Tag Archives: urban planning

Dangerous substandard designs for our roadways?

GUEST BLOG ARTICLE from EUGENIE THOMSON

Streets throughout California are being rebuilt to accommodate the increasing number of bicycles on the road. Due to narrow rights-of-way and the implementation of separate bicycle paths within preexisting roadway cross-sections, this process involves completely redesigning roadways.

I applaud the efforts to make the roads safer for all users but alarmingly, less-than-minimum safety design standards are being applied. This practice is counter to the needs and desires of the public and it is happening here in Alameda.

The City of Alameda has been approving design concepts for these roadway reconstruction projects that violate minimum design criteria and with experimental designs (i.e. Shoreline Bikeway), followed swiftly by approval of grant applications for their final engineering and construction. The Clement Avenue and Central Avenue Complete Street Plans are moving in the same direction.

Problematically, the City has no qualified civil engineers in responsible charge of these projects. All of the City’s four lead civil engineers have left. Clearly numerous safety and traffic delay problems are going unresolved.

Would you hire a divorce attorney who is not licensed? Would you hire an obstetrician who is not licensed? Of course not. Nor should Alameda hire planners to perform civil engineering functions who are not licensed or qualified in that field. But that is exactly what is happening.

I am very concerned that the City is moving forward with reconstruction of its streets with numerous safety problems and causing nightmarish congestion by what staff calls a road diet. (i.e. reduction of lanes).

The same cycle path on Shoreline Drive was recently approved by Public Works staff and consultants to be built on the estuary side of Clement Avenue between Grand and Broadway. The city and consultant’s staff, all planners, stated there were no major flaws. This was concerning, in and of itself. But little did they know that their design was particularly dangerous. Neither the drivers nor the bicyclists would have had adequate stopping sight distances to stop safely (i.e. blind corners) and there were numerous violations of even the most minimum safety design criteria.

Further their design with only one lane (11 feet wide) in each direction required a complete shutdown of Clement Avenue for the regular wide deliveries to the marinas. Their design also added an extra signal phase just for bicycles which would have required a reduction in signal time for autos at Park Street- severely increasing delay for all Alamedans leaving the island in the morning through the Park Street/ Clement Avenue intersection. There was no mention whatsoever anywhere of this excessive increase in delay. Were they hoping Alamedans would not pay attention?

Residents and business owners went to the Transportation Commission on March 25th to fight for what was right. It is heartening the Transportation Commission turned down the City staff and consultant’s plan but with only a slim majority. Wouldn’t you agree Alamedans should not have to go to City Hall and tell staff and consultants that their work has major flaws and the plan is biased and unsafe?

Traffic safety issues are going unaddressed. Let me explain from personal experience. About 15 years ago, my Mom then in her early eighties, was hit by a bicyclist in a similar configuration as along Shoreline. She stepped out of the passenger side of the car into the path of bicyclist traveling quickly. Bicycles easily travel east along the new Shoreline path at 20 mph or much more with the usual tail wind. This too is in the same space where young children excitedly exit the cars to go to the beach.

Building a “commuter cycle” track on Shoreline was inappropriate and unsafe for a recreational trail along a beach. It is a commuter bicycle concept to save time not meant for recreation. A recreational trail should have been built like the one at Crissy Field or like those in Holland along beaches.

I beseech Alamedans to speak up to Council before these poorly designed roadway plans for Shoreline, Central and Clement Avenues cause serious injury. As I think you will agree, these roadway changes affect virtually every Alamedan. We applaud the efforts to make our roads safer. However, far greater care must be taken in keeping us safe. Roads must be designed by qualified civil engineers as required by State Law.


ACT MEETING NOTES

Thank you to Nancy Hirdman who took down these notes:

Notes from Alameda Citizens Taskforce (ACT) Meeting held June 26th
Speakers: Jim Smallman, Doug deHaan and many members of the audience

JIM SMALLMAN

Measure A was an Alameda City Charter amendment which states:

A. There shall be no multiple dwelling units built in Alameda except for the Housing Authority’s Senior Housing
B. The maximum density shall be no more than 1 unit per 2,000 sq. ft. of land

This was passed by the voters in the 1970s because Victorians were being torn down and replaced with apartment buildings and because 10,000 homes were planned for Bay Farm which would cause traffic problems.

