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City Seeks Public Comment on New Palm Avenue Shopping Center’s Environmental Impact

IB residents have until Dec. 7 to comment on the environmental impact of the new shopping center and plans to reduce impact. Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2012.

Imperial Beach residents are being asked to comment on a study of the environmental impacts of a new shopping center to replace the Miracle Shopping Center on Palm Avenue between Seventh and Ninth streets. 

Public comments must be submitted to City Planner Jim Nakagawa in the Community Development Department no later than 5 p.m. Dec. 7.

Copies of the mitigation plan and EIS are attached here, but they can also be viewed at the library, at the City Clerk’s office or at the Community Development Department in City Hall. 

Sudberry Properties plans to build space for seven new businesses that make up more than 42,000 square feet of retail and commercial space. Director of Urban Redevelopment Estean Lenyoun said the developer is in talks with Starbucks and Panda Express to be tenants in the space. 

About one-third of the new shopping center will be a food market.

Lenyoun said they are in talks with Fresh and Easy, but the company could not be reached for comment to confirm. According to the document, no tenants have been identified for the other four spaces.

The remaining 27,300 square feet will go to other businesses to use. Each retail space will be 3,000-4,000 square feet with the exception of one 12,300 square foot retail space.

One of the buildings will have a drive-thru.

Like the Miracle Shopping Center, the new shopping center’s general commercial zone designation will allow for shops, offices, restaurants and other businesses.

The Miracle Shopping Center, which is in the process of being demolished, was first built in the late 1940s. It was 68,500 square feet and could house about 15 businesses when the city purchased the property in 2009 for $9 million. 

In accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act, since the environmental impact study found the new shopping center is expected to have “significant environmental effects,” the public is given 30 days to comment on the environmental impact study and plans to mitigate impact of what is being called the Breakwater Project.

The study found the shopping center may potentially have impact to ancient artifacts, runoff and wastewater and other parts of the local environment. Impact to the surrounding area during construction is also reviewed in the document.

Construction is scheduled to begin in spring 2012 and will take place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays. It will take nine months to a year to build the shopping mall, though it has been proposed that the project be built in two phases if more tenants are not identified.

Before demolition begins, asbestos found in the old structure must be removed and disposed of at an approved facility licensed to handle waste.

Native birds

The type of wildlife in the area is the kind that “have adapted to or are compatible with urbanization and do not have to compete with man for survival.” However to avoid impact, a biologist should be retained 10 days before construction “to determine the presence or absence” of nesting birds. 

Migratory birds

“No known migratory paths exist on the project site; therefore, the proposed project would not affect the movement of any native resident migratory fish or wildlife species” but “some bird species present or potentially present on site may nest within the scattered trees throughout the site.”

Historic artifacts

Should any historical artifacts be encountered while building the shopping mall, all construction will cease and a professional archaeologist will be brought in to evaluate the find.

“If the resource is determined to be of historic significance, the archaeologist may make recommendations to the City of Imperial Beach concerning the avoidance, relocation, or preservation of any confirmed significant historical resources.”

According to the document, nine sites have been found in or near the city since 2008, though in areas outside where homes and buildings are now north of the city and south to the estuary. San Dieguito, La Jollan and Kummeyaay Native American artifacts have been found in the area. 

Off-site road modifications

Unlike the Miracle Shopping Center, which had its parking spaces in front of the stores and Palm Avenue, many parking spaces will now be on the other side, closer to homes.

The intersection of Palm Avenue and State Route 75 will be modified. New entrances and exits will be made primarily on Palm Avenue.

The new shopping center will balance or make level the ground between Palm Avenue and its buildings. 

Grading and erosion

Before final construction plans are approved, a grading and erosion-control plan must be compiled by Sudberry and the construction company contracted to build the shopping center. This plan must receive the approval of the city’s engineering division.

Project Site Conditions

“A review of historical aerial photographs indicated agricultural activity has taken place at the site and vicinity, possibly prior to 1928, which may have included use of organochlorine pesticides.”

Worst-case construction noise levels may exceed 75 decibels when an excavator and haul truck are used.

Runoff and wastewater

Existing drainage at Miracle Shopping Center causes excess runoff flows in the middle of the shopping center and Eighth Street.

“Permeable and vegetated areas” will make up more than 15 percent of the project area to try and decrease the amount of runoff during rain. Impact with mitigation was deemed less than significant.

A new storm drainage system will be installed and a drainage pipe at Ninth Street and Palm Avenue deemed inadequate will be increased in size from 15 to 36 inches.

A Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan must be prepared to identify all pollution sources that may impact water quality before construction.

The center’s 237 space parking lot should be cleaned, particularly ahead of the rainy season. Groundwater has been detected 13 to 17 feet below the project site.

The EIS also found that none of the environmental impacts are significant enough that they cannot be resolved through mitigation.

The project is not expected to have impact on animal habitats and is expected to have less than significant impact on greenhouses gases as well as fire, police and city services. 

The Breakwater Project is far from a done deal. 

A Disposition and Development Agreement has yet to be signed between the Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency and Sudberry Properties. A DDA may be presented to council for approval in December, said Imperial Beach Redevelopment Agency coordinator Jerry Selby. 

Also in order to go forward the Breakwater Project requires approval from CalTrans for modifications to streets and the California Coastal Commission.

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