Minutes of February 5, 2009 Commission Meeting
- Call to Order
The meeting was called to order by Chair Randolph at the Metro Center Auditorium in Oakland, California at 1:05 p.m.
- Roll Call
Present were Chair Sean Randolph, Vice Chair Halsted, Commissioners Baird represented by Alternate Vierra), Bates, Bourgart, Finn, Gibbs, Gioia, Goldzband, Gordon, Jordan Hallinan, Lai-Bitker, Lundstrom, Maxwell, McGlashan, McGrath, Moy, Nelson, Reagan, Smith, Kato, Wagenknecht, and Wieckowski.
Not Present were: Sonoma County (Brown), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Hicks), Santa Clara County (Shirakawa), and San Francisco County (Vacant).
- Public Comment Period
Commissioner Eric Carruthers reported that Santa Clara County has appointed a new supervisor, George Shirakawa, who takes the place of Supervisor Kniss, who is now the chair of the Santa Clara Board. He introduced Andres Quintero, Mr. Shirakawa’s staff person, who will cover the Commission.
Mr. Carruthers stated that Mr. Shirakawa has appointed him to be his alternate but, since the Board has not yet had the opportunity to confirm the appointment, Mr. Carruthers will not be able to participate in today’s meeting. He looks forward to the coming meetings with the Commission. Chair Randolph responded that he looks forward to welcoming both Mr. Carruthers and Mr. Quintero to the Commission.
- Approval of Minutes of January 15, 2009 Meeting
Chair Randolph asked for one amendment -- on page 11, next to last paragraph, where it indicates that “Commissioner Gioia noted that there is a consensus that public access is now sufficient” -- this is on the San Quentin issue -- “in one direction, staff has the need for additional discussion and exploration of maximum feasible public access . . .” and it continues “Chair Randolph agreed,” the Chair agreed that there should be a holding over of the vote to the next meeting but did not specifically agree on the balance of that paragraph; i.e., that the public access offering was adequate. Also, Mr. Sleppy was asked if he agreed that the vote should be held over, and he agreed to the deferral.
Chair Randolph then entertained a motion to adopt the Minutes of January 15, 2009 as corrected.
MOTION: Commissioner Bourgart moved, seconded by Commissioner Wieckowski, to approve the January 15, 2009 minutes as corrected. The motion carried unanimously.
- Report of the Chair
Chair Randolph reported on the following:
- New Commissioners.
Chair Randolph stated that January is the month when many local governments make their appointments to other agencies. He is pleased to see some familiar faces and to have an opportunity to get acquainted with some new members.
The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has re-appointed Supervisor Valerie Brown to serve as the County’s representative on BCDC.
The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors has re-appointed Supervisor John Gioia as its representative and Supervisor Gayle Uilkema as its alternate to the Commission.
The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors has re-appointed Supervisor Rich Gordon to serve as San Mateo County’s representative on BCDC. Supervisor Carole Groom will replace Jerry Hill as Rich’s alternate. As you know, Jerry was elected to the California Assembly in November.
The Napa County Board of Supervisors has re-appointed Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht to serve as Napa County’s representative on BCDC. Supervisor Keith Caldwell will replace Harold Moskowite as Brad’s alternate.
Finally, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors has appointed Supervisor George Shirakawa to replace Supervisor Liz Kniss as the County’s representative on the Commission.
- Next BCDC Meeting.
Instead of holding a regular BCDC meeting in two weeks on February 19th, we will hold an orientation briefing for new Commission members. The briefing, which will begin at 1:00 p.m. and last until 4:30, will be held at our office. I strongly encourage all new members of the Commission to attend this briefing. The briefing is open to the public.
Our next regular BCDC meeting will be in four weeks on March 5, 2009 at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. At that meeting the following matters will be taken up:
- A public hearing on and vote on a permit for a small craft launching facility on the shoreline of the Oakland Estuary.
- We will receive a briefing on plans for a 1,400 acre shoreline property in Redwood City.
- We will receive a briefing from our legal staff on the public trust.
- We will consider a status report on the progress we are making in carrying out our strategic plan.
- Joint Policy Committee (JPC). Chair Randolph invited Commissioners to provide staff with a report on any written or oral ex-parte communications.
Commissioner McGrath talked to the Bay Trail staff. The substance of that conversation is well documented in the e-mail presented to the Commission. He contacted them to make sure that BCDC has enough information about the nature of the Bay Trail surrounding the San Quentin Project and the Bridge Project, so the Commissioners could understand where it is, where it’s not, and where the gaps were.
Commissioner Lundstrom had ex parte communication with staff of the Transportation Authority of Marin concerning the findings of maximum feasible public access.
Commissioner Reagan reported that he had a conversation with Assemblymember Huffman that is aligned with the letter in the Commission’s packet for today.
Commissioner Bourgart had a conversation with Bob Sleppy of CDCR on the San Quentin issue, discussing the fact that he had been working with staff with respect to the in lieu payment and the proposed ferry terminal.
Commissioner Vierra had an e-mail conversation with Nancy MacKenzie of Dept. of Corrections regarding whether they had to receive a land use change permit when they wanted to expand San Quentin. She responded that they did not have to receive approval and are not subject to general planning laws or local zoning.
Chair Randolph had a conversation with staff of the Bay Area Council regarding design proposals for transit-oriented development at San Quentin.
Commissioner Bates had a conversation with Senator Hancock about San Quentin and she said “where’s dinner?”
Commissioner Finn had a conversation with Bob Sleppy from CDCR on the status of the project and the status of what happened at the last meeting.
- New Commissioners. Chair Randolph stated that January is the month when many local governments make their appointments to other agencies. He is pleased to see some familiar faces and to have an opportunity to get acquainted with some new members.
- Report of the Executive Director
Executive Director Travis provided the following report:
A few weeks ago a copy of Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for BCDC in the upcoming 2009-2010 fiscal year was provided. It’s pretty much the same as our current fiscal year’s budget, but in the month that’s passed since the Governor released his proposed budget, the state’s overall fiscal condition has continued to deteriorate. The Governor and the Legislature still have not reached agreement on how to deal with the state’s multi-billion dollar budget deficit in the current year’s budget. As a result, the State is running out of cash, meaning that the per diem payment for attending today’s meeting will be delayed at least 30 days. There has been a court decision that the Governor can move ahead with his plan to have most state agencies close their offices the first and third Fridays of each month and to furlough staff without pay on those two days.
As I explained at our last meeting, this will force us to generally hold only one Commission meeting a month, which will be on the first Thursday. There will occasionally be a need for a second meeting, such as the orientation briefing on February 19th, so please continue to reserve both the first and third Thursday afternoons on your calendars for BCDC meetings. Also, to fit all of your business into one monthly meeting, it’s essential that all Commission members stay until the very end of every meeting and don’t schedule other obligations on the first Thursday of each month that would force you to leave our meetings before 5:00 p.m. As always, we’ll keep you apprised of the details of the budget situation as they unfold.
I want to call to your attention two documents we sent you last week. The first deals with the ethics training that all new Commission members must take within six months of assuming office and all members must repeat once every two years. If you have any questions about this training please contact one of our staff counsels, Tim Eichenberg or John Bowers.
The second document deals with appointments to the newly-established San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) appoints the board members and they have invited locally-elected officials who are interested in serving on the board to complete a Statement of Interest form and submit it to ABAG by next Friday. I think when you look at the desirable qualifications in board members you will find that the experience gained in serving on BCDC makes our locally-elected representatives especially well-qualified. Therefore, we urge those of you who are interested in serving on the Restoration Authority Board to submit the Statement of Interest form to ABAG by next Friday, the 13th.
- Vacation. Executive Director Travis reminded the Commission that he will be on vacation next week and attend a conference on sea level rise in Amsterdam as a guest of our partners in Holland. While he is away Caitlin Sweeney will be serving as acting executive director.
- Budget. A few weeks ago a copy of Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed budget for BCDC in the upcoming 2009-2010 fiscal year was provided. It’s pretty much the same as our current fiscal year’s budget, but in the month that’s passed since the Governor released his proposed budget, the state’s overall fiscal condition has continued to deteriorate. The Governor and the Legislature still have not reached agreement on how to deal with the state’s multi-billion dollar budget deficit in the current year’s budget. As a result, the State is running out of cash, meaning that the per diem payment for attending today’s meeting will be delayed at least 30 days. There has been a court decision that the Governor can move ahead with his plan to have most state agencies close their offices the first and third Fridays of each month and to furlough staff without pay on those two days.
- Commission Consideration of Administrative Matters
There was no administrative listing for this meeting.
- Public Hearing and Vote on Proposed Revisions to the Commission’s Regionwide Permit No. 3 and Abbreviated Regionwide Permit No. 1
Chair Randolph noted that this is a public hearing and vote on amending two of BCDC’s regionwide permits to advance the Commission’s goal of making their regulatory program more effective.
Bob Batha presented the staff report and recommendation. He began by stating that the Commission had requested that staff bring back the one regionwide and one abbreviated regionwide permit that included a special condition having to do with noise generated during pile driving. Essentially this condition has been revised to be a “kick out” condition -- if the noise generated from pile driving is likely to exceed the limits that National Marine Fisheries has established will be harmful to fish, then the project doesn’t qualify for either a regionwide or an abbreviated regionwide permit. It is kicked out and handled through the Commission’s regular administrative or major permit process. That is how the condition has been revised.
