My Word: Alameda needs moratorium on new development permits

Community Opinion by Eugenie P. Thomson, P.E. : eastbaytimes – excerpt

Catellus. Alameda Landing. Del Monte. The old Naval Air Station — Alameda Point. What do all these projects have in common? Level of service (LOS) is the only criteria the city of Alameda has ever used to evaluate the traffic impacts for these megaprojects — or any other project the city has pushed through, for that matter.

The LOS-based traffic studies for these development projects have all concluded that the traffic delays they produced would be grossly lower than the delays actually occurring on Alameda streets and morning peak traffic delays dropping at the West End by 2035. Yet now, with the Encinal Terminals project (589 new homes), the city has suddenly done an about-face:

“LOS has historically proven to be an inadequate measure in Alameda because residents experience delays (at) (sic) certain intersections, yet the LOS analysis indicates that the level of service at the intersection is adequate. The delay that is being experienced is the result of downstream congestion, not a result of the intersection design or the volume of cars moving through the intersection (source: Encinal Terminals DSEIR [pdf], page 250 or page 4.G-14).”

With those words, the city admitted that the traffic studies for the Encinal Terminals and all previous megaprojects are worthless. How strange is that? I’ve been raising this point for the past 20 years in a half-dozen or more letters to City Hall…

The people of Alameda are not anti-development. We simply want the facts, including honest projections of how a proposed development and the string of expected developments will affect the time it takes us to exit or enter the Island.

These projections must be realistic and market-based: How much housing will be added as a result of this project? How many jobs, and are those numbers realistic for an island without any earthquake-lifeline-caliber connections to the mainland? We want a good traffic plan, and we want to be assured the dollars exist to build out the traffic plan via public funding and developer fees and that future developments pay their fair share.

A formal and transparent risk analysis must be undertaken to review the city costs to support all the developments, the projections of job and housing growth, the costs associated with environmental and seismic risks, and the ways to finance the public infrastructure needed. This has been standard for major transportation capital programs like high-speed rail or BART extensions and is a requirement of funding; whoever provides the capital needs evidence and assurance that the projects will be successful.

As it stands, by the time we know the facts about a proposed project and who pays for what, the developers are long gone.

We need a moratorium on building permits for these new development projects until we have a clear understanding of all potential costs and traffic impacts. If you agree, speak up on the Encinal Terminals and Alameda Marina projects; these will soon go to council… (more)

 

Southern California Association of Governments Stalling on CEQA Reform

By James Brasuell : planetizen : excerpt
One of the largest, most influential regional governments in the state has asked for exemptions from changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that will measure Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) instead of Level of Service (LOS).

“[The Southern California Association of Government] sent a last-minute letter attempting to delay progressive updates to California’s outdated environmental standards,” according to an article by Melanie Curry, who explains in more detail.

In the letter [PDF], Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)—the regional transportation planning organization for much of southern California—requested exemptions for highway expansion projects and freight corridors from proposed state rules that could show their true environmental impact in a way that old rules do not.

In effect, SCAG is asking the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, which is developing the reformed CEQA requirements, to “limit the new VMT measure to projects that are close to transit, and also to ‘grandfather in’ highway expansion and freight corridor projects that have already been approved in planning documents.” According to an environmentalist source cited in the article, it looks like SCAG is asking for exemptions on projects that won’t perform will under the new environmental review process in the state. According to a SCAG source, the letter was meant to “request that OPR focus first on transit priority areas and allow a longer opt-in period for other areas.”… (more)

San Francisco is not alone in its request for exemption from the Governor’s new bill. Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) wants exemptions related to LOS and VMT.

With temperatures rising you can’t expect people to give up there air-conditioned cars to ride buses, bikes and walk. No one in their right mind wants to put themselves in that position. The best solution for the environment is to build solar sufficient housing and that is 4 to 5 stories maximum. Then you will need a state law that protects those solar units from shade by nearby buildings. Sort of the opposite of stack and pack units being pushed now.

Southern California Association of Governments Stalling on CEQA Reform

By James Brasuell : planetzen – excerpt

One of the largest, most influential regional governments in the state has asked for exemptions from changes to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that will measure Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) instead of Level of Service (LOS).

“[The Southern California Association of Government] sent a last-minute letter attempting to delay progressive updates to California’s outdated environmental standards,” according to an article by Melanie Curry, who explains in more detail.

In the letter [PDF], Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)—the regional transportation planning organization for much of southern California—requested exemptions for highway expansion projects and freight corridors from proposed state rules that could show their true environmental impact in a way that old rules do not.

In effect, SCAG is asking the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, which is developing the reformed CEQA requirements, to “limit the new VMT measure to projects that are close to transit, and also to ‘grandfather in’ highway expansion and freight corridor projects that have already been approved in planning documents.” According to an environmentalist source cited in the article, it looks like SCAG is asking for exemptions on projects that won’t perform will under the new environmental review process in the state. According to a SCAG source, the letter was meant to “request that OPR focus first on transit priority areas and allow a longer opt-in period for other areas.”… (more)

RELATED:
SoCal Government Coalition Wants to Keep Planning for Cars
SCAG sent a last-minute letter attempting to delay progressive updates to California’s outdated environmental standards.
In the letter [PDF], Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)—the regional transportation planning organization for much of southern California—requested exemptions for highway expansion projects and freight corridors from proposed state rules that could show their true environmental impact in a way that old rules do not… (more)

California Has Officially Ditched Car-Centric ‘Level of Service’

by and : la.streetsblog – excerpt

Ding, dong…LOS is dead. At least as far as the state of California is concerned.

In short, instead of measuring whether or not a project makes it less convenient to drive, it will now measure whether or not a project contributes to other state goals, like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing multimodal transportation, preserving open spaces, and promoting diverse land uses and infill development.

“This is exciting,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, principal and director of strategy at Nelson\Nygaard. “Changing from LOS to VMT does away with a  contradiction that applicants currently face under CEQA. The contradiction between the state’s greenhouse gas reduction requirements and the transportation analysis requirements is no more.”

This revision in state law promises many positive changes… (more)