City Council Uninterested in Traffic Effects From Sherwin Williams Project Presuming Bike Boulevard in Place
Certified EIR Says Apartments More Important Than Bike Boulevard
Now there’s no other way to spin it; regardless of their pro-bike rhetoric, the Emeryville City Council doesn’t want to have a bike boulevard on Horton Street. Bikes dangerously navigating a traffic clogged street with more than 3000 cars and trucks per day is OK they told us but a bike boulevard, a street safe for biking with less than 3000 cars, is not something they’re interested in, not if it means scaling back the Sherwin Williams project.
At the September 6th council meeting the Emeryville City Council put the final nail in the coffin for the Horton Street Bike Boulevard when they approved the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the 540 apartment Sherwin Williams project, a project who’s scale is incompatible with having a bike boulevard on Horton Street. Says who? The EIR itself says it: the loss of the bike boulevard is going to be a “significant and unmitigated negative environmental impact” when the whole Sherwin Williams project is approved in October. In deference to the EIR, the City Council expressed their desire ultimately to sign a ‘Declaration of Overriding Considerations’, a CEQA document that tells the State of California the Council is aware of the loss of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard but that they think the Sherwin Williams apartment project is so good and so necessary that losing a bike boulevard is well worth that cost. Adding more housing is more important than the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, Emeryville's most important north/south bike corridor says the Council.
Other than the years of delay they have proffered, how do we know the City Council isn’t interested in delivering a bike boulevard for Horton Street? They told us as much. When they certified the EIR the Council said YES to its traffic study that doesn’t reveal what the effects the project would have on neighborhood traffic if there was a bike boulevard on Horton Street. The traffic study approved by the City Council only shows what the effect on traffic there would be if there is NOT a bike boulevard on Horton Street. The Council had a chance to re-do the traffic study so they could know how the project would have effected neighborhood traffic with the Horton Street Bike Boulevard intact but they said they weren’t interested in that on the 6th. And so they certified the EIR as it was.
That means the City Council is either willing to commit a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) violation by negligently passing a bad EIR or they have no interest in creating a bike boulevard for Horton Street as Emeryville’s General Plan mandates. A violation of CEQA mandates would expose the City to a lawsuit, something incidentally the Council expressed worry over at the September 6th meeting. The choice revealed at the meeting is that instead they’re going to (continue to) violate our General Plan with its requirement to keep traffic below 3000 vehicle trips per day.
The 540 unit Sherwin Williams project
is incompatible with having a
bike boulevard on Horton Street
says the EIR.
The decision to certify the Sherwin Williams EIR finally puts to an end the years of speculation and delay on implementing Emeryville's Bike Plan dictates for Horton Street. Developers have said they are loath to allow a bike boulevard there and the Council has always placated the developer’s desires, even now the new "progressive" majority. Developers have wanted to load Horton Street up with traffic to maximize their profits for their projects the Council keeps approving.
Bicyclists first alerted the City Council to the safety problems with excess traffic on Horton Street in the late 1990’s when the Bicycle Advisory Committee for the City of Emeryville put the need for traffic calming on the street front and center in the first Bike Plan that the Council certified in 1998. The Council never delivered on the traffic calming the first Bike Plan mandated. Later when businesses complained about the bike lanes called for in the plan, lanes that took away parking spaces for cars in the Park Avenue area, the business community lobbied the Council and the new Bike Plan, certified in 2012, took away the bike lanes but made Horton Street a bike boulevard instead. Bike boulevards are supposed to be ‘bike preferred but cars allowed’ corridors.
Businesses liked the fact that the new Plan retained the parking spaces for cars but developers soon started calling foul because of the limit on the number of cars the Plan requires for bike boulevards. The Council responded to the developer’s complaints by ignoring the traffic calming mandates for Horton Street.
The City of Emeryville never even tried the Horton Street Bike Boulevard idea. The business and developer community was mollified instead. The street has always been a car centric thoroughfare with more than 3000 vehicle trips per day. The first Bike Plan failed to deliver traffic calming and the second Bike Plan failed to deliver less than 3000 vehicle trips per day. What Horton Street has been and continues to be is just a regular street with funny purple signs and stencils on the asphalt. It has never in 18 years complied with our General Plan.