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Friday, March 29, 2013

Planning Commissioner Offers Solution to Pedestrian Path Problem

Plan Straightens Ped Path, Takes Away 
Safety Problems
Will Detractors be Appeased?

Emeryville Planning Commissioner Sean Moss has waded into the imbroglio over the City Council's idea to remove a pedestrian path slated for the Triangle neighborhood with a creative fix for the much publicized safety concerns that have threatened the path with removal.  The pedestrian thoroughfare, the Escuela Bilingue Internacional path (EBI) was required to be built as a condition of approval for the private Spanish immersion school on San Pablo Avenue but it received complaints from two would be neighbors and as a consequence, City Hall proposed amending the City's General Plan to permanently remove the path.  Mr Moss previously appealed to his colleagues on the Planning Commission and the City Council to disallow removal of the path saying the path  comports with the General Plan's guiding principles.  One of the original complainants joined with Mr Moss and has spoken out against removing the path.

Commissioner Moss' new idea involves moving the EBI parking lot to take advantage of the property line jog and remove the jog from the pedestrian path, the main reason neighbors cited for safety concerns.  The idea would seem to render impotent the crime issues some City Council members glommed onto at their last meeting.

The Council will make their final decision on Tuesday night and this idea from Sean Moss should help inform the Council members as they consider amending our new General Plan.

Here is the letter from Commissioner Moss to the City Council dated Friday March 29th:

Hello Councilmembers:

As you consider alternate options for a mid-block pedestrian pathway between 45th and 47th Streets, I write to you to ensure that all options are considered.  

There has been much discussion since the EBI project was first submitted regarding the safety of the proposed pathway.  At the time EBI was approved, some residents advocated for a straight pathway to enhance safety.  Due to the existing configuration of the property, EBI claimed that they were not able to accommodate a straight pathway and the City Council, in their approval of the project, agreed that this option was not feasible.  I find it somewhat paradoxical that the Council is now considering eliminating the pathway based on safety concerns that were, in part, created during the Council's approval of the project.      

I submit to you one alternative design which I sketched out in about 10 minutes.  It is by no means the only alternative available, but it is meant to demonstrate that plenty of alternatives exist.  The design I have sketched out could easily be refined to include additional landscaping and to further enhance the pedestrian experience within it.  We accept these types of pathways through commercial parking lots frequently as a way to provide pedestrian circulation through a auto-dominated environment.  Several commercial parking lots in and around Emeryville have similar pathways.
The parking lot shown in this sketch would be a replacement for the existing northern parking lot.  The existing northern parking lot and the remainder of the large, contiguous area next to the existing building would be available to EBI for future development.

 Having previously worked as a consultant, I am keenly aware of the needs of property owners.  I have a good eye for master plans, and I worked very hard to develop an alternative which provides plenty of future expansion opportunity for EBI.  I am simply trying to demonstrate that an alternative exists with a straight pathway which makes sense for EBI.  EBI will most likely resist this alternative.  When I suggested it to John Horsch many months ago, he replied that "there was significant concern that it would impact future development opportunities."  I'll remind the Council that the "future development opportunities" which Mr. Horsch refers to have not been approved by the Planning Commission or City Council or analyzed under CEQA and thus should not garner any consideration from the City at this time.  
EBI may have begun preparation of an internal long-term master plan, but again, this master plan has not been approved or vetted by the City in any way.  The City Council's role is not to speculate about future development at EBI, but to make decisions that best serve the citizens of Emeryville based on current information and current entitlements. 

The Council is in an extremely good negotiating position at this point in time.  Any changes to EBI's current approval require approval of the City Council.  The City Council will not find itself in a better negotiating position regarding this pathway.  It would be irresponsible public policy to now eliminate all the public benefits of the project which the Council negotiated.  

Lastly, if the Council decides not to require EBI to build a pathway, I implore you to at least leave in place the Irrevocable Offer of Dedication (IOD) which has been recorded for the pathway.  IODs are commonly used instruments which allow a City or other entity to dedicate property at any point in the future.  Leaving the IOD in place would allow EBI use of their property, while still allowing the City to improve the pathway at any point in the future.  
There almost no downside to leaving the IOD in place.  EBI could use the portion of the property within the IOD for a variety of uses and in 30 or 50 or 75 years or any point in the future, the City could determine that it made sense to improve the pathway an would be free to do so.  We all know this is the only way a pathway will ever be developed on this block.  Moving the pathway in the General Plan makes the provision of the pathway almost certainly unfeasible.  
We have the opportunity now to provide the City with a resource which can serve the citizens of Emeryville when the conditions are right.  It would be incredibly short-sighted to eliminate this opportunity forever. At a minimum, please leave the IOD in place.  

I regret that I cannot attend the Council meeting on Tuesday since I have to attend the El Cerrito City Council meeting as staff of that city.  I ask that you please consider my comments and I would be happy to discuss them further with any of you.  

Thank you so much for your time,

Sean Moss

This rendering by Sean Moss shows the trajectory of the proposed EBI pedestrian path.
San Pablo Avenue is on the left and the path connects 47th Street (on the top)
and 45th Street (bottom).The new parking lot is at the bottom and the path traverses thorough the lot, shown by "zebra stripes". Parking slips are seen on the sides of the proposed lot.  The northern trajectory of the path can be seen with proposed tree plantings.


  1. This 10 minute sketch shows the ambition that we have to use both local artists and designers to be part of the processes to increase this towns living opportunities. It would be neat to suggest in the design references to the either the archeological or pioneer days of Emeryville. This can be depicted on a variety of surfaces including kiosk sculptures, wall relief formations and path formations.

    Lets make sure that part of any usual proposals we at very least offer potentials of better living environment to sidestep any missed opportunities.

  2. Dr. Lindo's B.A.P.S. Committee (Bike And Pedestrian paths Suck) isn't about creating a better living environment here. Everyone gets that. What's more confusing is why Nora "Gang rapes" Davis opposes this. What's the real agenda here?