The EIR Gospel
by Pat Lynch
The EIR. It’s big as a Bible and every bit as mythical. It stands for Environmental
Impact Report (though some think it means Errors Implanted Relentlessly) and is
commissioned by developers to help them sail through a largely ceremonial city
process that purports to assess the worth of their projects.
The first stage in the EIR process is the NOP (Notice of Preparation). The NOP is
supposed to give you a chance to raise concerns that will be routinely dismissed by
the developer and his acolytes. Add an E to NOP and you have NOPE which is the
answer you will get to your requests and allegations.
For example, some of us asked the developer of the proposed McKinley Village (McVillage) to add two way car access to the Alhambra Street bike/pedestrian exit that would relieve our streets of traffic invasion. “Not economically feasible” he said. Later, after many more voices were added to this request, he changed his answer to “not technically feasible.” Aha. What before was too expensive had now become physically impossible. Whosoever seriously believes this must change the N in NOPE to a D (DOPE) because lo, you have become one.
After this comes the DEIR, or Draft EIR, more aptly called the DAFT EIR. Anyway,
the current McVillage Daft EIR is riddled with illogic and absurdities but quoted with
stubborn reverence as Truth. For the developer, it’s holy writ. But let’s look at one
of the proclamations they expect us to accept by faith alone. It’s that a “Traffic
Study” has determined that 3, 500 more cars a day invading quiet East Sacramento
streets will be of “insignificant impact.” But this traffic “study” is a driver-centric
sham that counts only the number of times a driver pauses. It doesn’t ‘study’ or
even consider the impact auto traffic has on residents—exhaust pollution,
pedestrian safety risks, and the inevitable erosion of neighborhood character.
Who composes these EIRs that smooth the way for injurious projects? In the
present case it is Dudek, a consulting firm hired by the developer. Dudek says it
stays “focused on moving projects methodically through planning, analysis,
development and implementation.” Pro-project, paid by the developer, avowedly on
his side, these hired high priests write the EIR. How, in view of this, can any sane
person regard that document as a tome of objectivity? But people do. Naturally the
developer quotes it chapter and verse. Some City Council members say they believe
it. Other people believe it because they want to believe it. Never mind that it is a
preposterous concoction of falsehoods, believers have faith so as to move
mountains, or blast holes in your levee and funnel traffic down your street.
In keeping with a ritualistic pretense at democracy we are permitted to comment
on the Daft EIR and our objections and other heresies will be noted in the sacred
text of the final document. But noted does not mean ameliorated. Most of our
comments will be dismissed with technical verbiage employed to disguise magical
thinking. And what of those neighbors who object to the process itself, to its
stacked-deck unfairness and slippery relationship with truth—will they be blessed
with more balanced and accurate procedures in the future? No. Nor will their
elected representatives heed them and mend the process. Why? Because, behold,
neighbors giveth not great sums to their representatives. And you have only to look
at the public record to see that developers make donations of ‘significant impact’ to
None of this is news, of course. The EIR is largely a work of fiction, its traffic
study a creepy fraud, its authors for hire. How can neighbors defend against such a
set-up? In the case of McVillage, ECOS (the Environmental Council of Sacramento) and
Physicians for Social Responsibility have joined multiple neighborhood and
environmental groups to oppose the conclusions of the Daft EIR. Will that matter?
Will the developer and his EIR employees accommodate the wishes of those who
Imagine having truly objective and trustworthy analysts. Monks, say.
Incorruptible, environmentally educated Buddhist sages from a remote monastery,
paid not by the developer, or the neighbors, or the politicians, but from a purity
fund to which all contribute an identical amount? Now that might produce a study
we could respect. You can look for this when they plug in the snow-blowers in Hell.
Meanwhile go to the McVillage site itself, that bowl of land between the railroad and
freeway. Look around. Imagine the place crammed with giant suburban houses with
at least two cars per house. Visualize those cars charging down your street. Every
day. Every night. You can see the snarling nightmare now. But wait. The EIR says it’s
Ultimately everything comes to this: what do you believe: the EIR or your lying