To assure me that this is how the EIR came about, the representative, Steve Sardella, attached a letter, dated February 3. It is addressed to Cross and comes from Marie Cooper, an attorney representing Sufism Reoriented on this project. This letter is also published on Sufism Reoriented's website. Two weeks after the letter was sent, Sardella said, the request for the EIR was approved. Here is the letter:
Dear Ms. Cross:
I am writing on behalf of Sufism Reoriented, the applicant for the new sanctuary project. We request that the County prepare an EIR for the project even if staff would otherwise prepare a proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration for the Planning Commission’s consideration.
As you know, an EIR must be prepared only when the record contains evidence that there may be unavoidable significant impacts. A Mitigated Negative Declaration is permitted when there is no such evidence. The studies conducted by our consultants have not revealed any unavoidable significant impacts. Experience at the existing sanctuary establishes that the new sanctuary will generate few vehicle trips. Also, the new sanctuary project proposes redevelopment of a developed site in a developed neighborhood. All these factors indicate that a Mitigated Negative Declaration would most likely be appropriate for the project.
However, the new sanctuary has generated controversy among a significant minority of our neighbors, and we want to make sure that all the issues they raise are fully vetted. An EIR would also give the County decision makers more flexibility to weigh and balance evidence and arguments, allowing them to arrive more easily at the best possible decision in this matter.
We understand that preparation of an EIR would involve more time and effort than would preparation of a Mitigated Negative Declaration, and Sufism Reoriented confirms its commitment to pay all reasonable processing costs, including those associated with an EIR. We also understand that the decision regarding what document to prepare lies solely in the County’s hands. We make this request to alert the County to our position, confirm our agreement to pay costs, and explain why an EIR would be appropriate.