Also, a change was made to these two permits and to all the other regionwide and abbreviated regionwide permits, at the request of Commissioner Hicks, to include a more specific reference to the plans being approved as part of the regionwide permit.
As a reminder, regionwide permits were originally adopted by the Commission in December 1986 and subsequently revised in April of ’96. They were developed to expedite the processing of projects that really didn’t pose any concerns to either natural resource values or to public access.
Mr. Batha concluded his presentation and asked if there were any questions. Seeing none, Chair Randolph then thanked him for his presentation and opened the public hearing. Seeing no public speakers, he asked for a motion to close the public hearing.
MOTION: Upon motion by Commissioner McGlashan, seconded by Commissioner Goldzband, the Commission voted unanimously to close the public hearing.
Seeing no other questions or comments for Mr. Batha, he then welcomed a motion for the staff recommendation.
MOTION: Upon motion by Commissioner McGlashan, seconded by Commissioner Wagenknecht, the Commission unanimously voted to approve the proposed revisions (23-0-0).
Public Hearing and Vote on San Quentin Permit. Chair Randolph stated that Item #9 is an application to make improvements to the condemned inmate facilities at San Quentin State Prison. BCDC held a Public Hearing on this application in December and at that meeting staff was directed to provide some additional information and analysis to help the Commission make its final decision at today’s meeting. Karen Wolowicz provided some background on the proposal. She began by noting that at the last meeting staff presented a recommendation, yet the vote was postponed. On January 23 a revised summary was mailed to Commissioners.
The permit is to construct a small portion of a 768-cell Condemned Inmate Project located at San Quentin Prison in an unincorporated portion of Marin County. A stormwater outfall structure is proposed in the Commission’s Bay jurisdiction. A guard tower, a gun locker building, a resurfaced road, paving, a portion of a lethal, electrified security perimeter fence, and a construction staging area for approximately two years are proposed within the Commission’s 100-foot shoreline band jurisdiction.
The Applicant’s public access proposal has not changed since the last meeting, and includes a small parking lot and viewing platform on Main Street in San Quentin Village; and a $900,000 in-lieu monetary contribution to the Transportation Authority of Marin to partially fund Phase One of the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project. This phase of the project will connect the Cal Hill Park Tunnel to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard via a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over Sir Francis Drake Boulevard to connect to Larkspur Landing.
The Commission should provide guidance to the Applicant and Commission staff that the proposed project would be consistent with its law and policies regarding maximum feasible public access; fill in the Bay; and appearance, design and scenic views.
Mr. Bob Sleppy, CDCR’s, Representative, presented a slideshow on the Project. He first provided an overview of the entire San Quentin property.
He noted that the project is fully funded in the state budget act. The monies came with a combination of specific descriptions and allowances. By CDCR standards, the project is ready to go.
In terms of entitlements, the EIR is done, everything except the BCDC permit is ready, and CDCR controls the entire property.
An independent audit of the project was done which basically concluded that the state doesn’t have many choices and this is a good place to put the project.
San Quentin is “a really bad place for really bad people.” It’s old, it has 630 condemned inmates in a facility never meant to handle that many, and CDCR needs to get them out of the old cell block and into something modern that’s much better designed and much more secure.
One big change is a lethal electrified security fence around the prison. All the other 32 prisons have this fence and the new project will allow this feature to be added.
No part of the San Quentin state property is available for public access. People aren’t allowed in unless they have an ID card.
Some people in Greenbrae have expressed concerns about Dairy Hill. A few of the homes do look towards the proposed prison site, although the majority of them do not. It is approximately one-half mile between the homes and the site.
This is a good project in terms of global warming. People will be staying put; i.e., most people take the bus or carpool to work. If CDCR doesn’t build the prison here it will be way out in the desert and people will be driving many miles. This project will be very energy efficient.
CDCR was not invited to participate in the shared use proposal. Major concerns regarding it are:
Who has entitlements and who doesn’t? This project is shovel-ready. The shared use proposal provides very little detail and in particular it requires someone to build a new condemned inmate complex somewhere in California, which is a major challenge. It also would require that the state law be changed that makes a prisoner go to San Quentin when they are condemned as a result of a homicide conviction. These are, by CDCR standards, enormous hurdles that would take years and years to resolve, in contrast to this project, which is ready to go.
The shared use proposal means the displacement of the current site to an unknown location. Where would a new, Level Four, 1,400-bed prison in California be put? There isn’t anywhere to put the existing San Quentin inmates, as all other prisons are well beyond maximum capacity. It would be a multi-year process at best to build something new.
Loss of the west gate. San Quentin works, from a public standpoint, because all the citizens come in through San Quentin Village, but all the prisoners and prisoner-related activity comes in through the west gate. Buses are continuously coming and going and they all come in through the west gate.
The onsite housing units would be lost with the shared use proposal.
Putting a vibrant transit village and a ferry terminal next to a prison are two land uses that really don’t go together. It would create irreconcilable security issues.
(A project map was then shown detailing the revisions to the original in lieu project and funding). Mr. Sleppy stated that CDCR has looked at its budget and received permission to offer additional funds for a total in lieu funding payment of $1,423,000 (up from the original $900,000).
Mr. Sleppy concluded by expressing his thanks for the great staff BCDC has. He has done permits in many places and he has never been treated this professionally.
Chair Randolph thanked Mr. Sleppy for his presentation and opened the public comment portion of the hearing.
Ms. Jane Levensohn stated that the complex is a blight on the exit and entrance to Marin County. It’s a crime to have that rat-infested facility crumbling before your eyes. Please don’t be blackmailed into participating in the destruction of a magnificent peninsula which will be used inappropriately in perpetuity for “900,000 pieces of silver” -- which has now apparently gone up to 1.5 million. Laws can be changed. The electric fence is right in the Pacific Flyway. I’d hate to see the number of dead birds that will be lying around there.
Ms. Joyce Bonifield stated that she lives close to the east end of the Greenbrae Boardwalk. Her objection to doing anything more at the edge of the Bay there is that we are going to have to do something about the prison itself. We are piling money into the condemned prisoner part and the entire crumbling prison is just going to be left to crumble. When we started speaking with the state about this it was $240 million for 1,400 beds. Now it’s $300 and some million and it’s half the number of beds. By the time they finish it will be another couple of hundred million. We just can’t afford it. Please don’t let them do anything to the Bay.
Mr. Robert Moy, a retired architectural project manager for the City of San Mateo, asked that BCDC oppose the CDCR expansion at San Quentin. In doing so, BCDC will be conducting a significant action in protecting and enhancing the San Quentin Peninsula.
Mr. Bob Minton, who taught speech communication for 35 years, started by stating that the CDCR spokesman earned an “A” for giving quite a speech. He said he was amazed at the amount of money and time that is spent to persuade people to approve projects like this. He is a resident of the Greenbrae Boardwalk and a general engineering contractor. As you know, San Quentin Prison is one of the most expensive prisons in the US, just to maintain. It is therefore a cash cow for the CDCR and their affiliated contractors. The prison houses criminals, and it would be criminal for us to continue filling our shrinking Bay. Part of this proposal is just that -- over 2,600 square feet for what is called a stormwater outfall that will continually add fill to the Bay as it operates. In addition, we’re moving a historic land mass, Dairy Hill, in order to spend our money, especially in these difficult times, to expand a prison that, because of its age and condition, will not last another decade without a major cash infusion. For these and many other reasons he urged a “no” vote today.
Ms. Martha Jarocki stated that she is also a resident of the Greenbrae Boardwalk. She urged the Commissioners not to accept the proposal and not to move it forward. She believes that BCDC has been historic in preserving important parts of the Bay that no one else has been able to stand up for, for whatever reason. This is your chance to slow this project, this very controversial project, and she hopes you choose to do so.
Ms. Jenny Callaway, representing Assemblymember Huffman, read the following letter:
“I am writing to thank the Commission for the resolve it showed at the last hearing on the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitations’ (CDCR) permit for the construction of a new condemned inmate complex (CIC) at San Quentin. Specifically, and despite some blatant scare tactics and misrepresentations by CDCR, the Commission held firm in defense of important public trust values and did not approve the permit at that hearing. Today, the Commission will take up the same issue and will undoubtedly face similar threats and intimidation from CDCR, which is rushing to break ground on this ill-conceived project before it can be stopped by the legislature.
I urge you to hold firm once again, to focus on the irreparable impacts and permanent losses to public access and to the San Francisco Bay environment resulting from this project, and to deny the permit.
Although CDCR has stubbornly pushed the CIC project and refused to consider any alternative strategies for meeting death row housing needs, in reality there are other (and better) ways to house condemned inmates -- including but not limited to better utilization of the San Quentin property, incorporating condemned inmate housing into one or more of the new facilities CDCR will be building around the state to address other deficiencies in our prison system, and simply integrating some condemned inmates into the general populations of other prisons -- an option that the outgoing Warden at San Quentin says would easily work for at least 60% of the death row population. CDCR has many options, but we have only one San Francisco Bay.
