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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

One Citizen Takes On School Board Juggernaut

"Build It and They Will Stay Away"

Emeryville's General Plan took a hit at Monday evening's School Board Special Meeting when the Board members voted in executive session, behind closed doors to disregard 27 Citizen Commenters 18 pages and move forward with the ill conceived Emeryville Center of "Community" Life.  It was a bad day for citizens interested in government transparency, democracy, sustainable and green city planning and bike and pedestrian transportation.  It was a good day for those interested in seeing what real citizen engagement looks like however.  Five residents gave witness to an alternate vision of the contentious Center in the face of the School Board Center of "Community" Life juggernaut.  The Tattler presents the comments made by one of the commenters; Emeryville resident Brian Carver, arguably the high point of the night.
Posted by permission from Brian Carver:

"Good evening President Dice and members of the Board. My name is Brian Carver, I am a parent of a student enrolled in the District. I was a signatory of the Community Comments submitted last Thursday.

I urge you to conduct a full environmental impact report and consider feasible alternatives to the current plans. We only get once chance to do a big project like this.  Let’s make it better. In the past I’ve worried that the District was getting inadequate legal advice.  Please have your legal counsel explain to you the standards for evaluating comments on a MND: in particular the “any fair argument” standard.  I don’t see how any reasonable person could conclude that there’s not a single fair argument made by the Community Commenters in those 18 pages.  There obviously are. I believe several of them are not adequately addressed by this last minute revision that we received minutes ago and that we have not had adequate time to review.

To the details, what this document and its technical appendices say about traffic varies between being utterly incomprehensible to completely unbelievable.  Page 60 says, “the project is expected to generate a maximum of 450 peak hour trips.” I made it to page 2 of the 13 pages of responses we received moments ago and that number has been changed to 686. (It should be noted that contradictory estimates appear on page 135 where we’re told that at AM peak hour the project will ADD 530 trips over current levels, making the max of 450 or 686 even more incomprehensible).

How could anyone familiar with this project find that number, whether it’s 450 or 686 peak hour trips, credible?  The project calls for 900 students and 90 teachers and staff. Instead of just having a high school on this site as we did previously, you’re adding all the K-8 students, the community members that might want to take advantage of the community gym, library, recreation center, senior lounge, or kinder buddies facilities.  Lots of services that used to be elsewhere are all being crammed onto this one site and somehow there’s a maximum of 450 or 686 peak hour trips?  That’s just not consistent with common sense.

The only way to believe that is to say what this report says on page 117, “The increased daytime population on the project site during operation hours that would result from the project is not expected to result in substantially increased usage of these new facilities.” That is, you have to expect to build a bunch of community facilities and resources and expect no one to show up. Unlike in the film Field of Dreams, the EUSD’s motto appears to be, “Build it and they will stay away.”  It’s just not a realistic assumption and so it hides significant impacts of the project.

But the biggest flaw in this document and the current project design is its inconsistency with the guiding principles and policies of this City’s General Plan that were designed to reduce negative environmental effects, particularly those from greenhouse gases.  The General Plan calls for an east-west greenway along 53rd street and the current project proposal does not comport with the requirements for that greenway.  The General Plan calls for this greenway precisely because the enhanced bicycle and pedestrian flow that such a greenway would enable reduces negative environmental effects, particularly greenhouse gases from cars, but other related negative environmental impacts as well. To give just one example, the six foot wide sidewalk proposed is not consistent with the General Plan’s greenway.

The General Plan also calls for a bike/ped path on the western border of the property and the current project proposal does not even put that on the drawings for Phase 2.  The General Plan designates 47th Street as a key green street and the current project proposal does not follow those requirements either.

The General Plan is our City’s constitution.  A lot of effort and planning went into that document and your architects had it available to them during your design process, but it appears they just willfully ignored the General Plan, and thereby the environmental impacts that numerous General Plan and specific policies were intended to reduce.  This is also where the cumulative effect occurs. When the General Plan and specific policies, such as the award-winning bike/ped plan adopted for environmental reasons are ignored in so many instances it has a cumulative environmental impact.

Particularly for a joint City-District project, flouting the General Plan in this way is just not permissible.  This project needs to be the embodiment of our City’s General Plan, not a partially compliant work-around."

Mr Carver is an Emeryville parent with a child enrolled at Anna Yates Elementary School and another ready to enroll in the fall.  He is an occasional contributor to the Tattler.

1 comment:

  1. How odd that the school district is so eager to overlook errors and omissions found in their planning documents. This is the haphazard thinking that led to a gross underestimate of operational costs that the Tattler reported on July 5.

    If the district is out to create the impression of trying to ram something through, they're succeeding.