Traffic is focus of hearing on Alameda Point development study

Traffic is focus of hearing on Alameda Point development study

Michele Ellson

The traffic that development at Alameda Point will – or won’t – create was the central focus of Monday’s Planning Board hearing on a draft report detailing the potential environmental and other impacts of the proposed development scheme.

The hearing was the first of two intended to offer the public the chance to weigh in on whether the environmental impact report adequately addresses the potential traffic, wildlife and other 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. A second hearing is scheduled for September 25.

Only three people came forward to offer their comments on the 1,000-page study, which the city released less than a week ago; two of the three raised concerns about the traffic they believe development at the Point could generate. One of the speakers, Ethan Clifton, questioned whether the city is prepared to address increased traffic on pedestrians in Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood.

“Chinatown is going to be very heavily involved in our project,” Clifton said. “It occurred to me that Oakland would have a lot to say about what we do. And I hope we have a solution.”

But some Planning Board members said that the size, language and layout of the study obscures the fact that traffic will worsen whether Alameda Point is redeveloped or not. Board member John Knox White noted that the study shows Point development creating “significant and unavoidable” impacts at only four of the nearly five dozen intersections studied, all of which are in Oakland, “because we can’t tell Oakland to fix them.”

Board president David Burton said he’d like a better breakdown of the cumulative traffic impacts proposed developments across the Island and in Oakland would have on the intersections studied. In addition to the traffic Point development might add on its own, the study also looks at how much traffic it will add in conjunction with other anticipated development on the city’s Northern Waterfront and elsewhere.

The evening’s major discussion point, though, focused on the potential effectiveness of a transportation demand management plan meant to curb the amount of traffic new Point development could generate. City Planner Andrew Thomas said a plan will be required at Alameda Point – a preliminary plan could be available for consideration by the end of this month – but the draft environmental impact report doesn’t show a corresponding reduction in traffic, he said, because it’s hard to quantify the number of people who will actually use it.

“I’m confident it will definitely reduce traffic. We just don’t know how much,” he said, adding that the draft environmental study offers a worst-case scenario on traffic.

A similar plan is being put in motion for the Alameda Landing development; businesses and residents who settle there will be required to pay fees that fund shuttles and other transit options and programs set up to get solo drivers off the road. Thomas said the first shuttles are set to roll when Target opens its doors next month.

Board member Lorre Zuppan said she wanted more information on the success of such programs in other places. She said a lot of the retail city leaders are seeking in order to keep shoppers on the Island will require shoppers to bring their cars.

“You’re not going to take a bike or bus to go get furniture,” Zuppan said.

Knox White said that a number of cities, including Arlington, Va.; Boulder; Vancouver; and Santa Monica have successfully implemented plans to blunt the traffic impact of new development. But he said city leaders will need to settle on firm traffic reduction goals and decide whether they want to make development and other decisions with an eye toward meeting them.

“There are lots of cities that are out there and are being successful on reducing the impact of their growth. We’re just going to have to make some hard decisions to get there,” he said.

Thomas said the purpose of the environmental study is to disclose all of a development’s potential impacts – and offer any solutions for addressing them – in order to inform local leaders’ decisions about proposed development projects. The purpose of Monday’s hearing, he said, was to review the study and take public comment on its adequacy. The comments, and the city’s responses, are incorporated into the final study.

In addition to traffic, the study shows the proposed Point development could have significant and unavoidable impacts on the former Naval air station’s historic district, meaning that the impacts would persist even with the solutions proposed to address them. The study outlines significant impacts to wildlife on and around the Point, but says they will be less than significant if the solutions it suggests are implemented.

It also contemplates alternatives to the current proposal, ranging from a no-development alternative to one that offers the nearly 5,000 homes that former Point developer SunCal proposed.

The Planning Board and City Council will conduct a second public hearing to take comments on the draft study at 7 p.m. September 25 in council chambers at City Hall, 2263 Santa Clara Avenue. Comments may also be submitted 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 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.

Comments

Submitted by Richard Bangert on Tue, Sep 10, 2013

"...a number of cities, including Arlington, Va.; Boulder; Vancouver; and Santa Monica have successfully implemented plans to blunt the traffic impact of new development."

None of those examples are islands. What are the successful plans?

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, Sep 11, 2013

I'm working on getting more info on this. Stay tuned!

Submitted by Jon Spangler on Sat, Dec 14, 2013

"“You’re not going to take a bike or bus to go get furniture,” Zuppan said."

I guess PB Member Zuppan has never heard of furniture delivery trucks. (Would she also insist that I take my car to buy books, groceries, hardware, power tools, ice cream, jewelry, or clothes? I have bought all these and more while bicycling to local retailers.)

Just because I drive a Prius or ride a bicycle to a store does not mean I cannot spend lots of money. Although I do not own my own 1-ton delivery truck to carry home new pieces of furniture, I can take a credit card with me as a pedestrian or on my bike to shop for a bed or a bookcase just as easily as going by car. And parking's easier that way, too.

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