My letter dated January 15 outlines some of the permanent impacts of the CIC project and some of the reasons BCDC Commissioners should, regardless of the staff recommendation, exercise your broad resource protection authority and deny this permit. To reiterate, the CIC project includes the following substantial long-term, negative impacts on the environment and the public’s use and enjoyment of San Francisco Bay, including:
Permanent loss of public access, recreational opportunities and esthetic damage;
Permanent loss of an ideal ferry terminal location with the potential for a world-class ferry/rail transit hub at the western edge of the San Quentin property, a site long identified as perhaps the best deep-water ferry terminal location on the entire San Francisco Bay;
Continuation of harmful and expensive annual dredging of the Corte Madera Creek channel to maintain the current inferior ferry location;
Continuation of greenhouse gas and other harmful emissions due to ferries traveling the extra distance and slowing down to reduce their wake for the final five minutes of the ride;
Continuation of wetland degradations and foreclosure of wetland restoration possibilities;
Global warming impacts that have never been considered, much less addressed, in connection with this project; and
Perhaps most clearly and the most legally unassailable ground for denial of the permit, CDCR’s proposed “in lieu” payments for the loss of public access at this incredible location -- even if CDCR (falsely) represents to you that it has “authority” to increase the amount up to $1.5 million -- is woefully inadequate and would still be at the very low end of BCDC precedents for in lieu access payments.
Obviously, the Commission cannot dictate how CDCR meets its inmate housing needs; however, as the guardian of San Francisco Bay and our precious Bayshore resources, BCDC can require CDCR to design the project in a way that avoids or minimizes loss of public access and harm to San Francisco Bay, and that doesn’t permanently foreclose a golden opportunity to improve the environment and the public’s use and enjoyment of the Bay in the years ahead. Toward that end, I urge you not to be intimidated by CDCR’s threats and pressure tactics, including the incredible claim that the department will simply “re-design” the project to avoid BCDC jurisdiction. CDCR cannot do this --” (time ran out and the reading of the letter stopped) Ms. Calloway hoped that the Commission would finish reading the letter, as well as the footnote at the bottom of the page.
Ms. Laura Thompson, Manager of ABAG’s Bay Trail Project, stated that she was here to talk about public access. ABAG is in support of directing in lieu funds to the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project and construction of the San Quentin Village improvements identified in the staff report. They understand that there was some concern at the last meeting that the amount of in lieu funding was not sufficient to meet the test for maximum feasible public access; the public has been denied access to the shoreline in this area since the prison was built. The impact of that lost access is not insignificant. So, she is here to provide an overview of the gaps in the Bay Trail within the vicinity of the prison and offer alternatives for the Commission to consider today.
The current alignment of the Bay Trail is within the vicinity of Larkspur to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, following East Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. It veers inland from the shoreline along the northern edge of the prison. Two gaps exist in the Bay Trail alignment. The first gap is along the Sir Francis Drake Boulevard between the end of the existing multi-use pathway and the bridge. Bicyclists currently use this alignment to reach San Quentin Village and San Rafael Shoreline Park. But the bicycle lanes are not continuous and the area needs improvements.
The second gap is the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project, an important regional junction of the county’s bicycle pedestrian network, that would provide connections to Cal Hill Park Tunnel and points south to Corte Madera. You will also see on the map the solid red lines connecting to this area that represent existing public access.
The cost estimates are preliminary. The first gap has been broken into three sections. First, a section of the Sir Francis Drake roadway that needs bike lanes to delineate bicycle access from the busy section of roadway between Romillard Park and Andersen Drive. The cost is approximately $50,000. Second, safety improvements at the crossing at the intersection of Andersen and Sir Francis Drake at approximately $200,000. Third, approximately $250,000 representing the cost of engineering, permitting, plans and specifications that would result from the county’s proposed study identifying bicycle and pedestrian improvements north and south of Highway 580 at the entrance to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
The second gap is the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project, and this option is to provide an additional $500,000 to the Project. Project one and two total $500,000; if one of these projects is selected it would increase the in lieu amount to approximately $1.5 million. We’ve heard today that the CDCR budget has increased, so these funds would go directly to the County to implement whichever project or projects the Commission selects today.
Mr. Cliff Waldeck stated that he struggled with this issue and came today to say he supported the staff’s recommendation.
Ms. Deb Hubsmith, Advocacy Director with the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, stated that the public access improvements that are proposed as a condition for the permit are high priority projects within the Marin County bicycle and pedestrian network. The Central Marin Ferry Connection Project has a lot of support already but needs more. There is currently about $9 million from regional Measure Two and $2 million from the non-motorized transportation pilot program that are moving it along, but the project still needs $1.4 million to finish Phase One. This is a critically important project. The Commission’s support for the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project would be very helpful.
The other projects listed by the Bay Trail are also important as they connect various existing segments that need to be connected to create a continuous network. So she suggests that it all be thrown together and the Commission asked for $2 million in mitigation as part of this. She would hate to choose among such beautiful projects, especially when there is so much controversy.
Mr. Eric Steger, Marin County Department of Public Works, provided information on a County planning project to improve bicycle and pedestrian access in the San Quentin and southern San Rafael area which would lead to improved public access to the San Francisco Bay. The County was the recipient of a community-based transportation planning grant from Caltrans to develop a preliminary plan in the San Quentin area with enough detail to identify preliminary cost estimates for a new or expanded bicycle pedestrian and transit access.
The plan would include consideration and improvements to bicycle and pedestrian access to regional transit between the east and north bay, pedestrian access in the San Quentin Village area for prison visitors and homeowners, bicycle access to both sides of Highway 580, access to scenic overlooks, and access to the existing shoreline trail in the vicinity of East Francisco Boulevard, which is also part of the San Francisco Trail.
They are just getting started, and through this process they expect to create a list of improvements with enough information to generate preliminary cost estimates and identify any significant restraints. The process will include extensive community and stakeholder outreach, which BCDC staff is invited to attend.
After a final plan report is completed they will need to secure new funding for environmental design and construction for the project and improvements. They realize that these future projects are not yet fully defined but hope the Commission will keep them in mind whenever any new public access funds become available in the future. (He left a letter with staff that included the project scope and schedule.)
MOTION: Upon motion by Commissioner Wagenknecht, seconded by Commissioner Wieckowski, the Commissioners unanimously approved the closing of Public Comment.
Commissioner McGrath asked Laura Thompson about the existing Bay Trail. He prefaced that his objective was the answer to the question, “If you can’t go along the shoreline, how do you get around the shoreline? There is a single bicycle lane currently but you can’t continuously go on the shoreline because of the Rod and Gun Club being in the way. Is that correct?” Ms. Thompson responded that the Rod and Gun Club is currently a gap.
Commissioner McGrath asked if there is sufficient right-of-way along the road to be able to do whatever is necessary to bring it up to two bicycle lanes. Ms. Thompson responded that one of the intents of the County study is to identify the feasible alternatives for access there and to what level could facilities be improved. Mr. Batha further clarified that what exists there today is between 5-6 feet of area between a stripe that bounds the travel lanes and the edge of the road. So there is plenty of room there for a class two bike lane but it’s not labeled as such. There’s no room to expand because there’s a steep road leading down to CDCR housing there. At Andersen Drive cars are going pretty quick, coming off the freeway and getting ready to go on to the freeway. And that’s where the problem is really, in that particular part. As a bicyclist, I would be nervous using that on ramp with the cars ramping up and getting to freeway speed. Similarly, coming off there is room there but it needs to be continually swept because it’s full of gravel and broken glass.
Commissioner Lundstrom, a nearby resident, stated that it is a very highly traveled road and she rarely sees a bicyclist there. The topography, speed of traffic and limited width preclude adding anything safe. Also, when she asked the staff of Marin County Transportation Authority they questioned the cost of $50,000 and felt that the cost, the uncertainty of right-of-way, and also the speed and the safety were questionable to make this work.
Commissioner McGlashan stated that, of the two mitigation payments, it probably makes sense for the Commission to allocate the additional $500,000 to the Central Marin Ferry Connection because it’s ready, it’s an outstanding project, and it would get us fully funded, which would be fabulous. The Cal Park Tunnel is due to open in about a year and getting the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project off and running would provide critical public access quite quickly. So, with respect to the mitigation payment, he stated that he thinks that’s a better call for us to make. Also, he stated that he thought that long-term the Commission has some serious planning to do along 1A, 1B, and 1C --. He bikes there occasionally and that section is not a friendly place at all to be on a bicycle. So long-term the Bay Trail would benefit from some good homework and he knows that the county will be committed to working through a planning process. The only problem is that, in terms of allocating funding like this, the other project is probably a better bet for the Commission.
He also said that over the last couple of weeks he has been struggling with the Commission’s careful parsing of their appropriate jurisdiction and the staff’s appropriate -- and he thought honorable -- recommendation that the Commission try to limit itself in how it defines its role as a Commission and what it should do about this project. And that’s a valid point of view.
The problem is that, as a Commissioner, he is obligated through this appointment to think as big as he can about the future of the Bay, where the Commission is headed with respect to climate change, to try to create some appropriate criteria in the back of his mind about the Commission’s mission as an agency. And struggling long and hard about this project, he doesn’t think it fits BCDC’s mission.
