Some, in particular county Supervisor Dick Monteith, call Kamilos a “visionary.” I’m certainly not that, for I have yet to visualize the developer’s West Park proposal for the former Crows Landing Naval air base. (For new Patterson residents, the northern edge of the county-owned property is just over two miles from the city’s southern boundary.)
Getting a handle on just what Kamilos plans for the 1,528-acre property has been a problem. Let’s track his figures.
First it was a 4,800-acre development — more than three times the size of the former base. That proposal has been cut to about 2,900 acres.
We were told the development would create 37,000 jobs. That figure has been whacked to 16,000, of which some 3,000 are construction jobs.
Kamilos started five years ago with suggesting that 800,000 cargo containers a year would be hauled by rail from the Port of Oakland to Crows Landing. He figured six trains a day would be required, each passing through Patterson twice. That has been cut to two trains a day and 50,000 containers a year.
In the time span since February 2007, when Kamilos was chosen by the county to proceed with development plans, West Siders have waited, watched and listened. Eight public agencies, including cities and school districts, have opposed development beyond the 1,528 acres.
From day one, the project has been a political hot potato. District 5 Supervisor Jim DeMartini has been joined by Supervisor Terry Withrow in opposing the latest plan, giving the county board a 3-2 split.
A few months after the original vote in 2007, our organization, West Side-Patterson Affiliates for Community and Environment, was formed to follow the planning stages of the project and to speak out for our membership that has grown to more than 1,200. Here’s the position of WS-PACE:
• First, we strongly support the job-creating development of the 1,500-acre base. Our area has a dire need for additional jobs.
• But at the same time, 1,500 acres is already much larger than Patterson’s industrial park. Why can’t Kamilos come up with a plan that utilizes only the county-owned property and not surrounding agricultural land?
• The plan for hauling cargo containers from Oakland down the West Side on a dead-end rail line has its flaws. Sure, it would eliminate some truck traffic over the Altamont, but those same trucks — hundreds a day — would be diverted to the West Side.
• In addition, Kamilos’ plan calls for agricultural projects from the valley to be shipped by rail out of Crows Landing back to the port. That conceivably would double the number of trucks in our own backyard.
• Solar panels on prime ag land? What kind of land preservation is that? Certainly not one that provides employment.
The West Park project has a long way to go before the county-imposed deadline of Jan. 31. If the Environmental Impact Report is not fully completed in the next seven months, he likely (and logically) will be given additional time. Who wants to rush so important a document?
One, apparently, is EIR consultant Francine Dunn, who is assisting Kamilos in preparing the extensive paperwork. She told the supervisors that toward the end of the year, county staff and project consultants could lock themselves up for a couple of days and complete the necessary review process.
Let’s hope cooler heads prevail in the county. This isn’t paperwork that should be rushed, and ramming it through at the 11th hour would be a slap in the face of those of us who have long questioned many aspects of the West Park plan.
• Ron Swift is president of West Side-Patterson Affiliates for Community and Environment.