Sunday, June 22, 2008

Update on Seeno Project

The final fate of the Seeno Project was supposed to have been decided on June 3, 2008. But, that decision has now been postponed until October 2008…..

To back up a bit, in case you are not familiar with the Seeno project, it is a huge 527 acre commercial/industrial development proposed for the rolling hills in the north-east section of Benicia. It is officially named the Benicia Business Park but is commonly referred to as the Seeno Project because it is owned by Discovery Builders, an Albert Seeno company.

It is a controversial project because many citizens contend (with ample evidence) that the project, as currently conceived and designed, would radically damage the character and livability of Benicia forever. It fails to conform to many important goals in the General Plan relating to environmental and economic quality and sustainability, and the type of commercial businesses proposed for the development would likely weaken the Downtown as the City's central commercial zone, contributing to urban decay.

Following is a very rough outline of the review process so far on this project :

2007: The year of 2007 saw countless months of City Council meetings, votes, public hearings, public forums and presentations, and voluminous written and oral public comments on the Seeno Project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR). It was well documented by citizen comments that the EIR was inadequate in many ways and did not conform to the requirements of the Calif. Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

Feb. 19, 2008: In spite of its flaws, the Council approved the final EIR, but this vote did not approve the project itself. The Council told the applicant (Seeno) that the project itself could not be approved unless they came back with a revised project containing significant environmental improvements and substantial documentation to support it such as a supplemental EIR and a new urban decay analysis.

April & May 2008: In April the applicant brought forth a significantly changed project containing several environmental improvements but still lacking the degree of improvements that were needed and called for by the Council, and lacking the supporting documentation that was expected.

There were several hasty hearings in April and May, with insufficient time for review and documentation, because of a statutory requirement that mandated a final vote on the project by June 3, unless the applicant approved a time extension.

June 3, 2008: (actually 1:00 a.m., June 4) Sensing that they did not have the necessary three votes for approval of the project, the applicant agreed to a time extension so that an additional traffic study could be conducted (after school resumes in late August) to determine the extent of traffic congestion on E. 2nd Street.

Oct. 7, 2008: The results of the traffic study will be presented to the Council, and the applicant will pressure the Council to approve the project.

A citizens’ committee, Benicia First, is calling for denial of the current project, so that a new project can be designed that is a better fit for Benicia and for the environmental and economic constraints and opportunities that we now face in the 21st Century. To read more about their ideas for an alternative vision for the Seeno project, see the Benicia First Website at

(To read more details about the review process chain of events, see the Benicia First Blog at )

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