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Sacramento St in Berkeley is currently under construction for what is described as a “complete streets” project. Here is the existing conditions:

As you can see, this is an extremely wide 4-lane arterial running through a residential neighborhood. The roadway has very low traffic volumes, leading to speeding and dangerous passing. The obvious solution would be a road diet to reduce speeds and space for buffered bike lanes (or perhaps even cycletracks). Instead, the city is only proposing to put in some new intersection treatments without doing any lane reductions or other measures to reduce speeding.

Let’s compare to a very similar project going on along Oakland’s 14th Ave. Here is the existing road configuration, which as you can see is also a 4-lane residential arterial:

Given the similarity of the two streets, one might expect these neighboring cities to implement similar solutions. But aside from the intersection treatments, the approaches are quite different. Berkeley is not adding bike lanes and will maintain its street as a dangerous high-speed thoroughfare. Oakland is doing a full road diet to calm traffic. Thus, the Oakland project is complete, the Berkeley one is not. The sad thing is that the Berkeley project sits directly outside a BART station and connects to a popular bike trail. The top community concern in meetings was slowing traffic, so how did Berkeley end up doing the bare minimum?

Oakland 14th Ave road diet
Berkeley “Complete” Streets project

Dining with the Devil

By now you may have heard about Governor Newsom’s controversial dinner party at the posh French Laundry restaurant. Most criticism has focused on whether the party violated COVID social-distancing rules (almost certainly it did).

The cherry-on-top is that the party was to honor Jason Kinney — an oil industry lobbyist. Kinney had worked on getting permits approved for a major expansion of fracking in Kern County. The Newsom Administration approved those permits less than a month before the party:

The exquisite dinner was held to celebrate the 50th birthday of Kinney, a Newsom insider and lobbying firm partner with a knack for getting his way in the corridors of power. For example, Newsom — who claims to care deeply about climate change — came under fire from environmentalists after his administration approved fracking permits for Aera Energy. Who represents Aera in Sacramento? “That company, Aera Energy — a joint venture of Shell and ExxonMobil — is represented by the lobbying firm Axiom Advisors. Axiom’s lobbyists include Jason Kinney, a senior advisor to Newsom while he served as lieutenant governor,” reported Steve Horn of Capital & Main.

All the national environmental organizations have a major blind spot for urban design. I guess it is easier to slam Exxon and Trump rather than local city councils for their car-centric zoning. Which brings us to a bizarre candidate endorsement from Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA.

Leonard has endorsed Sophie Hahn for Berkeley City Council District 5. Unless you live in Berkeley then you probably would not recognize the name, but most local advocates know Hahn all too well. During her time on the Zoning Board she fought against infill development, especially around the downtown BART station. In her first run for City Council, she was not only opposed to an AC Transit BRT project — but was in favor of voter Measure KK. That measure would have prohibited any reduction in road capacity for cars or parking unless first approved by voters in a general election. The measure would have severely curtailed work on the city’s bike and pedestrian plans.

Annie Leonard lives in Berkeley, has a Masters Degree in City Planning, and tweets non-stop about climate change — so she cannot use the excuse that she was not aware of Hahn’s problems. That makes the endorsement all the more embarrassing for her and for Greenpeace.

Nobody wants to be a bag-holder:

Fortress Investment Group delayed the pricing of $3.2 billion of municipal bonds to build a passenger railroad between southern California and Las Vegas, a sign that investors were hesitant to finance such a speculative project at a time of deep economic uncertainty.

Lead underwriter Morgan Stanley had planned to price the deal Wednesday, according to a pricing wire viewed by Bloomberg. The offering has now been postponed with no new date set.

Brightline has until Dec. 1 to sell the bonds to meet a deadline from California officials, who had granted the company the ability to sell tax-exempt debt. In September, Brightline sold $1 billion in short-term securities to preserve its federal allocation of so-called private activity bonds that it will refinance next year, according to offering documents.

A critical section of Bay Trail running past Golden Gate Fields was opened this past June linking Berkeley and Richmond. This wildly popular segment is useful for both recreational and commuter cyclists.

But not everyone was happy about this path. Back in 2013, Norman Laforce filed a lawsuit against the EB Regional Park District over the EIR for the project.

This was hardly the first time Laforce had battled the park district. I first heard about Laforce in 1995, when he tried blocking construction of another Bay Trail segment. He has a long history of filing frivolous lawsuits and trying to prevent the public from accessing their public parks. His world view is that parks are to be fenced off from the public. He has tried to remove kiteboarders and dogs from Albany Beach, prohibit cyclists from riding on fire roads, and even opposed the Berkeley High girls crew team from rowing in the Aquatic Park lagoon.

Laforce is now running for a seat on the EBRPD Board of Directors. Hilariously, his website features a picture of him with his dog on a trail, and talks about the importance of improving park access to “urban youth”. If you live in EBRPD Ward 1 (Berkeley/Richmond area), it is critical that you vote for his opponent, Elizabeth Echols.

Kurt Reinhold was the black man shot dead on Sept 23rd by Orange County Sheriff deputies — for the crime of jaywalking. One unanswered question about this deeply troubling incident is: what was the OC Sheriff doing patrolling a commercial district in San Clemente?

According to the official narrative, the deputies were part of a homeless outreach task force responding to a report that Kurt was walking in the street. Another possibility is that they were participating in a State-funded jaywalking sting. Here is an announcement the OC Sheriff released two days prior to the shooting:

This blog has long criticized the OTS safety enforcement program, because it hassles pedestrians over picayune violations of the vehicle code. The video recording of Reinhold’s murder begins with him being visibly agitated over his minor “jaywalking” transgression, and asking where he was supposed to cross given the street’s lack of crosswalks. This has all the hallmarks of a classic OTS sting operation: pick a location with dysfunctional traffic engineering and then write lots of jaywalking tickets.

What can be more absurd than spending $150 million on a faregate scam when the BART budget is in free fall? And yet the EB Times still calls Allen a “fiscal conservative”.