Council Votes for Grand Street Improvements, With Amendments

Fehr & Peers--Council voted 3-2 in favor of the staff recommended Grand Street Pavement Resurfacing and Safety Improvement plan in addition to several amendments.

Council Votes for Grand Street Improvements, With Amendments

On Tuesday, June 21, the City Council voted 3-2 to move forward with the staff recommended version of the Grand Street Pavement Resurfacing and Safety Improvement plan with certain amendments to the presented concept.

The public hearing included a presentation from Alameda’s Director of Building, Planning, and Transportation, Andrew Thomas, and City Engineer Robert Vance. They presented the plans for the resurfacing of the 0.7-mile stretch of Grand Street between Encinal Avenue and Otis Drive. Thomas and Vance acknowledged residents would face a loss of 10 to 14 parking spaces, but emphasized the addition of separated bike lanes, a bus island, a center turn lane for school drops, designated accessible parking space and rapid flashing beacons for crosswalks. These changes would focus on improving the safety of the children during rush hour near Wood Middle School, increase cyclist safety and encourage drivers to slow down. An alternative plan would focus on creating striped bicycle lanes, while keeping the parking spaces on Otis to Encinal.

According to Thomas, the resurfacing plan gave them an opportunity to “look at the ways [they] can improve safety of the street,” indicating that the community workshops in previous months gave them an insight into the residents’ need for safer, separated bike lanes. In response to Councilmember John Knox White’s questions, Thomas also affirmed that the staff recommended plan focused on ADA standards, since they are in communication with an ADA consultant, and remained inclusive to non-auto route users.

Before council discussion began, many people from the community participated in the public comment portion of the meeting. Voices in support of the plan included representatives from Community Action for a Sustainable Alameda, Bike Walk Alameda, and Bike EastBay. There were also multiple parents, cyclists and younger students that voiced their support for the plan, citing the increased safety for children since the meandering road would also slow drivers. Other callers also stated the plan’s potential to increase biking as a mode of transportation and the beautification of the area leading to an increase in property values.

Other residents indicated that the plan needed more time to be redone, since it didn’t focus on the other concerns surrounding speeding on Grand Street and pedestrian safety. Residents from the Grand Street neighborhood indicated that more than 100 residents signed a letter to push against the staff recommended plan because the streets were not wide enough to accommodate all changes while preserving the residents’ current ease of movement. There were also a few comments that hoped for the creation of a new plan altogether, indicating a need for stop signs and focus on pedestrian safety.

During council discussion, White and Vice Mayor Malia Vella showed their support of the plan, highlighting its safety and fit into the city’s Vision Zero policy. They were especially appreciative of the safety included for children, and the possibility of reducing traffic speeds through the meandering designs.

Councilmember Trish Herrera Spencer indicated her opposition to the plan, mentioning that deaths had increased in other areas during the past two years after the addition of separated bike lanes. She stated the need for the creation of other, stronger safety measures. Councilmember Tony Daysog acknowledged the staff approved plan would provide a safe option for bicyclist, but said he was concerned with the amount of residents that raised issues with the plan. Daysog preferred the alternative plan, which he said is more akin to the resurfacing changes made in the Otis Drive plan that has increased bicycle ridership and lowered driver speeds in that area.

"I do believe [the alternative plan] will get more people out to bike riding," said Daysog. "I do believe it will slow down the traffic on Grand Street, and I do believe it has certain features at intersections that are meant to make it safer to get from the east side to the west side and to the west side to the east side."

Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft was supportive of the plan but was worried about the plan’s potential impact on older residents and people with disabilities. She mentioned the need for a consultant review to ensure inclusion for residents with disabilities. City Attorney Yibin Shen alleviated concerns about Ashcraft’s potential conflict of interest in the vote since she lives on Grand Street. Shen indicated that state law did not preclude her from voting on the item.

The final concept for the staff recommended plan was approved, with amendments. These adjustments included a review by an ADA consultant to identify and address residents’ needs, placement of speed bumps or flashing signs to address speeding concerns, a redesign of the west side between Shore Line and Otis drives to include a southbound protected bike lane, review by a public safety consultant for the meandering road design and ensure availability of the Alameda Police Department to address questions about the traffic design, if needed.

The motion carried with three votes affirming the plan, and two votes against from Daysog and Spencer. They were in favor of an alternate plan. The staff recommended plan with amendments is expected to be presented again for final approval in September.

Nandini Sharma is an Alameda Sun intern. To reach Sharma, contact