only on the steep areas will still result in pollution of lower areas where much of the quality habitat is located. Rain will result in run-off containing gas, oil and rubber residue, causing habitat destruction.
Other groups represented were the California Native Plant Society, Livermore Hill Hikers, Tri-Valley Trailblazers, Friends of the Arroyos, and the Alameda Creek Alliance.
Bringing the perspective of residents who leave near Tesla was Marilyn Russell, who taught biology at Livermore High School for many years. She spoke for the Tesla Road Resident Alliance. There are 37 members and the numbers are growing, according to Russell. "The goals are to protect our rural life-style, livestock, vineyards, wineries and horses - but most of all our peace and quiet. We are opposed to any expansion of Carnegie. It is only seven miles from city hall and three miles from most of our homes.
"Tesla Road is already a safety hazard. Opening the park area to more people will impact us in many ways including increased traffic, noise, and air pollution. There is concern that run-off into nearby wells would contain oil and gas," said Russell.