BCDC’s mission is about maximum protection and stewardship and public enjoyment and access to the Bay, and in the context of climate change anything and everything it can do to substitute better forms of transportation versus a single occupant automobile -- and that would obviously include bicycle riding and the chance to move this ferry terminal. He had to admit that of all of the objections that were heard earlier, none of them seemed insurmountable to him. He thought that some of the things the Commission heard today were proposed as critical failures to the idea of sharing space on this peninsula and he doesn’t buy it.
He thought that the right thing for this Commission, frankly, is to vote no on this permit and to remember that losing a century’s worth of appropriate access to the Bay and the best deep water ferry terminal on the Bay would put BCDC in the position of failing to meet its greater purpose in life. And as a Commissioner that’s the bottom line as far as where he goes in trying to wrestle with this difficult call.
Commissioner Lundstrom remarked that, as the other Marin County resident here and direct neighbor of San Quentin, the Commission has to ask itself what did the legislature say their authority is in this 100-foot shoreline band? Did the legislature give BCDC the authority over land use here that is not a priority area? It’s not a priority area like for the Port Authority and so on. We have a Bay Plan reference that says sometime in the future consider new ferries. But we’re told by staff that that’s a reference to consider. So she would like to hear from their legal representative or the Attorney General’s Office to specifically say what BCDC’s permit authority is. Otherwise, it’s up to the legislature and the Governor to say what the land use should be there. So this really comes down to, what specific authority does BCDC have in the shoreline band and therefore what findings does it need to make?
Mr. Joel Jacobs, Deputy Attorney General, responded that the shoreline band authority is defined by Section 66632.4 of the McAteer-Petris Act, which states that “the Commission may deny an application for a permit for a proposed project in the shoreline band only on the grounds that the project fails to provide maximum feasible public access.” So that is to be the primary criteria for a shoreline band project.
Commissioner Lundstrom asked if that meant they cannot use the Bay Plan reference to consider a commute ferry in the future. Deputy AG Jacobs responded that it is a broad concept and there are many sources, including various plans, that can inform that analysis. But ultimately it comes down to feasible public access as understood by the Commission.
Executive Director Travis read the same language as AG Jacobs, but put a different emphasis on a part of it: “the Commission may deny an application for a permit only on the grounds that the project fails to provide maximum feasible access consistent with the proposed project to the Bay and the shoreline.” The note in the Bay Plan is a suggestion, and when the Bay Plan says “suggestion,” they are comments, they are not enforceable policies by the Commission. Lawyers try to read the law expansively; he is trying to keep the Commission from being successfully sued. He stated that he thought that Commission authority is quite limited here.
Commissioner McGrath stated that his concern is only with the adequacy of public access. It might be an interesting idea to speculate that a ferry terminal is necessary for maximum feasible public access even if it doesn’t fall readily within the scope of the project, so he’ll leave that aside. He said that he had spent some time getting permits for this organization, and the reference in the staff report is somewhat incomplete.
The full story and how it applies here is as follows: the Port of Oakland worked with the Bay Trail at providing a Bay Trail connection outside of Oakland Airport, around the Airport, outside of BCDC’s jurisdiction. As the Port of Oakland went forward with its design they proposed some facilities inside BCDC’s jurisdiction and he said “you know, you might want to think about that because getting a permit from BCDC can be a headache.” And indeed when they came in, BCDC wanted some more public access. When he went back with that to the Port’s engineering division people expressed their disappointment, perhaps even anger, and they said well, we’ll just take everything out of the zone. But they looked again and thought maybe they could live with it. This was because of the sense of proportionality; and that airport is one of the priority uses that the legislature agreed is appropriate to restrict public access. He
thought that on a project of this scale, he just doesn’t think it’s commensurate with 100 years of a mile of shoreline. So when the time comes for the main motion to be considered he would like to offer an amending motion to up the in lieu fee to $3 million. In some senses that’s chump change, but at least it brings it into the relative precedence. But what he wanted to impress on everybody else is the size and the tenure of restriction for a non-priority use.
Commissioner Gioia repeated his comment from the previous meeting -- that even the $1.5 million doesn’t meet the standard that this Commission has applied in some other permits. While he agreed with the comments of Commissioners McGlashan and Lundstrom that it would be great to be in a position not to allow further expansion of the prison at this location, the reality of it is that their jurisdiction is over the 100-foot shoreline band. And if agencies found it in their advantage to go back and re-design projects outside the shoreline band they may very well do that, and then the Commission loses the ability to provide for the public access that it would if it came through the Commission.
Although he had to note -- he was in a conversation with a friend that runs the Garden Project at San Quentin, who works with the prisoners there, and she said that having a prison like this in the Bay Area raises the visibility of issues regarding inmate rights and prison rights. It provides law students and others in the urban area to come in and work on prisoner issues at San Quentin. Being the main urban prison in the state, there are some unique issues that sometimes make us look at the larger picture. In his personal view, some of the comments that were made by the CDCR representative sort of dehumanized the individuals at the prison. But that was just his personal belief.
He thought it takes it down to the issue of what is appropriate public access and he didn’t believe -- in terms of dollar amounts it makes reference to the percent of the project within the Commission’s jurisdiction. And while he appreciates that comparison, he doesn’t think you can assign a value to public access just based on the percent of the project in the shoreline band. There are many other factors, i.e. what’s in the shoreline band and around it. He agrees with the recommendation that the Commission needs to increase the public access requirement. And that is clearly within their jurisdiction and they can do that today. He is open to hearing that discussion. He appreciates the $3 million recommendation, that’s in the area that makes it more consistent. And he’d like to see where that goes, even if the Commission needs to take a straw vote.
Commissioner Lundstrom commented that the reason she asked, very carefully, about the legal jurisdiction of BCDC was because she recognizes that they do have limited jurisdiction and the issue is maximum feasible public access. She would support the staff’s recommendation and would listen to the arguments about regarding maximum feasible public access. She also would argue that the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project has great public benefit to great numbers of people. It brings people to the ferry and to the shoreline and to the Larkspur Ferry, which now has three million passengers a year.
Commissioner Nelson stated that BCDC needs to keep its eye on their authority. His first concern, with regard to authority, is that he thinks that BCDC has no authority over the land use on this site. It’s not a priority use site. But it is important to remember that the Commission needs to take great care to look at issues regarding visual access and so forth, and he believes BCDC should take the same approach to their recommendation for the use of this site as to a ferry terminal, should that at some point be possible. There are a number of issues there -- is it possible to use a portion of this site as a ferry terminal? Reduce the impact of greenhouse gases? Reduce impacts on wetlands in the area? What does the Water Transit Authority believe regarding this project? The Commission doesn’t have answers to those questions. He thought that, from a procedural standpoint, this application at the moment truly isn’t complete, in the same way that it wouldn’t be if it didn’t address issues like visual access.
The substantive issue is maximum feasible public access. Given the scale and length of the impact and the gap in terms of shoreline access, He didn’t think that the revised proposal represents maximum feasible public access. Assemblymember Huffman’s staff mentioned that there is some question as to whether CDCR has the ability to offer that additional money. He would like to hear from BCDC staff and from the AG’s Office. He doesn’t think that affects their vote today. If the Commission determines that that was maximum feasible public access and they truly did not have authority to offer those funds and they couldn’t provide that funding, then they couldn’t move forward with the project because they would be in violation. So he wants to make sure the Commission understands that correctly. But that is a separate question from the amounts of $1.5 million to $3 million.
Deputy AG Jacobs clarified the question -- if BCDC approves a permit, with conditions, and the Applicant fails to meet those conditions, is it able to move forward with the project? Deputy AG Jacobs stated that generally, no. It depends on how the condition is worded but generally, no.
Executive Director Travis further clarified by asking do they have the authority to make that commitment? Deputy AG Jacobs responded that the Capital 8 budget appropriation for this project came with a five percent contingency, as do all projects. He strongly believes they have the authority, without violating the budget act, to use their portion of the contingency to increase from $934,000 to the higher amount, the $1.5 million. They have not changed the scope of the project or decreased it. They are still building all the same things that the legislature agreed to. They do not have the ability to simply pick a number.
Commissioner Finn agreed. The project amount of $337 million was put forward and agreed to by the legislature, which does not micro-manage the line items within the budget. As long as whatever is ultimately decided upon is directly attributable to a permit that is necessary for this project to go forward, that is fine. It is a capital part of the project.
She added that she has not heard the definition as yet of a maximum feasible public access. It concerns her that thus far she has only heard the subjective “it doesn’t sound like it’s enough.”
Deputy AG Jacobs supplemented his answer. He looked at the wording of the condition as drafted by staff, and as currently drafted the condition provides that, within 180 days of issuance of the permit, the money shall be deposited. So theoretically the Applicant could move forward with the project and would be required by the permit to deposit funds. If the funds were not deposited the Applicant would be in violation of the permit. Thus, the current staff proposal does allow the permit to be issued before the funds are deposited.
Chair Randolph asked, regarding the use of the $1.5 million, was it within the scope of how this could be allocated that some portion of that -- since there was another half million on the table now -- could be spent on the route around the prison facility? Would that be one way of addressing the issue of getting around the prison?
