Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Update on Southern Tarplant in Torrance

For the past week, I have contacted local leaders and well as state-wide officials to get  more of an angle on why the city of Torrance has to give up two acres of land in the soon-to-be constructed North Torrance Transit Center.

Local critics have suggested moving the plant to the Madrona Marsh. Why not relocate the plant to the South Coast Botanical Garden.

Madrona Marsh in Torrance, CA

Mitigation is the key factor in this discussion.

One of the city council members, Geoff Rizzo, explained to me that the tarplant does fall on a schedule of endangered plants.

I learned the following about the plant from this link:

Centromadia parryi  (Greene) Greene  ssp. australis  (Keck) B.G. Baldwin
southern tarplant

Centromadia parryi ssp. australis, a dicot, is an annual herb that is native to California.
It is included in the CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants on list 1B.1 (rare, threatened, or endangered in CA and elsewhere).   7th Edition  /  8th Edition

What does the category 1B.1 mean, anyway?

California Rare Plant Rank 1B: Plants Rare, Threatened, or Endangered in California and Elsewhere

Plants with a California Rare Plant Rank of 1B are rare throughout their range with the majority of them endemic to California. Most of the plants that are ranked 1B have declined significantly over the last century. California Rare Plant Rank 1B plants constitute the majority of taxa in the CNPS Inventory, with more than 1,000 plants assigned to this category of rarity.

Southern Tarplant

All of the plants constituting California Rare Plant Rank 1B meet the definitions of the California Endangered Species Act of the California Department of Fish and Game Code, and are eligible for state listing. Impacts to these species or their habitat must be analyzed during preparation of environmental documents relating to CEQA, or those considered to be functionally equivalent to CEQA, as they meet the definition of Rare or Endangered under CEQA Guidelines §15125; (c) and/or §15380.

I contacted a researcher connected with the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), Aaron Sims, and he shared with me that the plant meets the requirements of an endangered plant according to CEQA, or the California Environmental Quality Act.

About CEQA. . . .

This agency has an overreach which even local Democrats have protested, including state senate candidate Louis Dominguez, endorsed by the Daily Breeze in the special election for 35th State Senate seat.

I have rising concerns about the imposing authority of any state agency unaccountable to voters, or which allow little redress or discussion. Aside from a column in the Daily Breeze, I imagine that very few people in the city of Torrance know about this problem. A resident overheard me discussing this issue with one of the city council members, and another residents shared my upset. She hoped for the best that local residents and leaders will seek a better solution than stifling development to protect an endangered plant, whose classifications are neither official nor explicit.

Regarding the option of relocating the plant, Aaron Sims of the CNPS wrote to me:

You mentioned why not relocate the plant to the South Coast Botanic Garden, but this wouldn't be the same as relocating it to a natural area because in a botanic garden it could no longer contribute to biodiversity or play key ecological roles with the natural environment. CNPS also has a statement opposing transplantation (relocation) as a feasible means for restoration, which I have attached. In short, translocation doesn't work most of the time.

I read over the CNPS statement on transplantation, and the document suggested that moving plants may become the only reasonable recourse. The document did not suggest that transplantation was an ill-favored idea from the outset, either.

One of the arguments against relocating the plant suggest that the plant's presence contributes to the biodiversity of the region. Yet the Madrona Marsh is only one or two miles away. The difference between those two locations is slight. Besides, removing a large acre of plants, and allowing the loose proliferation of the tarplant in the region should be enough mitigation to satisfy botanical concerns.

I contacted two city council members on this matter: Geoff Rizzo and Mike Griffiths.

Rizzo shared my frustration with the city's losing two acres of land to protect this flora. At what point do the residents in a municipality push back against environmental pressure from the state against local commerce and development. Further explaining the conflicts around the two-acre sequester, Rizzo pointed out that this arrangement took place in order for the project to continue. If the city insisted, then the Transit Center construction would not continue.

Following his suggestion, I contacted the Torrance City Clerk's office and Planning Commission for more information, including the Environmental Impact Report for the Transit Center.

Torrance City Hall
I received the following answer from Mary Giordano, the assistant city manager:

Thank you Mr. Schaper for taking the time to email Mayor Furey and the Community Development Department your comments in response to the Notice of Public Review Period and Intent to Adopt a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the Torrance Regional Transit Center (RTC) Project - EAS13-00002, CUP13-00032 & DIV13-00011.
For your questions relating to the tarplant, the impact to the southern tarplant is being mitigated (or addressed) by the 2acre proposed preserve for the reasons outlined on the two references below:
(For the two acronyms below in the Biological Resources Report, CRPR refers to California Rare Plant Rank and CNPS refers to California Native Plant Society.)

I was also informed that there has been no Environmental Impact Report to deal with this matter. I have not received an answer to this concern, yet.

In addition to contacting Councilman Rizzo, I spoke with Councilman Mike Griffiths, and he shared concerns about the city giving up two acres for this one plant. He still wanted more information on the subject to give a better answer. Both members told me that they would not attend the Torrance Planning Commission Meeting on January 7th, in order to prevent a conflict of interest if the issue comes before the city council on appeal.

The number of city officials who have less information than desired on this project is disconcerting. I understand the tyranny of bureaucracy a little better now: paperwork, rules, regulations, reports, press releases, procedures. No wonder some local critics lament: "You can't fight city hall."

At least we residents can voice our concerns and discuss better resolutions to these interlocking conflicts.

Planning Commissioner Milton Herring answered my call about this matter, too, and he acknowledged that the commission needs to look further into tarplant controversy.

I will be attending the Torrance Planning Commission meeting on January 7th, 2015:

OfficeNameTerm BeginsTerm ExpiresFirst Appointed
Vice ChairSarah D'anjou2-1-20121-31-20161-24-2012
MemberJudy Gibson2-1-20131-31-20171-10-2006
ChairSteven Polcari2-1-20111-31-20152-1-2011
MemberMilton Herring9-23-20141-31-20159-23-2014
MemberSteve Skoll2-1-20121-31-20161-15-2008
MemberJamie Ruth Watson2-1-20131-31-20171-15-2013
MemberRichard Tsao9-23-20141-31-20189-23-2014
Gregg Lodan
Planning Manager
Community Development Department
(310) 618-5990
1st and 3rd Wednesdays 7:00 P.M.
Council Chambers
3031 Torrance Blvd., Torrance, CA 90503

I hope that more Torrance residents will attend, and demand that the city explore other options for the Southern Tarplant, besides cutting off two acres of land for residents, commercial, or industrial development.

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