News: 1999-04.16-AntiochImpact

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T: Faire to Do Impact Study -- Renaissance group to delay Antioch move 
A: Christopher Heredia, Chronicle Staff Writer
D: Friday, April 16, 1999 
C: 1999 San Francisco Chronicle 


Bowing to demands from environmentalists and area residents, Renaissance Faire officials say they will fully study the possible effects of moving to Antioch even though it could delay relocating the event for a year.

Faire proponents had planned to move the popular Elizabethan festival from Novato to the 120-acre Higgins Ranch in Antioch this summer, assuming they sailed through the planning commission and City Council approval process.

But groups including Save Mount Diablo and the East Bay Regional Park District said more thorough environmental studies are needed, and residents had overwhelming concerns about traffic on weekends.

``We've relooked at the situation and decided you are entitled to a full and complete EIR (environmental impact report),'' Howard Hamburg, vice president of Renaissance Faire Entertainment Corp., told Antioch- area residents who met last night to talk about the proposed move.

During the meeting at Dear Valley High School, most of the 150 people in attendance expressed opposition to moving the event to Antioch, citing concerns about traffic and other potential problems.

The route to the hoped-for site runs from Highway 4 south along Lone Tree Way into the relatively unscathed hills of Antioch. Residents from nearby neighborhoods said they are not willing to tolerate the extra vehicles the event would draw.

``This would bring more people to the city than we can handle,'' said Teresa Magee, who lives along the proposed route to the fair. ``Even on weekends, we have traffic on Highway 4. If there is an accident, you're sitting still.''

Yet some of the people at last night's meeting support the fair's proposed move, saying it would bring a needed cultural attraction to Antioch.

``It's a great experience for the whole family,'' said Antioch resident Jeanette Hurwitz. ``It's living history.''

The Higgins Ranch site west of Empire Mine Road and south of Contra Loma Reservoir is along the migratory path of the endangered San Joaquin kit fox and is home to the endangered red-legged frog and the California tiger salamander, a candidate for federal endangered species status.

The site also is next to the Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, which is part of the East Bay Regional Park District.

``We've always felt a full EIR (environmental impact report) would be needed, but that's a local decision to be made,'' said Ned MacKay, the park district's spokesman. ``Our concerns remain safety, the potential impact on endangered species, fire hazards and trespassing into abandoned mine tunnels.''

The additional environmental studies will cause the 19-day event to be postponed another year, Hamburg said. He added that the fair will seek an alternate unnamed temporary location for this fall.

City officials said the fair -- which includes jousting knights, falconry and `olde world` crafts and costumes -- will bring summer jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue to the city. The fair is seeking a new location because the Novato site, which it has used for 27 years, is scheduled to be developed.

Antioch Economic Development Director Laura Sainz said the city continues to support the fair and its plan to do a full study.

``We're pleased there will be more time to look at all the issues and present the facts,'' Sainz said.

Sainz called the year delay ``disappointing,'' but added, ``The fact is we're excited about the opportunity to have the fair be here. The location is a beautiful location for the type of historical activities the fair supports.''

The next hurdle will be a planning commission review expected in May.

1999 San Francisco Chronicle Page A23