Mr. Batha responded that yes, the Commission could advise the Applicant that its preference would be to divide up the money into different pieces of pies. And if the Applicant were willing, then it could be done that way.
Chair Randolph followed up by asking, if that were an idea on the table, what would be the Commission’s feeling about distributing the funds more broadly?
Commissioner Lundstrom responded that it still benefits Marin County and other residents, so whatever the Commission would decide --.
Commissioner McGrath returned to the question of how do we get around the facility? It’s infeasible to go along the shoreline. If we were here saying that there is a bike route that goes around the facility and it’s complete and it’s safe and it’s on the Bay Trail, he wouldn’t be saying that there needs to be anything more done. But what he’s seeing here is that not only is there a priority for completing the bridge but there are some needs here to begin to get the process moving. He doesn’t believe that even with $3 million they’ve made a dent to get people around the facility. The reason he is going to propose $3 million is that it begins to move it up to the average realm of in lieu fees that the Commission has considered, rather than the lowest one on the list.
Seeing that no further Commissioner comments were forthcoming, Chair Randolph asked for the staff recommendation. Mr. Batha asked if the $500,000 provided by CDCR today would go to TAM or --? Chair Randolph suggested that that be the staff recommendation, and if Commissioners want to then change the motion they are free to do so.
Ms. Wolowicz stated that the staff recommendation is that the Commission approves a small portion of the project to build a new condemned inmate housing project at San Quentin State Prison. The staff recommendation contains special conditions that require the permittee to construct a small public access viewing and parking area on Main Street; to provide an in lieu contribution of $900,000 to the Transportation Authority of Marin to provide offsite public access to help fund a portion of Phase One of the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project; to incorporate best construction management practices to minimize impacts on natural resources; and executive director approval of the disbursement funds of the Transportation Authority of Marin.
Staff requests that the Commission allow staff to incorporate changes to the recommendation in order to reflect the additional in lieu contribution of $423,000. These changes reflect that the additional monies would go to Phase One of the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project, yet any money not spent on Phase One would be spent on Phase Two.
Therefore, they ask to make small edits throughout the document and to incorporate two short inserts. The first insert would be located after the last paragraph on page 3, and it states “Phase Two of the Central Marin Ferry Terminal Project involves constructing a bicycle pedestrian bridge over Corte Madera Creek. Phase two will connect Sir Francis Drake Boulevard with Warnum Drive near the shopping village at Corte Madera, and to the old Redwood Highway. There is an attached Exhibit C that was provided by TAM. The total cost for Phase Two is estimated to be $10 million. Once additional funding is secured, TAM will move forward with the environmental review and developing of engineering plans. Phase Two may be built concurrently with Phase One.”
The second insert will be placed after the first paragraph on page 9, and would say “at the February 5, 2009 Commission Meeting the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation revised its public access proposal to include an additional in lieu monetary contribution to the Transportation Authority of Marin of $423,000. This contribution will facilitate additional improvements along and near Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and the Larkspur Ferry Terminal associated with Phase One of the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project. Any portion of the additional $423,000 contribution which is not used towards Phase One will be contributed towards Phase Two of the Central Marin Ferry Connection Project. Phase Two will involve constructing a bicycle pedestrian bridge over Corte Madera Creek from the base of the Phase One over-crossing of Sir Francis Drake Boulevard, and connecting to Old Redwood Highway and to Warnum Drive near the shopping village at Corte Madera. Phase Two will close the gap in the San Francisco Bay Trail.” With that, we recommend that you adopt the recommendation.
Commissioner McGrath stated that he would like to add either a substitute motion or an amended motion but, recognizing the Chair’s discretion in running the meeting and also the desire of the Applicant to have a straw vote, the intent of it would be not to change the priority of the staff recommendation but simply to add further funds for completion of Segment 1A and study for 1B. Chair Randolph asked if there were a specific number for the addition? Commissioner McGrath responded that yes, he would basically ask that the current number (the $1,423,000) be doubled, thus totaling about $3 million.
Chair Randolph asked for Mr. Sleppy’s response, from the view of CDCR, for the $3 million level suggested by Commissioner McGrath. Mr. Sleppy responded that they do not have the authority to increase this amount without going back to the legislature; or, it would be a dangerous precedent for them if they did. Secondly, he couldn’t think of a worse time in the state’s modern history to ask anyone to contribute more.
Commissioner Wieckowski commented that, on a local level, there are sometimes monies that remain. If at the end of this project, if there were funds left over, what would happen normally within the CDCR, and what might be a condition that BCDC might be able to place on the permit if there were excess funds? Mr. Sleppy responded that every dollar of the $350 million earmarked for this project that is not spent goes back to the taxpayers. CDCR is not allowed to use whatever is left over.
Commissioner Wieckowski asked if the condition for the additional money were placed at the end of the project, would there be the possibility of that kicking in? Mr. Sleppy responded that they are not allowed to use their authority in that manner. When they revisited their expenses for the project they were able to find additional funding to total the current $1,432,000, and that’s the only room they’ve got.
Commissioner Nelson suggested that half the $3 million for the TAM project might be provided before construction begins rather than after.
Commissioner Bates began his comments by saying how the entire issue was really troubling to him. He spoke to the small amount of money being discussed as part of the huge money to be spent on this project. He noted that the legislature has not yet approved the budget and this could easily be an item that is part of the budget adoption that is being worked out right now. A number of projects have received funding; they can find money for this.
Commissioner Finn commented that CDCR has a very detailed budget totaling about $337 million. They did have a five percent contingency, a relatively small amount for such a large project. Somehow they were able to scrape up the additional $423,000 they came forward with today, but to now need to go into it for another $1.5 million is quite extensive.
There is nothing in the state budget that is pending for this project. The legislature has no more actions to take there. As Mr. Sleppy stated, they are fully ready to go to bid right now and this would necessitate legislative approval. She is not sure how it could be done. She doesn’t know what the chances are for redesigning or to keep going.
Mr. Sleppy stated that they would prefer to leave the design as it is. CDCR needs to get this built. One thing about it is it puts inmates currently living in terribly inhumane conditions into much better conditions. It gets the officers in much safer positions. Spending another year of going through a budget process that is already literally bankrupt would be unfortunate. He can’t imagine their Secretary testifying to a committee that they need another $1.5 million to do the same project.
Commissioner Finn stated that this project was originally designed for staff safety. Also, increased medical care is needed for the inmates.
Mr. Sleppy asked for the straw vote today for the $1.523 million. He doesn’t know if or when they could come back. They need to get this built. They would really like to contribute to the bike connection -- it is close by, it can be seen from the project site, it’s tangible, it’s real. All projects would like to have more mitigation money; they just don’t.
Commissioner Jordan Hallinan stated that when she is thinking about maximum feasible public access she is thinking about a trail along the shore. Getting access around the property is very important. CDCR probably doesn’t want to spend a lot of time to redesign this. But their job is to provide the best public access they can and this is their chance. They ought to go for it; it’s part of the job put before them. So she would go for the additional $3 million for public access and let them go back and either redesign or something else.
Vice Chair Halsted echoed that the Commission’s job really is to deal with public access, and they need to insist upon the maximum feasible public access consistent with this project, so she was inclined to support the suggestion of $3 million. She stated how impressed she was by the quality of the staff recommendation but the value of this access to the Bay is greater than they can imagine over the period of time that the institution will be there, so it’s very important that they think about what their contribution is going to be over the next 100 years.
Commissioner Gioia noted that, on page 10, if you compared relative costs -- for example, the Port of Oakland Airport project of $114 million, the total public access there was $641,000; the Highway 101 expansion, a $75 million project, had total public access of $2.6 million; the Caltrans Highway 101 project, $150 million, there was a $400,000 monetary contribution with some additional undetermined public access cost. So, if you look at scale of projects and -- although there is no magic formula -- but if you look at project cost and percent, if indeed we look at $3 million out of a $337 million project, it is clearly not out of scale.
Mr. Sleppy remarked that, in the 100-foot zone, the improvements that the Commission is considering are about$2.5-$3 million. CDCR is almost 50 percent of that in their mitigation offer.
Executive Director Travis suggested that the best thing to do at this point is that someone make a motion to approve the staff recommendation with the increased amount. Then, at the request of CDCR, they will take a straw vote to see if there are 13 votes for approval. At that point CDCR can decide to either allow the vote to go forward, to accept the permit and see if they can internally scrape up the money, or whether they want to withdraw the application because they know now that they don’t have the money to do it, or to accept the permit and also go back to see if they simply want to redesign it and get it out of the Commission’s jurisdiction and not have to pay anything.
Commissioner Goldzband asked for clarification on what CDCR’s request was. Executive Director Travis responded that they would like a straw vote on the staff’s recommendation on the $1.5 million. The Commission can provide that by making a motion on the staff recommendation, then there would be a substitute motion. If the majority of the Commission rejects the substitute motion, then the main motion is on the staff’s recommendation. Mr. Sleppy reiterated that they would like to have the straw vote on the $1.523 million.
