Search The Tattler

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Council Determines Pedestrian Path Unwarranted

General Plan Amended, Ped Path Removed
One Path Saved

The Emeryville City Council voted last Tuesday night to amend the City's new General Plan in order to remove a planned pedestrian path in east Emeryville but in the same evening they voted to stand by the General Plan and save another path in the same neighborhood, a move that surprised many including the mayor Kurt Brinkman.
EBI Pedestrian Path Deleted
The City Council revisited the two paths they claimed they did not want to delete from the General Plan two weeks ago.  The paths in question are one connecting 45th and 47th on the eastern property line of Escuela Bilingua Internacionale school (EBI) and one connecting 47th and 53rd on the western property line of the future site of the Emeryville Center for Community Life (ECCL).  The Council asked staff two weeks ago, to bring them amendments to the General Plan that would, in each case, move the paths to undetermined locations to the east instead of deleting them from the General Plan entirely.

In the intervening time between the meeting two weeks ago and last Tuesday, the Council lost its appetite for paths moved to the east.  The EBI path alternative considered would have continued Essex street northward through at least two private residences.  One resident that thought he might be affected showed up to ask what exactly the Council had in mind and whether they were planning on taking his property via eminent domain.  He expressed the view that a pedestrian path right between residences was not desirable.

The alternative design of the EBI path proposed by Planning Commissioner Sean Moss was not given serious consideration, although his recommendation to preserve the irrevocable 'offer of dedication' of the path property, already recorded against the title to EBI's property, found favor among a majority of the Council.   This would leave open the possibility that a path or other public use of that proposed path area could be made at any time in the future, even decades from now.

In a somewhat comical moment, EBI's attorney explained that the conditions of approval granted to EBI still require EBI to build the path no matter what the Council might do with respect to altering the General Plan.  Ultimately this means that there will be future public meetings discussing this path, because EBI will need to have those conditions altered and may negotiate to provide some other public benefit instead of the path.

In a 4-1 vote, Councilmember Jennifer West dissenting, the Council decided to simply delete the EBI path from the General Plan.

ECCL Bicycle/Pedestrian Path Survives
The ECCL path met a different fate. The alternative path location considered was a pedestrian-only path through the middle of the ECCL site, instead of the bicycle-pedestrian path that the General Plan calls for along the property's western border.  No one believed that this alternative path location was viable, and no modification of the current ECCL design was provided to show whether it could be accommodated.  No one was willing to make a motion to accept this alternative.

Councilmember Nora Davis then proposed that the Council simply delete the ECCL path from the General Plan.  
"What do we do now?"
Caught flat footed, Mayor Brinkman
seemed stunned after a majority
voted to save the ECCL path
 Mayor Kurt Brinkman agreed, both of them citing safety concerns regarding the path.  Council watchers will recall Ms Davis' warnings from the previous meeting of gang rapes being the inevitable outcome if the path were to be approved.  

Vice Mayor Jac Asher however highlighted a different safety concern, the large number of cars that are likely to envelope the ECCL site once the schools are consolidated there.  Ms Asher made reference to the tragic incident in 2001 in which an Anna Yates kindergartener was killed by a car during morning drop-off and argued that providing better bicycle and pedestrian connectivity around the site could actually contribute to safety rather than detract from it.  
Then, in a surprising vote, Councilmembers Atkin, West, and Asher voted against deleting the ECCL bicycle/pedestrian path from the General Plan. Mayor Kurt Brinkman responded with, "Well, what do we do now?"  
With no majority willing to move or delete the ECCL path, it simply remains in the General Plan.  
Director of Planning and Building, Charlie Bryant, then suggested to the Council that simply because a path is in the General Plan does not require it to be built today.  He suggested that the ECCL's various design components that might come before the Council could be approved even if they lacked this path, perhaps proposing that the path might be added years—or decades—down the road in "Phase 2" of the ECCL, if there ever is such a thing.

1 comment:

  1. Delaying building the path until "phase 2" is just a ruse, if the path is not built during "phase 1" is will never be built. Phase 1 of the ECCL is when the gym, the sport field and the improvements on the west end of the site are going to take place. This is where the path is supposed to be, on the west end of the site joining 47th to 53rd. Phase 2, if we ever raise the money, address improvements mostly along 47th street.

    Once phase 1 is complete, they will cry it is to costly to reorient the field or the track or whatever they did during phase 1 when they avoided installing the path that they now have to re-do to install the path. The path will never be built.

    People, we live in an urban environment. That means we live closely together, with little open space (unfortunately). That means that bike paths and walkways run close to our windows and front doors. If you want open space and distance from your neighbors and the surrounding community move to the suburbs.