Upzoning satisfies politicians over Alamedans, and Grand Street plan neglects disability parking.
Apartments in every neighborhood
To the Editor:
Remember how in the old days our city employees worked to enhance the safety and quality of life for the residents of Alameda? Well, judging by what we’ve been experiencing over the past few years, those days appear to be long gone as we witness that at least one of the most outspoken members the of the senior staff who is willing to accept paychecks from us and feel entitled to be eligible to receive a very generous pension plan appears to be working not for us, but for the political machine in Sacramento.
On the 15th of this month, the Planning Director intends to present to the City Council and recommend for approval his own personal plan to upzone every one of our neighborhoods. And if accepted by the Council, developers will be allowed to construct apartment buildings wherever they see fit and without being required to upgrade infrastructure. They won’t be required to expand the neighborhood electrical or water access or expand the sewer system that will be required to handle the increased flow from their projects’ occupants.
The plan in question was submitted directly to the State by our City Staff without first obtaining the approval of the Planning Board, let alone the City Council. The plan that was submitted to the State was designed by Staff apparently for the sole purpose of complying with what Staff believed was required by Sacramento’s political machine. And given that the State’s housing requirement, Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA), can be satisfied quite easily without the need for universal upzoning, I believe it is safe to conclude that the plan was drafted in a fashion that would satisfy the politicians without any regard for what would best serve the residents of Alameda.
And now, on November 15, we must address the City Council and make known our dissatisfaction with the plan that will allow for apartment buildings to be constructed everywhere, including in all the primarily single-family and duplex home neighborhoods that provide the majority of our non-commercial housing.
It’s about accessibility, not just parking
To the Editor:
The recently approved redesign of Grand Street puts the wants of the bike community over the needs of the disabled. By eliminating street parking in front of the majority of homes, access to wheelchair accessible vans and paratransit vans that serve disabled residents is eliminated. Most of the driveways on Grand Street are tandem and cannot accommodate either of those modes of transportation.
The justification for this project is that Grand Street is a “high injury corridor” and that this will help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of automobiles. Both of these allegations are false. According to APD, this stretch of Grand Street from Shoreline Drive to Encinal Avenue has had no car accidents this year to date. There has been just one bike accident in the last 10 years. Ironically, the redesign of Shoreline Drive with separated bike lanes, already has had 13 reported car accidents this year, one death, and several bike-to-motorized-bike accidents in the bike lanes. With the mandate from the State that no new gas-powered cars can be sold in California starting in 2035, the climate change argument also is not justified.
It is a noble goal to get more people to use alternate forms of transportation, but not at the expense of the disabled. There is no need to redesign Grand Street for safety regarding bikes, as it is functioning just fine as it is—witness the lack of accidents. The needs of the disabled and infirm should take precedence over the wants of the bike riders. According to the California Department of Transportation’s Class IV Bikeway Guidance published February 7, 2022, “In many contexts it may not be appropriate or feasible to have a continuous separated bikeway through certain street environments, such as on the same side of a street with many driveways. A bike lane may perform better in this context.” There are many driveways on this stretch of Grand Street with even more north of Encinal Avenue where this design is planned to continue.
The majority vote by the Council did not take any of this into account when approving the redesign. I am not denying that improvements could and should be made. The proposed pedestrian improvements will be a great addition and speed cushions could slow traffic. This can be done without sacrificing the ability for a disabled person to have a paratransit van pick them up in front of their home. With the current design, the disabled parking spot could be as far as a football field away (360 feet), which is not navigable for a disabled person. This contradicts the City’s own policy on getting a disabled parking space, which mentions 100 feet.
The City has not reached out to the residents north of Encinal Avenue to let them know their plans. If you are a resident or neighbor of Grand Street north of Encinal Avenue, be aware that this plan is coming to your area too!
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