Commissioner Finn inquired as to CDCR’s options if the Commission voted approval of a permit for the $3 million? Executive Director Travis responded that their options are to not build the project at all, or to build it outside of BCDC jurisdiction. She further inquired that if the Commission took the option today to vote and approve a $3 million permit and CDCR went back -- when would they have to comply with that payment? What happens if they go to bid and the bids allow them to not fully fund $3 million? If the bids were beneficial and there was some ability to meet that $3 million, would they then have to take that risk?
Commissioner Nelson stated that if the Applicant wants a straw vote then the Commission should give them one. With that,
MOTION: Commissioner Nelson motioned for a straw vote, seconded by Commissioner Wagenknecht.
Prior to the vote, Commissioner McGlashan commented that he hoped that CDCR would not continue to hang on to the calculation that $1.5 million is a huge percentage of the $2 million of work in their jurisdiction. He stated that the Commission never considers projects in that manner. There are serious view impacts; a hill that is part of the natural landscape of San Francisco Bay is being taken away. Those kinds of effects on the Bay are utterly legitimate issues for the Commission to consider in trying to determine what maximum feasible public access is.
Commissioner McGlashan further stated that he thought that CDCR would be doing itself a disservice if it rejected the notion of a more appropriate mitigation payment simply because of the way they are tying to look at this problem. It is a very small percentage of the overall project cost and, considering a lost century of access and the inability of the smaller number to get anyone around the prison property, CDCR would be making a terrible mistake in the way they are interpreting what this agency is trying to do. The core issues the Commission is struggling with is the lost opportunity of access at this site, and getting people around it in a safe and efficient manner, and maximizing public access through the Central Marin Ferry Connection. And if CDCR rejects that because $3 million is too big a number, then they were shooting themselves in the foot in terms of achieving the goals that they’ve laid out. They might have the opportunity to do an incredibly beneficial thing for the Bay Area community.
Commissioner Bourgart commented that he is taking CDCR and Department of Finance at their word that there is not going to be another $1.5 million available. Given the state budget situation, the chances of getting the additional $1.5 million are slim and, even in the event that the bids come in lower than estimated, that money could be very well used elsewhere, given the tight budget situation we’re facing. So he didn’t think any of them can count on that money ultimately being available. And certainly CDCR does not appear to have the ability to make that commitment today. So the real choice is not between $1.5 million and $3 million; it is between $1.5 million and zero.
Chair Randolph suggested that the Commission move to the straw vote on the staff recommendation and asked that those who would vote in favor of the staff recommendation raise their hand. He also stated that 13 are needed for a majority.
After seeing the number of raised hands (10 ayes) in response to the straw vote, Chair Randolph then asked Mr. Sleppy if he would like the Commission to proceed with the alternate motion from Commissioner McGrath regarding the $3 million in lieu payment amount. Mr. Sleppy responded that he is not authorized to consider any further funding without going to the Governor’s Office and the CDCR Secretary. He thanked the Commission for their efforts and stated that CDCR is withdrawing their application for now.
Subsequently, Commissioner Gioia asked if it made sense to have a straw vote on the $3 million payment amount, so there is a clearer understanding of where the Commission is at for the future. Chair Randolph responded that he didn’t think there was a lot to be lost or gained by that. However, he asked which Commissioners would have been inclined to vote in favor of the alternative motion by Commissioner McGrath regarding the $3 million threshold? The Commissioners responding in favor raised their hands; the count was 13, which would have been a majority.
Briefing and Public Hearing on Bicycle and Pedestrian Access on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Brad McCrea, Commission staff, provided the briefing. The bridge provides a critical link between Marin County and Contra Costa County. In the past the Commission has expressed its general support for bicycle and pedestrian access on the bridge.
In 2007 the Bay Area Toll Authority (BATA) finalized a report that included a solution that would accommodate public access and provide additional travel lanes for vehicles on the bridge. It also recognized that the preferred bike path design would need a design exception from Caltrans. In March 2008 Caltrans determined that using the shoulder for bike and pedestrian paths would impose a number of safety hazards and they would not approve the bike path design exception.
Subsequently, in April 2008, Caltrans briefed the Commission on their decision to deny the design exception. The Commission asked Caltrans to return and provide additional traffic and safety data and a cost/benefit analysis. Also at that meeting the Commission expressed its support for the concept of public access on the bridge and determined that bicycle and pedestrian access would further two goals: one, expanding the San Francisco Bay Trail; two, providing alternative modes of transportation.
Mr. McCrea clarified that, as no specific action is before the Commission today, there is no formal action required. However, any policy guidance on the subject would be welcomed.
Mr. Andrew Fremier, BATA Deputy Executive Director, then briefly discussed the BATA report. He stated that a number of studies had been done on the proposed project and several alternatives discussed. He showed a series of slides detailing the BATA alternatives. He concluded by saying that, as Caltrans had not approved their submitted bike path design proposal, they are not pursuing anything further without additional direction.
(Prior to beginning the Caltrans briefing, Commissioner Bourgart asked if he could step away from his seat as a Commissioner and go to the podium and be part of the presentation, as CalTrans is one of the constituent departments within Business, Transportation and Housing. Chair Randolph responded in the affirmative.)
Mr. Bijan Sartipi, Business Director of Caltrans for the Bay Area, then gave a Powerpoint presentation that further detailed the history of the various public access studies for bicycles/pedestrians on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
Mr. Rick Land, Chief Engineer for Caltrans, continued the slide presentation and discussed the various safety concerns regarding the BATA proposal.
Commissioner Bourgart then discussed the cost/benefits of the potential project and presented information on the projected usage of the bicycle/pedestrian access. They projected a high daily number of users and calculated the cost per user per trip. They also determined that the primary BATA proposal would not work.
However, there may be other options, including a bike shuttle or bike bus, or adding bike racks to existing buses. Depending upon usage, these options could have a great deal of flexibility in terms of adjusting the amount of service to reflect the actual number of users. The other options could also potentially significantly increase transit capacity.
Commissioner Bourgart concluded that, although they have worked very hard to find a way to make a retrofit bike/pedestrian public access on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge feasible, it simply won’t work because of cost and safety issues.
Chair Randolph then opened the Public Comment portion of the Briefing.
Ms, Laura Thompson, ABAG, started by thanking BCDC for their longstanding commitment to the goals of shoreline public access around the Bay. The public wouldn’t be close to 300 miles of complete Bay Trail today if it weren’t for the dedication of this Commission. She then gave the Commissioners a report that highlighted the reasons why she thought use of the shoulders on the bridge as a public access pilot project was warranted at this time.
The Bridge is a key gap in the 500-mile plan for the Bay Trail system. Many people have been working for more than a decade to secure direct bicycle and pedestrian access across the Bridge. Local jurisdictions have adopted plans in support of this access. Substantial progress has been made in both Marin and Contra Costa Counties to facilitate public access on the Bridge.
Regarding the recent study completed in 2007 by BATA -- what started as a bicycle/ pedestrian study turned into a proposal to convert a shoulder to a third lane of traffic. Caltrans based this assertion on models that apparently showed a need for increased vehicle capacity on the bridge.
But taking a closer look at the Caltrans forecast in the 2007 study, tables three and four, which are entitled “2030 projected motor vehicle demand on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge” show that the throughput capacity of a six lane facility versus the current four lane facility is only an additional 85 vehicles, or 1.7 percent. In addition, the congestion that occurs behind the toll plaza would not be solved by opening additional lanes but instead would require additional measures, such as toll group expansion or dedicated carpool lanes. So they are left to conclude that the six lane configuration will not address any real or perceived congestion on the Bridge.
Other data show that vehicle trips on the Bridge have been in decline since 2003. The reduction of vehicle trips occurred prior to the current economic crisis and they believe that this trend of declining vehicle trips will continue for the foreseeable future.
Caltrans has already spent nearly $1 billion on a seismic retrofit on the bridge. A solid barrier placed on the Bridge allowing bicycle and pedestrian use would cost significantly less than the retrofit and the moveable barrier alternative.
Ms. Thompson concluded by presenting some images to the Commission of bikers today in the Bay Area. She stated that they think the benefits of public access on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge are clear, and she urged the Commission to send a clear message to Caltrans that if they were to come back to the Commission they will be required to provide public access to the Bridge as part of any future permit to open the third lane to automobiles.Ms. Deb Hubsmith showed a slide detailing the number of crashes that have occurred on the Bridge and the various years the crashes took place. The slide showed what actually happens when you put up barriers. The barriers were up for the seismic retrofit of the bridge, at a cost of $1 billion. As the chart on the slide shows, the number of crashes decreased the years when the barrier was up.
At this time she is going to refute Caltrans’ summary of safety concerns. They say that the elimination of the shoulder will eliminate accident rates; we say that’s playing with data, and their own data from the Bridge shows that it could decrease crashes.
Caltrans says that there will be increased risk for motorists and disabled vehicles. We say it’s quite the opposite. If a car stalls on the Bridge and there’s a barrier there for public access the motorist, can actually get out of their car, not be in harms way, and get on to the public access shoulder where they can be safe.
Caltrans says the barrier provides an increased risk for maintenance workers. We say it’s the opposite. If there’s a safety refuge where someone can go it’s always safer. Caltrans also says it will create increased response times for people injured in an accident. We think it’s the opposite because emergency vehicles will be able to use the pathway in order to get somewhere faster.
