Motorsports park a bad idea for Lompoc

This op-ed by Ken Hough ran in the Lompoc Record and in the Santa Maria Times on Aug. 2, 2016:

Supporters of the proposed motorsports park and drag strip tell us the noise and air pollution will be no big deal.

Did you go to the Lompoc Flower Festival parade? I did. Did you see and hear who brought up the rear? It was members of the Lompoc Valley Motorsports Park Project.

If they were trying to demonstrate how little noise impact the park will have, they failed. If they were trying to demonstrate how little air pollution the park will produce, they failed.

It seemed they intended to show how much noise, smoking tires and excitement the park would generate.

If you go to a parade, you expect to hear some noise and endure odors. But if you happen to live in a town, you likely expect to not have too much noise and to be able to breathe reasonably good air.

The draft environmental impact report for the project raises serious questions about these expectations. It also fails to adequately answer questions people have about the project’s impact.

Consider the noise. There are nearly 3,000 residents in homes within one mile of the proposed project. The city’s 2030 General Plan, recognizing airplanes generate a fair amount of noise, requires that additional noise sources in excess of 60dB should not be allowed in areas affected by airplane noise.

The draft EIR says the proposed park would add a noise source level of 88dB to the area outside of the project property line — several times louder than what the General Plan allows. The city should deny the project on the basis of this inconsistency alone. Incredibly, the draft EIR finds noise is not a significant impact.

The document also is quite clear on the issue of air pollution. This is the one topic where the draft EIR acknowledges significant and unavoidable impacts. These are for emissions of toxic air pollutants, including particulates. This is a compelling cause for project denial. And the draft EIR does not account for the practice of racers warming up their tires by spinning them on the pavement, creating strong odors and particulates breathed by participants, observers and neighbors.

Supporters argue drivers who currently street race illegally will use the Motorsports Park instead. It is just as likely the drag strip will encourage more illegal racing. Illegal street racers should be caught and punished, as required by law, not rewarded with a special place to race.

The draft EIR says the Santa Ynez River will not be harmed by the project. Runoff from the operation — which will include copious amounts of petroleum products, including the remnants of smoking tires — will be directed into “infiltration ponds.” So, the polluted runoff will apparently work its way into the Valley’s groundwater rather than being dumped directly into the riverbed.

We need to take care of our environment. This is why California’s environmental laws require that an “environmentally superior alternative” be identified for any significant proposed project. In this case, for reasons made clear in the draft EIR, the “environmentally superior alternative” is the “No Project/No Development Alternative.”

The draft EIR has many inadequacies and should not be certified, but there is ample information in it for the City Council to adopt the “environmentally superior alternative” and deny the project.

If you are alarmed by the impacts of this project, you need to comment on the draft EIR by Aug. 15. Copies of the document are available on the city website at Send comments to [email protected] and tell your city council members how you feel.

Ken Hough is executive director of Santa Barbara County Action Network (SBCAN).