Alameda Point development could snarl traffic, study says

Alameda Point development could snarl traffic, study says

Michele Ellson

Proposed development at Alameda Point and elsewhere on the Island could back up traffic at a host of major intersections – in the Park Street business district, on the East End and in Oakland.

The finding was part of a draft study detailing the development’s potential impact on traffic, wildlife, air and water quality and a host of other items that was released by the city this week. The public has until October 21 to review and comment on the 1,000-page document and whether it adequately addresses the impact the development could have on the Island; public hearings are scheduled for Monday and September 25.

The study contemplates the potential impacts of 1,425 homes and 5 million square feet of office space at Alameda Point, which would put about 3,400 new residents and 8,900 jobs on 878 acres of the former Naval Air Station. It says the proposed development would create significant and unavoidable impacts to both traffic and the historic district even with measures designed to blunt those impacts.

Taken on its own, the Point development would generate an estimated 33,429 trips per day, a number that would include 2,928 morning peak and 3,294 afternoon peak trips. Its biggest traffic impacts could occur at a trio of Oakland intersections – Jackson and Sixth streets, Brush and 11th streets and 23rd and Seventh streets – that are just off-Island. But the finding was predicated in part on the fact that Alameda doesn’t control whether any traffic-easing solutions will be implemented at those intersections.

Taken in conjunction with other planned and in-progress developments on the Island, the project would contribute to peak-hour traffic delays at 16 intersections in Alameda and Oakland, even if roadway and signal improvements and programs aimed at getting people out of their cars are put in place; the study’s authors said they couldn’t determine how effective those programs would be until they’re up and running.

The list includes a trio of intersections on Park Street – at Clement Street, Blanding Avenue and Encinal Avenue – along with three major intersections on Otis Drive, High Street at Fernside Boulevard and Challenger Drive at Atlantic Avenue.

Still, the study shows that peak-hour traffic at many of those intersections will be just as bad by 2035 – the year its authors determined it would be fully built out based on a 2014 start – even without the Point project.

On its own, Point development is expected to create significant impacts for cyclists driving on Central Avenue, Main Street and Wilver “Willie” Stargell Avenue, the report’s authors said, though the study doesn’t contemplate the inclusion of bicycle paths on those streets. It is also anticipated the project would impact crossing times for pedestrians traversing Ralph Appezzato Memorial Parkway at Constitution Way and also, between Main and Webster streets. And it details significant impacts for pedestrians in Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood that can’t be avoided since Alameda lacks the jurisdiction to make roadway or other improvements there.

The Point’s historic district has more than 100 contributing structures, and the study’s authors determined that after 16 years of sitting vacant save visiting vandals, some of them might be too costly to save. New development, along with new utilities and flood control measures meant to mitigate storm surges and sea level rise, could alter the character of the historic district and the buildings themselves.

Construction would also create unavoidable noise and air quality impacts, the study’s authors wrote.

Construction will impact dozens of protected birds, fish and other species that nest at or migrate through the Point and its watery environs. Dredging and pile driving – not to mention a new marina and ferry terminal – could disturb Bay waters that serve as prime breeding grounds for green sturgeon and steelhead trout, while opening a Bay Trail and other spaces now off-limits to people could impact nesting and migratory birds.

The study offers a host of solutions for blunting those impacts, including conditions imposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on behalf of nesting least terns and a laundry list of regulatory permits that must be obtain before the first pile driver roars to life. Those mitigations, they said, will make the impacts of redevelopment of the Point less than significant for animals already living on and around there.

The study also says that the impacts of tearing apart old buildings laden with lead paint and other toxics and also, building on contaminated land, can also be managed. It says that continued cleanup efforts and adherence to development and other land use restrictions on the Point will protect future residents and workers from exposure to toxics that are still in the groundwater and soil there.

In addition to the development city staffers are proposing, the study contemplated more than a half-dozen other development possibilities that included no new development, a preservation-focused plan, one with multifamily housing only and a high-density alternative that would contain 4,841 homes – the same number the Point’s most recent master developer, SunCal Companies, proposed – and 3.8 million square feet of commercial space. Those alternatives were studied for their potential impacts on the same items; with the exception of the no-build alternative, the report’s authors found little variation in impact across the plans.

The full environmental study and appendices are available on the city’s website or at locations including the City Clerk’s office, Alameda’s three libraries and other locations listed here.