There are ways around Measure A and the state of CA has required affordable housing to be built through laws such as the Density Bonus Law. Some community governments attempt to resist the stat’s mandate and some use the mandate to push through development. Affordable housing is for low low (not a typo) income, low income and moderate income.

2% of the land is to be set aside for affordable housing but this 2% compounds every 7 years with the requirement for new housing plans. The last was unveiled on 7/3 of 2011 or 2012. Note: City Council passes important issues on evenings around holidays when people are not paying attention.
DOUG DEHAAN (and some audience members at times):
Density and transportation are the 2 hot points

The City of Alameda has 2 philosophies about transportation: 

A. Commercial – must have more parking spaces because we need tax revenue from sales. “Drive your care here to spend your money.”
B. Move masses with public transportation so we need state and federal funding and high density to support it. More riders means more dollars for more public transport. Ideas, either tried and did not work or are on the drawing board: (1)Water Taxi (had one) but now there will be 3,000 more units build in Oakland on the estuary which may have fees to pay for it. (2) Lite Rail to Fruitvale Bart (3) Bus lane dedicated through tube (4) Ferry Service with WETA on Alameda Point with a 7 story office/maintenance building (hangers are 40’) (5) Del Monte – Bus passes, 3 zip car parking spaces, 3 stop lights synchronized with other city lights
NOTE: Ferry carries only 180 passengers. Location issue. It will take 5 minutes for it to get out of lagoon if located there (has to go slow so it will not create wake that will disturb other boating in lagoon). Current location on estuary – takes too long to get out of estuary.

We get “transportation” dollars from state and federal sources. This transportation takes people and their spending (dollars) out of town. We should be having transportation as four “20 person buses” looping around island from Buena Vista round Encinal and back covering shopping areas. (Mastick Sr. Center has buses that loop around from 9-4 every 10 minutes) Target has a bus for employees.

We need to push for becoming exempt from the state mandates because we are an island and have constraints. Lobby Sacramento. We are already dense.

School Bond Issue – need more money for more students who are going to be coming to live in all the new units. Developers to pay some impact fees which will be passes on to buyers.

Density Bonus – as long as we are under this we can’t have more than 1 parking space per unit of affordable housing, and need less than 32 sq. ft. of open space which can be private open space such as patio or balcony.

More building increases tax base to cover the city staff pensions.

Today’s Measure A = Russo’s agenda to support ABAG (Assoc. of Bay Area Governments) We are seeing a fast moving implementation of “plans”. Audience member suggestion: We don’t have to belong to ABAG.

Alameda is “land wealthy” due to Alameda Point. Most development will be on the West End. Big issue is the tube.
Measure A is too general. It does not stipulate how it applies to re-development areas. There is a multi-family over-lay and city council and staff keeps saying “We could get sued”. How much housing in new development must be affordable? City says 25% (per agreement made with housing advocates) and developer Tim Lewis says 15% per state law.

Neighborhoods must come together such as Del Monte area where there will be 35 units per acre plus Tim Lewis wants to build 108 more units behind it on 1.5 acres. Note – This is not just that neighborhood’s problem – it is every neighborhood’s problem. For Del Monte area residents, in a crisis mode right now. What is done here could be blueprint for next development area.

What to do:

• Get more info to be more methodical in thoughts.
• Note “plants” in the audience, read the room.
• Make views known.
• Read blogs such as The Alamedan, Alameda Merry Go Round, Blogging Bayport
• Study census data
• Look into getting exempted from state density mandates (small group formed to study this, due to report back next monthly meeting)
• Look into getting out of ABAG (small group formed to study this, due to report back next monthly meeting)
• Stop dependency on state and federal money
• Require developers to pay for ongoing infrastructure costs such as police, fire
• Everyone – write letters to council members, letters to the editors
• All neighborhood groups should band together to join in the cause to keep Alameda livable. ( e.g Wedge, Harbor Bay, etc)
• Join the free website Nextdoor.com – help us to create a “relay” to get information across the whole island

Join in with Facebook groups:

P.L.A.N. Alameda
Alameda Peeps
Alameda 94501

Please visit our website: www.alamedacitizenstaskforce.org
Submitted by Nancy Hird
Disclaimer: Notes could not be written as fast as people were speaking. I attempted to capture what was said as accurately as possible.