We can argue, with data, against every one of Caltrans’ claims. If you look at what happened on the Golden Gate Bridge, it indicated that the speed limit was lowered from 55 to 45 mph and the accident rate is now three times lower than in the 1980’s, largely due to the reduction in speed limit, driver education and awareness.
We believe that the pilot program, which would reduce speeds on the bridge, coupled with these types of improvements, could improve safety on the bridge and provide public access. Some of the things done on the Golden Gate Bridge include: reducing the speed limit, increasing the enforcement of the speed limit, increased driver awareness and education, and monitoring speed and crashes to compare before and after data of the demonstration project.
Mr. Robert Raburn, Director of the Bay Bicycle Coalition, thanked the Commission for their tenacious protection and stewardship of the Bayshore. He noted that since 1997 we’ve seen a growing demand for the maximum feasible public access to the shoreline. Public access has not been addressed on any of the projects since 1997. Right now bicycling is blossoming. There are 43% increases in San Francisco. Marin County has increased 66%. In Oakland, at the Fruitvale BART Station, there has been a 40% increase in the past year. A recent BART survey on the Richmond Fremont line showed that 7% of the passengers on that line were bicyclists. Overall last year, during Bike To Work Day, the 40% increase mentioned was an observation, not an estimate. This is good data, solid data.
Indirect access represents a significant cost, as we’ve seen on the Benicia-Martinez Bridge, when Caltrans suddenly stopped that service and said “well, you’ll just have to take the bus all the way in to the Sunland Mall, and then find your way back to Martinez.”
Finally, Line M over the San Mateo Bridge is at risk of being cut. Indirect access is not public access, any more than a YouTube video could substitute for direct access.
Mr. Craig Murray stated that he is fourth generation San Rafael and current Director of the Los Colinas Valley Sanitary District, where they can and do provide three and a half miles of Bay Trail. As past President of Richmond Local 21, representing 1,700 mid-managers in the Bay Area, bicycle commuters to and from the north and east bays insist on alternative transportation and economic development for all socioeconomic groups. He is also representative of the Richmond Green Team, working on adopted urban and environmental accords and quantified goals and meeting provisions in AB32 as early as 2010.
A few things to consider: this is the 3rd least traveled bridge in the Bay Area. Point Richmond and Richmond’s Point San Pablo Peninsula are known to be a micro-climate, buffeted by strong winds and fog, and is bordered by Angel Island, and is certainly protected more than the exposed bridge at the Golden Gate. A new TAM ad stated that a new, safe bike trail will be built adjacent to the 101 freeway, ostensibly only feet away from the same vehicular traffic that travels on and over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Old formulas and old thinking.
I attended the California Transportation Awards for 2008 and the best alternative transportation project was awarded to a private firm working with a local government to improve the Sacramento Bridge by adding a low-cost, lightweight extension that provides a cost-effective and safe way to travel for pedestrians and bicyclists over another metal bridge in northern California. Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is a State bridge that is critical in design for connection to the San Francisco Bay Trail.
It is also of highest importance through all the years of effort by local and state governments working their hardest in their jurisdiction to make room and improvements and they look to those that control the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge to finally connect the SF Bay Trail.
A Caltrans project takes 20 years, such as the 210 freeway extension. Some people can retire on a single project. Caltrans has not been able to find a solution for ten years so far.
Buses are infrequent, disruptive, expensive and often not available to more than three bicycle riders at a time. This can cause delays of up to a half hour on each end of the person’s commute during regular work days.
Caltrans should be compensating the transportation rider, the Golden Gate Bridge District, and the dislocated Bay Trail user for their disruption. This should be the mitigation for continued obstinacy. This obstinacy is only charging the people of the state of California and this charge is flowing through the tip of the decision and the one should absorb the St. Elmo’s Fire of the state of California’s Transportation Agency.
There are many state and local leaders on record calling on Caltrans to make improvements. The Lieutenant Governor, at a recent State Lands Commission, also implored Caltrans of their obligation. I don’t know what higher authority Caltrans needs to hear from, individually or collectively, to take or find someone who can take immediate action.
I respectfully request the BCDC to promulgate the St. Elmo’s Fire and implement the proposed mitigation on Caltrans until a reasonable solution is developed and the San Francisco Bay Trails is connected to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.
Mr. Tony Sustak stated that he has read the book The Country, The City, which has to do with the role of the BCDC in relation to others in the Bay Area. He read a letter to the Commission: “Dear BCDC Commissioners, a group of interested citizens formed the Richmond Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory committee to seek safe, efficient, and coordinated bike/pedestrian and ADA compliant routes in our city. Our slogan is ‘for a bike-able, walkable, Richmond.’ We have a pending application for MTCDA funding to develop a master bike plan for Richmond, which will show important links to many multi-modal transit routes, including the crucial Bay Trail connection across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Our ‘Bikes Yes’ subcommittee has initiated a website on the bridge issue called www.bikesyes.org. We join other groups in asking the BCDC to seek a favorable response from Caltrans in order to create safe access to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. It is especially frustrating for Richmonders that it has taken a deadly tragedy along the I-580 designated bike route to open discussion about creating effective signage and re-routing Fastpass access lanes to increase bicycle safety.
In fact, we in Richmond are very concerned about the lack of progress under Caltrans stewardship of bicycle access issues. A typical Caltrans project takes 20 years to complete, yet many have been working on this project for ten years with no appreciable improvements made. We ask that Caltrans honor its commitment to construct public bike access over the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in accordance with the recommendations of the BCDC, the Lieutenant Governor, the MTC, and many of our state and local leaders.” Adrian Harris, Chair.
Mr. Bill Pinkham, a longtime resident of Richmond and member of the Board of Directors of the East Bay Bicycle Coalition, the Contra Costa County Bicycle Advisory Committee, the Richmond Bicycle/Pedestrian Advisory Committee, and Friends of Richmond Greenway, echoed Craig Murray’s idea that the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge is special. Not only does it connect the regional trails, but it also connects two very interesting and wonderful natural areas and cities. The thing that keeps being missed in the cost/benefit analyses is what cars do to the atmosphere and what bikes do to the atmosphere. In today’s world, when we seem to be wanting to green the planet, it seems a no-brainer to encourage use of bicycles as opposed to cars. It seems a small accommodation to make in the world of transportation to accommodate bikes.
Ms. Maureen Gaffney, speaking as a resident of Marin who commutes to Oakland on a daily basis, first mentioned her last time speaking in front of the Commission, which included stories of cranky bus drivers and four hour expeditions from her door to her desk. Her frustration remains and the information presented by the previous speakers has only exacerbated the sentiment.
MTC and BATA have expressed a willingness to direct funding towards a public access pilot project on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge in order to address persistent questions regarding levels of use and cost/benefit ratios. However, Caltrans appears wedded to opening the vacant third lane to vehicle despite numbers demonstrating that the capacity on the upper deck would only increase by 1.7%.
Sea level is rising, our climate is changing, the transportation sector accounts for 33% of greenhouse gas emissions. AB 32 requires a statewide cap on emissions. Caltrans should be at the forefront of this effort with progressive actions such as facilitating bike and pedestrian access on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, around the region, and around the state.
Lastly, I would like to sincerely thank the Commission for having given such serious and thoughtful consideration to this matter these past years, and I look forward to following future developments. In the meantime, if you see me about to throw my bike at a bus on Point Richmond please initiate an immediate intervention.
Gerald Rasmussen, speaking on behalf of Trails for Richmond Action Committee (TRAC) reiterated his letter to BCDC of November 2, 2008, which asked BCDC to do its part to advance completion of the San Francisco Bay Trail across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Richmond has 25 miles of Bay Trail completed, more than any other city along the planned 500-mile route. However, there is still no connection to Marin County.
TRAC has received many communications from residents for both Marin and East Bay Counties who wish to be able to bicycle to and from work as well as hike and bike for recreation across the Bridge. Their alliance of about 1,000 households in Richmond and neighboring cities fully supports the Bay Trail, as they stated in the November 2 letter.The safety on that bridge is not because of a shoulder being there or not, it’s that people are driving too fast. I went to high school in Marin County and that was the place to go when someone said “how fast does your car go?” That was the place to find out. Because it was a place with no enforcement, a wide open stretch of highway with zero cops present. That was the known locale. The future is not the way we are now, the status quo is not acceptable.
Ms. Adrienne Harris, long-term resident of Richmond and member of the steering committee of the North Richmond Shoreline Open Space Alliance and member of the Richmond Recreation Parks Commission meetings, stated that, for the city of Richmond, shoreline access is a real public health issue. The inability to access their shoreline has had a significant negative effect on their city for many years and they very much would like to have their nexus of public transportation of BART, AmTrak, and AC Transit, which are uniquely combined in Richmond and only a short hop to the Richmond Greenway and from there could be a straight shot to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, from which they could access many, many natural and beautiful places. They would like to make that connection. The Richmond TRAC is all about linkages and they continue to urge the Commission to support this vital link on the Bay Trail.
