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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Bauters' Media Blitz Pauses Disruptive Caltrans Project

Backroom Project:
Caltrans Tries to Pull a Fast One

Councilman Bauters Drops the Accountability Hammer

Major Highway Bridge Replacements Would Bring Major Headaches for Emeryville

Caltrans, seeking to take a wreaking ball to replace several bridges in the 'maze' intersection of elevated Interstate Highways on Emeryville's southern border and thereby causing major traffic disruptions on local streets, has run into a wreaking ball to its proposal it didn't intend on; namely the ire of Emeryville City Councilman John Bauters.  The formerly fast tracked project, now on hold largely due to Mr Bauters' whirlwind of activity publicly exposing the proposed traffic diversions, would involve diverting traffic for several months at the intersection of Interstate Highways 80, 580 and 880, one of the most crowded highway intersections in the United States.

After working on the proposal for two years behind closed doors at Caltrans, the transportation agency suddenly announced in March it would proceed with its plan to raze several bridges in order to raise them; adding several feet of clearance to accommodate bigger trucks Caltans says.  The public was given only the legal minimum time to respond, raising the Councilman's hackles.  After he discovered Caltrans has claimed its proposal would have "no impact" on Emeryville and that they had not even bothered to first run their proposal by Emeryville City Hall (or Oakland), the Councilman has taken action publicly exposing the public agency.
Mr Bauters has appeared in no less than four media forums alerting the public about the proposal and the lack of accountability at Caltans.  At his insistence and after a large public outcry as a result of his media campaign, Caltrans has paused the project and agreed to rescind their 'Negative Declaration' planning document that makes the fatuous claim of no impact to Emeryville, a claim Mr Bauters calls "a joke".

Even though the documents associated with the Caltrans proposal don't admit it, Emeryville will likely experience major disruptions over a period of up to two years.  Mr Bauters' blog describes the following problems we can expect: "Traffic snarling on local streets, lower air quality resulting from the displacement of large diesel-polluting semi-trucks into sensitive areas (Emery Unified Schools, our Senior Center and Child Care Center, etc.), noise from nighttime construction and the rerouting of trucks overnight, impacts to our local businesses and economy, the accelerated degradation of local streets, and safety impacts for bicyclists and pedestrians".

A 'Negative Declaration', sometimes called a 'Neg Dec', is a cursory and lower level state required document, much desired by applicants, that precludes a more onerous and expensive Environmental Impact Report (EIR).  Neg Decs can only be approved if a series of questions can be responded to negatively as to the likely environmental impact of a project.   Critics have noted the great financial incentive to lie or exaggerate on a Neg Dec to avoid an EIR.  The Caltrans claim getting Mr Bauters in a huff is unusual because it is a public agency making a non-credible negative claim as opposed to such claims made routinely by private developers.
Here in Emeryville, a notorious example of such a phony environmental claim was made in the late 1980's, before the advent of John Bauters when the developer of the then proposed Powell Street Plaza mall (the Trader Joe's mall) submitted a Neg Dec with a section on archaeological resources.  The developer audaciously answered NO to the question: 'Would this project likely disrupt possible archaeological remains at the site?'  Conspicuously, the site is located directly on the largest Native American midden and burial shellmound on the West Coast.  The same shellmound footprint caused major disruptions years later at the Bay Street Mall located just across the street when the developer of that site dug up a trove of human bones and Native American tools and votives, remains from what was a major center of human activity going back at least 10,000 years.  The developer of the Bay Street Mall was required to produce an EIR and as a result, an archaeologist was on site during the excavations for that project enabling recovery of the objects and reinterment of the human remains.  Because of the less rigorous Negative Declaration of the Powell Street Plaza, no archaeologist was required, leaving the excavation contractor free from any such nuisance prying eyes.

Councilman Bauters' KQED story,  a San Francisco Chronicle article as well as radio interviews are part of the media blitz our Council member has enjoined to bring accountability to this Caltans project.  Readers may get more detailed information on the Councilman's blog.

UPDATE- The Bay City Beacon also covered this story.  Read it HERE.

Alameda County Transportation Commission Meeting
Emeryville City Councilmember John Bauters calls the Caltrans proposal "a joke".
The accountability hammer drops at 26:26.


  1. Bauters is only trying to get in the Bay Area media spotlight to help his political career after he leaves Emeryville. Everything he does is to help himself.

  2. It is heart-warming to see the level of dedication and effectiveness that John Bauters shows our city every day. If we don’t have him forever, I will be grateful for the time we do have him serving US.

  3. John Bauters sure has his critics who can't seem to acknowledge when he does something good. Why should he be panned for this caltrans thing? This is a helpful and good thing he has done.

  4. In response to the first "Anonymous," The skill and effectiveness Bauters has shown in Emeryville isn't obviated by any political plans
    he might have.

    1. Agreed. He's working on making a name for himself by getting things done and doing good things for the city. That's what all politicians do. Positive achievements build positive reputations.