Public hearings will be held at Monday’s Planning Board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue; and a joint Planning Board and City Council meeting scheduled for September 25, which will also begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall. Interested persons and organizations may also submit comments in writing to City Planner Andrew Thomas, either in person or by mail to City Hall or by e-mail, at athomas@alamedaca.gov. The comments will be incorporated into the final environmental study, which will then be considered for approval by the Planning Board and the council.

Separately, the city is conducting a survey to find out what locals would like to name a planned town center at the Point. Anyone interested in participating can pick from one of seven choices until the survey closes, at 6 p.m. September 24.

Comments

Submitted by Vincent San Nicolas (not verified) on Thu, Sep 5, 2013

We have always known traffic would get terrible with any building on the base, it already is if there is an accident on the Oakland side of the tube.
The intersections of Clement or Blanding and Park is a pain in the morning especially if the bridge is up. I was recently speaking to someone regarding warehouse space on the base and he was avoiding Alameda due to the time to get off and on the island and instead concentrated on the San Leandro corridor.

Something for us all to think about, also I like the new layout.

Submitted by Patsy (not verified) on Thu, Sep 5, 2013

Thanks, Michelle, for condensing this for us. The original was daunting.

Submitted by Mary Ellen McMuldren (not verified) on Thu, Sep 5, 2013

Planning meeting Monday - thanks for reminding us! Please remind people too that these marathon meetings are streamed live (if you don't have Comcast cable). Re traffic on the island. I've been reviewing our local school issues and am concerned about all the cross island traffic we are creating with our special schools. I know many driving all across even for elementary school (Bay Farm is attracting Paden kids for example). I don't understand why so many are crowded at Alameda High. I do think there are historical reasons for the divide. However, EHS has the vacant land adjacent to it and a superior location for the redevelopment of one unified high school for the City of Alameda. Affluent bay farm kids could even kayak to school if they are not driving or if buses are not organized. The lower income kids could still walk. I think the vacant point is an opportunity to expand our public infrastructure. It should serve the needs of the public and not just be imagined as a playground/retail space for the imagined consumers. We are a community living here, educating kids here, keeping healthy here. Do we want to be a dense urban area? A tourist attraction? An urban playground for the imbibers of specialty beverages?
Aside from a unified approach to high school Alameda lacks accessible swimming facilities. Most communities or Alameda's relative affluence have done far better. Privatization of swim facilities (some even in a Public Park) does not serve all the citizens.

Submitted by Susan P (not verified) on Fri, Sep 6, 2013

Thanks for posting this. I'm curious to know to what extent they accounted for an increase in the availability of public transit to the Alameda Point area. I live in that area and drive to/from work (through the tube) but if there were a bus to downtown Oakland that stopped with reasonable frequency near my home, I'd happily take it. It seems likely that a lot of people living and working at the former base would also take advantage of frequent bus connections to 12th St. BART.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Fri, Sep 6, 2013

Hi Susan,

Thanks for your comment. As I understood the analysis, it is based on existing transit service. The folks at City Hall have talked about setting up a transportation demand management program at Alameda Point which the Point's residents and and businesses would pay into, with money going toward improving transit. But the analysis pointedly excludes the impact of such a program, saying basically that we won't know what will happen (eg, whether more people will hop on buses or light rail or whatever's put in place instead of driving) until it's put into effect. That said, one of the threads woven into planning for future Point development has been to attract residents who are less likely to drive.

Submitted by Marilyn Pomeroy (not verified) on Sat, Sep 7, 2013

I notice the conspicuous absence of any direct reference to the tube which seems like the major choke point for any development of the point. I intend to read the actual report so perhaps this was just an omission in the reporting. I also question the veracity of the claim that the traffic resulting from building 1400 plus homes and 4841 homes would somehow be the same. If this were true it would be most tempting for city officials to
conclude that the larger number makes more sense from a development standpoint.
And finally, attracting residents who are less likely to drive would require public policy to promote local hiring, a subject that seems to be totally absent from the discussion. The assumption that new jobs would go to those who already reside here has proven to be wrong in the past, so there is no reason to expect a different outcome going forward.

Submitted by Charles Kerns (not verified) on Sat, Sep 7, 2013

How about another link to the mainland--Down at the end of Alameda Point, linking up to Middle Harbor Road. Earlier, I suggested using the old part of the Bay Bridge, but no one listened. That giant, red, white and blue Chinese crane could have carried a big chunk over. Now I guess we would have to build from scratch. :-)

Submitted by Don Draper (not verified) on Mon, Sep 9, 2013

@Susan P, there is a bus connection to Lake Merritt BART.

http://alamedaca.gov/about-alameda/estuary-crossing-shuttle

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