Clearing up the Point Confusion
There’s a lot of confusion out there about the Alameda Point Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that was approved last year. It can be summed up as: "the City says that all the development will only cause one car to go through the Tube."
This confusion began with Eugenie Thomson’s opinion piece that stated, "The City Council must look at the plain facts in the EIR and perform a reality-based traffic study before any new development at Alameda Point." This is unsurprising, as Thomson often states that "plain talk is where the truth resides," when criticizing public interest documents.
Some are quick to point out that Thomson often glosses over important facts and factors in order to reduce complex issues to overly-simplistic anti-development slogans. This is just such a case. She ignores plain facts that supports the very thing her instincts are telling her is wrong.
Here are the reasons that one-new-car is not as crazy as it sounds.
An EIR is a report that the city is required to create that alerts decision makers about how a proposed development will impact their community. The Alameda Point EIR covers the full project, which at Alameda Point is potentially 1,200 new homes and 3.5 million square feet of commercial space with 8,000 new jobs. The report indicates that the proposed project will have traffic impacts across the island and that the impacts are likely unavoidable. In making these findings, the report relies on a very sophisticated traffic model that was developed by Alameda County and based on real-world analysis.
In 2013, when Thomson originally provided this data to the city as a part of the EIR process, I, too, was surprised and concerned. It just didn’t seem to make sense. As a Planning Board member, I asked staff to look into it, and made sure that it was publicly discussed at the hearings about the EIR. Thomson was in the audience, and I have been surprised that she continues to present this information as it was not known and never considered.
It was; here are the facts to support its surprising conclusion.
When the project is completed, the EIR projects that during the most congested hour of the day, the project would generate approximately 340 new trips through the tubes and over the bridges. The 1,200 households would generate these, and because not all people go to work at the same time, and some don’t leave the island at all, 340 new cars during one hour generated by 1,200 homes is definitely a realistic projection.
Additionally, the EIR model projected that approximately 340 trips that are currently trips going off-island during that same hour would shift to go to Alameda Point instead. This assumption is based on the fact that Alameda Point is projected to have 8,000 jobs and that households that currently travel to off-island job locations would shift to Alameda Point.
In the end, the EIR found that the traffic at peak hour through the tube due to the development would remain essentially even.
Consider how this is reality-based and supported by current behavior in Alameda.
Thirty percent of Alameda’s employees who don’t work from home are also residents of Alameda. This data comes from the Census’ American Community Survey (ACS). So if there are 8,000 new jobs projected for Alameda Point. Based on current reality, about 2,500 of those jobs would be held by Alamedans.
The ACS also tells us that about 20 percent of employees go to work at peak hour, so if there are 2,500 Alameda residents now working at Alameda Point, about 500 of those are trips that used to go through the tubes. For those keeping track, that’s more trips than the city’s traffic model predicts. This means that if current trends hold, the impact of full-on Alameda Point development could even remove traffic from our bridges and tubes that it creates. Looked at in this light, the 340 trips shifting from our estuary crossings to Alameda Point looks overly conservative.
Some will say, "But people who have jobs outside of Alameda won’t just quit and work at Alameda Point." It’s a good point, and true. But consider that the census tells us that 65 percent of Alameda residents moved into their current home in the last 15 years. Alameda’s housing, which is 52 percent renters, is highly mobile. As one family moves out, new ones, many with jobs in Alameda and at Alameda Point, will move in.
There’s an old saying: You can have your own opinion, but you can’t have your own facts. As we head into next week’s discussion about Alameda Point, it’s wise advice that we should all consider as we share our individual, valid opinions.
John Knox White sits on the city’s Planning Board.