City's Urban Planning Ignores Reality

I attended the Alameda Planning board meeting on Monday Sept. 22. I watched the Planning Board recommend the adoption of plans to convert the Del Monte into 400 new housing units and 30,000 feet of retail and commercial space.

The board gave the builder an hour to make his presentation (which was basically the same sales pitch he’s made many times before), then limited the audience participation to three minutes (down from five minutes they are typically allotted).

I watched the planning board president David Burton and other board members and dais participants’ eyes glaze over as they "listened" to resident after resident express concern that insufficient parking allotment would cause spill over and negatively impact their neighborhood parking, safety and property values.

It was clear to me the board members had already made up their minds and just wanted to get this over with and go home.

City Planner Andrew Thomas is convinced that by purposely building a residential/commercial complex with insufficient parking for residents and commercial space, that it will force the new residents and patrons to not buy vehicles for personal use but rather rely on and utilize public transportation and a new imaginary ferry, along with bus and shuttle services which not only do not exist, but for which there is no plan, just an idea.

Thomas further represented that residents would be charged $35,000 to secure one of the rare and insufficient parking places in the complex and that residents would also be charged a mandatory $350 a year for an AC Transit Pass to access existing public transportation.

Existing bus lines in and around Alameda are tenuous at best as AC Transit continues to consider eliminating several of our bus lines.

To make matters worse, Thomas stated that there would be no parking allocated to residential visitors and only 47 parking places for the new 30,000 square feet of commercial businesses. Forty-seven spaces won’t even provide parking for commercial space workers let alone the influx of shoppers predicted in this new complex.

Of course the residents of the surrounding neighborhoods were upset as parking and traffic are huge issues in Alameda. They have, however, included some low-income housing, but how are low-income residents going to afford to buy a $35,000 parking space or pay $350 a year for an AC Transit bus pass?

When a concern was raised regarding the significant increase in an already congested Webster and Posey tubes, Thomas said that there are fewer cars (estimated 70,000) going through the tubes now than when the Navy Base was active (estimated 100,000). What he failed to mention was that the additional 30,000 cars went through the tubes in a reverse commute and on off hours due to shift work at the Navy Base.

What was abundantly clear in this meeting and the meetings I’ve attended in the past on the Del Monte warehouse is that City Manager John Russo, members of the City Council (including Mayor Marie Gilmore) and the Planning Board demonstrate a continued lack of consideration for the residents of Alameda, our public safety and our concerns. Instead they have become adept at creating an influx of falsely presented information designed to steer attention away from the lack of infrastructure, parking, traffic control and resources to support a community of this size.

I hope that the approval for this conversion does not go before the present City Council, who are supporting housing growth projects on every square inch of land in Alameda.

I hope newly elected officials will bring a return to more moderate low density housing growth as supported by the voters, and demonstrate a concern for safety and traffic congestion in all our neighborhoods.

Sallyanne Monti is an Alameda resident.