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Monday, April 5, 2010

Falsified Traffic Report No Impediment--Office Tower Approval Will Stand

Wareham Benefits From Fake City Document

Despite admitting that officials presented false documents to help win approval of a towering office building and parking garage, officials said they will not reconsider or revisit the decision. "It's already been approved," said Charlie Bryant, Emeryville's planning director.
Bryant cautioned that any new information arrived too late to make a difference for the so-called "Transit Center," an office tower and parking garage that violates the city's zoning and general plan in several respects. The building will rise along Horton Street, Emeryville's only Bike Boulevard. Opponents have claimed that the building will attract so much traffic that Horton Street will no longer be safe for bicyclists. Bike lanes were removed from most of the route since it was declared a Bike Boulevard.

In documents submitted for the proposed building, analysts said that not a single commuter to the new building would use the northern part of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, a fact later disproved.

The Tattler alerted county officials to the error and city officials were forced to compile new traffic figures. Mr. Bryant on Monday said that the new numbers released in a memorandum would not affect the decision since the increase in traffic for Overland Avenue would be small enough to not constitute a 'negative impact'.

Responding to questions raised by the Tattler, Mr. Bryant told the City's Pedestrian/Bicycle Committee that "in retrospect, it's doubtful 100 percent of the cars from the project would use Powell Street," instead of Overland Avenue.
Oakland-based traffic consultant AECOM recalculated the numbers at Mr. Bryant's request after public pressure grew. The firm stated in a report "we recognize that it is certainly possible, and probably likely, that some level of project traffic may use Overland Avenue". Upon completion of the calculations it was found in fact the original Mitigated Negative Declaration was in error. Mr. Bryant said he was unwilling to comment as to why he didn't investigate the curious no traffic finding on his own after Planning Commissioners expressed disbelief. "I choose not to answer" Mr Bryant exclaimed.

Negative Declarations are documents generally issued to non-controversial projects unlikely to damage the local environment. An Environmental Impact Report (EIR) is required in cases where a project may cause such damage. Activists maintain that an EIR should be completed because of the project's location and size. The Negative Declaration document was used by both the Planning Commission and the Council and it informed them of important environmental impacts and as mandated under the California Environmental Quality Act. The document was ultimately used to approve the nine story project.

It is still not known why Mr Bryant and the Planning Department believed that no cars would use Overland Avenue from the proposed Transit Center even as the Planning Commission asked for clarification.

Planning Commission members had dismissed the traffic analysis. At the January 28th meeting, Commissioner Jim Martin joined two of his colleges and said the analysis was "not credible". Now, three months after the Tattler first raised the issue, it is undeniable that Mr Martin was correct; the main environmental document for the subsequently approved Transit Center project was flawed.

In response Mr. Bryant released the memorandum Monday that acknowledged the Mitigated Negative Declaration, was indeed flawed.

At the January 28th meeting, Commissioner Martin said the document's finding that no project generated traffic would use the contested Overland section of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard was "simply not credible". Mr Martin said "cars use the Overland section right now when Powell Street gets clogged up. Clearly Transit Center traffic will also use Overland". He added the Negative Declaration document might have purposely left the traffic off Overland Avenue to make the project more politically palatable owing to the sensitivity the council has shown to not giving the impression that the bike boulevard is expendable.


  1. How much money do we pay these jokers?

  2. the tax payers or Rich Robbins?