NEWARK -- A vote to certify the general plan's final environmental impact report has been pushed back at least two weeks, after a fiery Planning Commission meeting where residents complained the city gave them just a day to review the document.

The draft report was made public Monday and posted on the city's website, but some residents told the commission on Tuesday they could not access it because the large file kept freezing their computers.

"The public's ability to provide substantive comments during this public hearing are being thwarted because the documents under review were not provided in a timely fashion," said Carin High, member of the environmental group Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge. "I've never encountered a situation before where the public is given only one day."

High was one of 10 residents to address the commissioners, with each speaker calling for the vote to be delayed. The crowd of about 20 people occasionally grew testy. When Community Development Director Terrence Grindall reminded a resident that her allotted speaking time had expired, a man in the audience yelled, "You took longer!"

The final speaker, Jana Sokale, chastised city officials for disregarding residents' input during the process to update the general plan, a document where the city crafts its vision for future land uses. "The public's comments primarily have been ignored," she said.

Like several speakers, Sokale complained about Area 4, a 560-acre parcel that some would like to see protected from the city's proposal to build 500 homes and a golf course.


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"What bill of goods are you being sold on these plans?" she asked commissioners. "It is historic baylands and it has incredible restorative potential. I ask you not to listen to those who seem to be proponents for speculators in Newark."

Grindall reminded the commission that its role is advisory to the City Council, which has the final vote on the general plan. He also noted an approval of the plan's environmental review would not mean approval of any planned developments, many of which would undergo their own public approval processes.

At least two of the commission's five present members seemed swayed. "People feel they've been caught off guard with this and that's not in the spirit of an engaged public process," Commissioner Theresa Ballard Dias said.

With the prospects of a 3-2 vote, Grindall said the staff would recommend delaying a vote. "Echoing Commissioner Dias, it would not be the best public perception," Grindall said.

Moments later, the commissioners unanimously approved continuing the item until Nov. 12.

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.