MORE: From Alameda Citizens Task Force website under “Get Involved”

Getting involved is as easy as joining us for a group discussion at one of our monthly meetings held the fourth Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. at the First Congregational Church UCC, 1912 Central Avenue. Our attendance varies and our informal discussions are about ways to better the quality of life for Alamedans. Often they take on an organizational or political nature.
Each quarter we have a special meeting with a guest speaker regarding a locally oriented topic. These meetings are held in the community room on the second floor at Alameda Hospital. Notice of the meetings is sent to a large anonymous email list primarily of regular and active members of ACT.

ACT watches the city government meetings closely and we frequently attend the City Council Meetings, Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Agency and the Transportation Commission, and Planning Board meetings. Our members also attend the AUSD meetings and other government meetings. Because the information presented at these meetings is vitally important to Alameda, we like to reserve a time in our General monthly meetings for reports given by attending members. This assists us in keeping informed about what our elected and appointed officials are deciding “for our own good”.

When we disagree with the actions taken by our city leaders, we coordinate letter writing campaigns to our leaders and the local newspapers. We also speak at the public government meetings to communicate alternatives to proposals being considered.

Governmental meetings are scheduled as follows:

City Council – 1st and 3rd Tuesdays, usually beginning at 7:00 p.m. These meetings usually follow closed council meetings regarding litigation or personnel matters. The closed meetings often cause the Regular City Council Meetings to begin after 7:00.

Planning Board – 2nd and 4th Mondays, usually starting at 7:00 p.m.
These meetings are located on the third floor of the Alameda City Hall in Council Chambers. (Corner of Santa Clara and oak Streets) They are also video streamed live and then archived for easy retrieval on the city website.
http://www.cityofalamedaca.gov/

The city website is a very good source for information and has relatively good recent document archival capabilities which are accessible via the website. If additional information is required, requests can be made by the city clerk’s office at City Hall.
To access information regarding City Council, Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Agency, Planning Board, Public Utilities Board, Transportation Commission or Special Events, Click on “City Hall”.

Webcasts and Podcasts are also available under “City Hall”. You can view meetings that are scheduled in the City Chambers in this area as well as watch or listen to archived meetings. Both the agendas and the videos, MP3 audios or MP4 videos are available in this area.

How Government Meetings Work

Upon arrival on the third floor of City Hall, there is a desk in the hallway that has agendas and speaker slips.
If a person intends to speak on any subject, he/she fills out the speaker’s slip and gives it to the person at the City Clerk Desk within Council Chambers at the left hand side of the dais (elevated semi-circle where the city leaders sit). The speaker’s slip can be for any subject, whether or not it is on the agenda as there is space on agendas for public comments that are not agendized. In the case of City Council, there are two Public Comment times for nonagenda items, one in the beginning of the meeting and one towards the end of the meeting to accommodate the schedules of people who want to address issues with the city council members. Speaking times are generally limited to 3 minutes and a light/sound system exists to alert speakers of their time at the podium.
Considering the three minute time limit, it is often helpful to plan in advance with other members of the public who want to speak on the same topic with the same views. By dividing up the subject areas of a topic among multiple speakers, all the points can be covered. (It is difficult, however; to schedule speaker’s time so a conversation with the council flows from one subject to another by a string of speakers.)

Some speakers read and others speak extemporaneously. It is always a good idea to organize thoughts and planned words in advance. It is also OK to just get up at the podium and say you agree with something another speaker has said. Speaking is usually one sided. It is rare for a city leader to ask questions or make comments during public comment times. They sometimes will call a speaker back to the podium with questions during their discussion times so it is wise to stay until the end of the meeting if possible.

Some people watch the meetings on cable television (Comcast Channel 15) and wait to attend until their particular subject is scheduled to allow them less time in council chambers, and to continue personal business at home until the last minute. They still must complete a speaker’s slip and present it at the proper location.