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Archive for the ‘planning’ Category

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.

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Mayor Steven Sharf, you may recall, is the one who made a tasteless joke during his state-of-the-city address about building a wall around Cupertino and making San Jose pay for it. Cupertino has a severe jobs/housing balance, and Sharf has been vehemently opposed to new infill housing in Cupertino.

Also receiving a Sierra Club endorsement is Palo Alto councilwoman Lydia Kuo, who wants a citywide height limit and opposes transit lanes.

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Robert Reich is a NIMBY

Robert Reich, author of The System: Who Rigged It, wants to help the poor and homeless by….blocking infill development on his street:

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The “character” of his North Berkeley neighborhood was originally the result of racially restrictive covenants. After the courts outlawed the covenants, they were replaced by zoning rules which served the same purpose. Berkeley was one of the first cities in the country to use zoning this way.

And sadly, it is not the first time Dr. Reich has proposed keeping the working poor as far away as possible:

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Blood on their hands

It was 1 decade ago that Berkeley City Council canceled the AC Transit BRT project, a decision which generated nationwide ridicule. Councilmember Robinson is trying to revive the project, and asked council to reverse the decision. This may be just virtue signaling (Berkeley routinely passes meaningless proclamations), but we’ll see:

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The 2010 AC Transit BRT project was much more than bus lanes — it was a Complete Street makeover with left-turn pockets, bike lanes, and crosswalk fixes to make Telegraph safer for all road users.

From 2010 until 2018 (the last year data is available) the CHP SWITRS database records a whopping 216 injuries on Berkeley’s portion of Telegraph Ave. How many of those injuries could have been prevented had the BRT project been built? Well, we can look to Oakland where a road-diet along its portion of Telegraph reduced total injuries by 40%. Oakland DOT also reports that their Telegraph improvements accomplished a Vision-Zero milestone: no pedestrian collisions in crosswalks. By contrast, Berkeley’s section of Telegraph had 54 pedestrian injuries in the years 2010-2018.

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Injury collisions (all types)

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Bernie is a NIMBY

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Nobody is being displaced — the property is a former horse racetrack.

And it is not the only time Senator Sanders has intervened in local development politics…

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The Problem: transporting thousands of employees from/to a very large North Bayshore employer in Mountain View to the Caltrain station.

The solution, as proposed by some on the Mountain View City Council: a $1 billion monorail:

The idea has been floating around since 2009 under several names and iterations — Personal Rapid Transit, pod cars, SkyTran, autonomous shuttles, monorails and gondolas — all aimed at solving the practical challenge of efficiently moving commuters roughly 3 miles, from the city’s downtown transit center to Google, NASA Ames and other major employers.

Despite the decadelong wait and worsening traffic, the project suffered another setback last month. An $850,000 study to figure out the land requirements needed for the future Automated Guideway Transit (AGT) line, originally intended to begin last month, has been pushed back to November. Council members granted the request of city staff who sought a one to two year delay, citing burdensome workloads and a vacancy in the public works department. The study now aims be complete in April 2021. Estimated costs to build an elevated system over surface streets could cost as much as $195 million per mile, raising questions over how the city could cobble together enough transportation funds to pay as much as $1 billion.

There is of course a trivial solution: just stripe bus lanes. The $850k cost of the study is enough to pay for it. Google and the other employers already have buses, as does the VTA.

prt_mv

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After months of construction, the new 2-block $10 million Shattuck “reconfiguration” project is now operating in downtown Berkeley. Whereas Shattuck used to split into a northbound and southbound leg, the road now makes the old southbound section two-way. The northbound leg is turned into a giant turn pocket:

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If you find the above diagram confusing, the red arrow indicates the old travel path for northbound traffic (Shattuck West used to be one-way). So $10 million was spent just to streamline northbound car traffic at the Shattuck/University intersection.

The reconfigured Shattuck is now more of a traffic sewer (even the left-turns were eliminated). For drivers, this is really great because they can blast through downtown. For bicyclists though, the new road is stressful. To fit 4 lanes in this section, the traffic lanes were narrowed. While narrow lanes can sometimes serve to calm traffic, in this case the result is impatient motorists passing bicyclists with mere inches to spare.

The Shattuck reconfiguration project is one piece of a package of projects to increase automobile access to the downtown, including a new $40 million parking garage (LEED Certified of course), and additional “back-in” parking spaces along Shattuck East. While other cities are creating cycletracks and even eliminating car traffic in their downtowns, Berkeley is moving in the opposite direction.

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Mayor Arreguin at the ribbon cutting for the new Center St. parking garage

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Shattuck construction

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Four car lanes, wider sidewalks — but no bike lanes or cycletracks

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Biden wanted to ban disco

Hillary Clinton wanted to ban video games. Biden wanted to ban raves. Can’t imagine why more young people don’t come out to vote…

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Further delays on BART-San Jose project

I am Jack’s complete lack of surprise:

BART service to downtown San Jose — including the crucial stops at the Diridon train station and First Street — could slip to as late as 2030 under some new estimates being floated by the Valley Transportation Authority. At one point, political and business leaders had anticipated BART service beginning in 2026 in downtown San Jose.

The reasons for the new estimates for BART service, as of now? VTA cites multiple factors. For one thing, environmental clearance had been anticipated in 2017 but was pushed back to 2018. Then, to help minimize disruption to merchants along Santa Clara Street, beneath which BART trains would run, VTA spent additional time to craft a single-bore tunnel option for BART’s approval. 

The EIR had nothing to do with it. The single-bore option is what caused the delay. BART had originally planned on conventional cut-cover construction, but chucked those plans to start over from scratch on a more complex design. A 4-year delay usually results in higher costs, so don’t be surprised when there is a follow-up announcement on ‘unexpected’ cost increases.

deepbore

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