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Thursday, December 19, 2019

City/School District Put New Taxes on March Ballot

The City of Emeryville and Emery Unified School District are going to the voters for a pair of taxpayer funded ballot measures in March that would raise almost $4 million annually between them.  The City is seeking passage of Measure F, a quarter cent sales tax that would raise approximately $2 million per year and Emery Unified is seeking passage of a new parcel tax, Measure K, that would raise about $1.8 million per year.

Both measures purport to fund a laundry list of items mixed with a crowd pleasing teaser; teacher pay increases advertised by the school district's Measure K and increased funding for the Emery Child Development Center from the City's Measure F ballot language.  Neither measure however, guarantees funding for these specific issues, even though they figure prominently in the ballot language of the measures.
Measure F will fund personnel additions for the police department, the fire department as well as for code enforcement while Measure K is more nebulous, funding academic core programs as well as after school programs, sports, music and art programs.

Both Measures will require 66.7% of the electorate for passage.

The election will be on March 3rd.

Friday, December 13, 2019

New Traffic Count Report: Emeryville's Entire Bike Boulevard Network Unsafe

Mounting Traffic Puts Bicyclists in Danger

All Five Bike Boulevards Now in Violation 

A recently released report by the City of Emeryville shows an alarming rise in vehicle traffic that now exposes bicyclists to danger on every bike boulevard in town due to unsafe volumes of traffic.  The internal report, entitled Vehicle/Bicycle/Pedestrian Counts (Fall 2019), was generated as a result of a Bike Plan required bi-annual traffic count and shows a rapidly deteriorating environment for bicyclists in Emeryville as compared with the last traffic count conducted by the City.  All five bike boulevards in Emeryville are now unsafe for bicycling according to the City’s own metrics and one, the 45th Street Bike Boulevard, is saddled with vehicle traffic 96% in excess over the safe limit.

The City has been aware the increase of vehicles using the town’s bike boulevard network is putting bicyclists in harm's way for some time but up until this latest traffic count report, at least one bike boulevard has always been shown to be within safe parameters.  Now that the Doyle Street Bike Boulevard has gone over the limit, that can no longer be claimed.

From the New Traffic Count Report
Emeryville's High Average Daily Traffic Allowances: Not High Enough.
Palo Alto's bike boulevard network allows for a maximum of 750 ADT.

The bike boulevard network was created in 2009 as a response to Emeryville’s anticipated growth the new General Plan provided for.  It was determined at the time, some streets should be set aside as bike priority streets to allow for bicycling to remain a viable alternative to driving.  Emeryville spent $200,000 on consultants who recommended the City create a network of these streets, bike boulevards, based on how other cities have done it.  The business and developer community however, not wishing their driving clients/tenants be constrained, cried foul.  As the Bike Plan was being finalized, the City Council unilaterally increased the allowable traffic on the network (over any other city in the Bay Area) to mollify the business community's concerns, especially on the highly contested Horton Street where the allowable traffic loads were doubled.  Traffic however has risen apace since then and now, even that increased allowance for traffic on our bike boulevards is not enough.

Against this backdrop, the City Council has been unwilling to implement the traffic calming remedies spelled out in the Bike Plan to reduce the rising vehicle traffic to the safe-for-bicyclists minimum called out by the Plan.  Developers and businesses near the bike boulevards have repeatedly told the Council that the specified traffic calming remedies are unacceptable and these have been the voices the Council has listened to up until now.  The predictable unsafe traffic volumes now seen on the bike boulevard network is due to the Council’s inaction in this regard.

It’s Going To Get Worse
Already Approved: the BMR Project
2400 parking spaces netting 4800 driving
trips per day will be added to an already
overburdened Horton Street.
The recent leap in traffic is a portent for what is to come.  The General Plan targets Emeryville with a population of 16,600 residents by 2029, the Plan’s sunset.  Added to the increased driving population will be a dramatically increased business footprint.  These eventualities will likely add lots of traffic to our existing grid regardless of Council hopes for a wholesale turn in public sentiments towards public transit.   Additionally the City Council, entertaining overturning existing housing unit mix regulations to accommodate residential super towers such as the Onni project slated for Christie Avenue, has hinted the 16,600 mark is a number they intend to race past rather than target.

One looming non-residential project, the BMR life science 'Center of Innovation' slated for Horton and Hollis Streets, will include 2400 new parking spaces delivering a new glut of 4800 Average Daily Traffic (ADT) trips to Horton Street.  Adding to that number, the approved Sherwin Williams project with at least an extra 4000 ADT and an unspecified amount of traffic from the newly completed but not yet fully rented Transit Center, Horton Street, already 38% over the limit, will not be a street for conducive for biking regardless of the plethora of purple signage proclaiming its bike boulevard status.

The City Council effectively took Horton Street out of contention as a possible street for bike transit when they issued a 'Statement of Overriding Considerations' in the run up to the approval for the Sherwin Williams project in 2016.  The SOC stated that the project will overturn the Horton Street Bike Boulevard but the community benefits of the project outweigh bike concerns.
More recently, the Council decided to not implement the Bike Plan  traffic calming treatments for the 45th & 53rd street bike boulevards, choosing instead to let the clock run out for the two streets.  The remaining boulevards on the network, Doyle Street and 59th Street don't seem likely candidates for traffic calming given the City Council's lack of concern for the Bike Plan combined with an aggressive view towards growth the Council has exhibited over and beyond what the General Plan provides for and traffic, accordingly, will likely overrun these two streets as well.