Ms. Sandra Threlfall, a citizen of Oakland, remembered in the 70’s when Caltrans accepted Marin’s request to put a water pipe over the bridge. It was interesting to see the reaction of the cars. People slowed down in their cars. Fortunately, she never saw an accident. She feels that this Commission is the body that she comes to for what it has done for public access and she truly believes that they have the window to the future that oftentimes the legislators and executives have trouble seeing. And the future is alternative transportation, not cars. To close the window on an opportunity for access across this bridge is a grave mistake. Ten years from now people will be asking why wasn’t there a bicycle path? Why can’t we walk across the bridge? Portland has owned its bicycle and pedestrian access along a number of their modalities and what has happened is that more and more people are choosing alternatives. This is an opportunity for you to keep the door open for the future and encourage alternatives to the automobile. Don’t close this door.
Mr. Jason Meggs cited the frustrations involved in the long process of obtaining bicycle access for the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. He asked if others could honestly raise their hands in response to the idea that Caltrans and their parent agency have not essentially acted as lobbyists and essentially as representatives for the automobile industry, and perhaps the real estate industry and petroleum industry. The DOT should stand for the Department Of Transportation, not the Department Opposing Transportation. Yet that’s what we’ve seen year after year. There is no excuse.
He is pleased to hear that Caltrans appears to be representing that they don’t want to close the shoulder any more. For a long time we have heard that bicycles cannot share our public facilities because more cars are coming. If that is not true, Caltrans, please put that in writing as soon as possible. To quote a former Commissioner, “it’s pretty cheeky to suggest that.”
And the issue of shoulders has been quite a journey. I have spent years of my life on not only the Richmond Bridge issue, but the San Mateo Bridge and the Bay Bridge. We did manage to win on the Bay Bridge, for now. Half of the access is promised and they are actually building it.
In one hearing at MTC they got two ten foot shoulders on each deck, 40 feet of space with no controversy, yet we have spent years working on as little as 8 feet -- one-fifth of that -- for equal access. And then they say “well, more cars means we have to take those shoulders away.” If Caltrans really cared about public safety they would be actively engaging in the important process of creating infrastructure and access and facilities and services for people who don’t use cars. That should be their primary mission at this point.
If Caltrans cared about safety they would have covered the grates and changed the signs and allowed immediate access. That is a very inexpensive option. I’m willing to pay for it myself. I will go out there tomorrow and fix that bridge. It’s been waiting for quite a long time. And it’s not a difficult question. If we want to create a separate facility in the future with a barrier, or hang something below, which is also a viable option that hasn’t been fully considered, that’s great. But tomorrow there should be access. And that’s been true since the early 70’s.
If Caltrans truly cared about safety and public access not only would they have covered the grates on all of the bridges -- I sent them a letter in 1997, notice of dangerous conditions. Bicycles are getting on these bridges, sometimes legally, sometimes arguably not, but they are using them for many reasons. Out of necessity people use these bridges.
And our dear Alex Zuckerman is dead now and might be alive now had he not had a very serious disabling injury on the Bay Bridge when Caltrans let him out there as a guest and did not cover those grates, which should have been covered in 1997 and before then. So there is no credibility with Caltrans and I urge you to do everything you can to demand immediate access. Do not trust them.
I’m a researcher at UC Berkeley now; I need to say this. I tried to get Caltrans’ 2005 projections. I assure you it could not have considered the demand instruction that we have seen and will continue to see from peak oil. They are not considering climate change in their models, they are not being sensitive to the protection of the greenbelt, and reversing sprawl development in their models. Please send any models that you get from them my way because I would love to debunk them for you.
Mr. Andy Thornley, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, stated that on behalf of the 10,000 members of the Coalition and the hundreds of thousands of bicyclists living on either end of this great Bridge, he calls on Caltrans to satisfy the desire of the community and public agencies to facilitate rather than obstruct access for bicycle and foot traffic on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. This bridge represents one of the most significant gaps of the regional bicycle route network and the Bay Trail, as you’ve heard. Completing this route for bike traffic will provide enormous benefit to sustainable active transportation in the Bay Area. Allowing this gap to remain, allowing the network to remain broken, is an ongoing policy effort that is difficult to defend. There is no real reason to delay. We are no longer on the threshold of a new century, we’re almost a decade into a new century. It’s time to bridge the gap, let’s do a pilot project already.
Chris Ruedy stated that there are too many people on each side of the Richmond-San Rafael span to maintain a monopoly of automobiles, which is what we have now. He came to tell the Commission about a phrase -- “if you build it they will come.” And it’s very true. Not one thing that’s been built for bicycle or alternative transportation has maintained the same user-ship as it did on day one or year one or decade one. The word gets out, modes change, everything grows. To not plan for that is just silly.
Conversely, the idea of opening a third lane on a highway or on a bridge or anywhere, or expanding automobile capacity in any way, those will come. If you build that, more cars will come.
So you have the major decision here of which way to take it and we know the monopoly of the car. There’s been a lot of Caltrans bashing and frankly their bullet point issues here raised more issues of bridge management than it did anything else.
Seeing no other public speakers, Chair Randolph entertained a motion to close the Public Comment.
MOTION: Upon motion by Commissioner Wieckowski, seconded by Vice Chair Halsted, the Commission unanimously voted to close the Public Comment.
Commissioner Gibbs thanked Caltrans for coming back before the Commission with the additional data that was requested. He asked the first group of public commenters three questions:
(1) Caltrans presented user estimates going forward (based on projections acquired by monitoring and counting users of other bridges in the Bay Area) and estimated about 65 riders per day going forward. Do you accept or reject those projections and why?
Ms. Hubsmith rejected those projections, stating that the land uses on the other bridges (used to estimate the projections) are not similar, on either side, to the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Also, the destinations on either side of those bridges are not similar either. For example, the Golden Gate Bridge has very steep hills on either side of it. They don’t think the usage would be as high as the Golden Gate Bridge, but they think it would be much higher than what Caltrans projected, because the land uses are so different.
Commissioner Gibbs asked if she would care to give a rough figure. Ms. Hubsmith responded that it wasn’t within their purview to create a figure but that’s why they were so behind the BATA proposal of a pilot project, which would actually measure the number of users.
Commissioner Gibbs second question -- data was presented alleging that Caltrans safety data with respect to this specific bridge was erroneous. Of the safety issues they presented, one that was not addressed was the notion of high winds on that bridge. Big rigs could collapse. If there were only two lanes they would essentially take up the whole highway, thereby causing massive delays and dislocations. Do you accept that proposition?
Ms. Hubsmith responded that there are indeed high winds on the bridge and they would be acceptable of levels of closures on the pathway when the winds would be high, prior to them closing the bridge to automobiles. So if there was a threshold and the pathway were closed during those time periods that would alleviate those concerns.
Commissioner Gibbs’ third question: Caltrans presented some alternatives -- a shuttle and a bus. Assuming that there are ways to guarantee a stream of funds, what is your analysis or comment on why those alternatives would not be acceptable?
Ms. Hubsmith responded that it would take awhile to build a demonstration project. It would take many years. She would like to see the indirect access of shuttles provided in the short term. But it’s important that they work toward the long-term benefit of providing direct public access so that the Bay Trail can be completed, so people can use their own power to go from one side of the bridge to the other. So buses and shuttles is okay short-term, but it really is no substitute to completing all of the segments and having a complete Bay Trail.Commissioner Gibbs asked why a shuttle bus is not acceptable for a short distance?
Mr. Raburn responded that it would be acceptable as they awaited completion of construction, as traffic management plans are proposed. But it’s not a long-term solution. Ms. Thompson added that delays could be half an hour on either side of the bridge -- we don’t ask automobile drivers to wait for half an hour to get across the bridge. It’s really a matter of reliability.
Commissioner McGrath stated that he’d like to see “more light and less heat.” It doesn’t seem that a common parlance has been developed for this issue. He would like to see a better dialogue. What the Commission heard today doesn’t take us very far down the road towards any kind of grappling we might need to deal with for a permit.
Commissioner Bates stated, at the April 3rd meeting, that the Commission voted to support public access on the bridge and determined that the bicycle and pedestrian access would further the goal of expanding the San Francisco Trail and providing alternative means of transportation. That is a valid position for the Commission to hold.
Commissioner Bates also serves on MTC and as such serves on the BATA board. He has been involved in this issue with BATA and has had many meetings with Caltrans on this issue. Caltrans has really dug their heels in and said that they aren’t going to approve it. They don’t think it’s safe and as such they are not going to move off that point. So the Commission can talk all they want about having access, but unless Caltrans determines that it’s safe it’s not gong to happen -- period full stop. So he thinks that it’s important for them to maintain their position here. He thinks it’s the right position. He thinks we can try to figure out a way to get access on that bridge, recognizing some limitations, like when the wind is too strong the bicycles aren’t able to go on at that time.
But until and unless there is a change of attitude from the director of Caltrans, nothing is going to happen. So his suggestion was that the Commission hold firm, continue to advocate for it, and see what happens in 2010.
Commissioner McGlashan echoed Commissioner Bates’ comments and reiterated that the right thing for the Commission to do is to chart a vision about how they respond to climate change and how they reinvent -- play their own small role in reinventing -- what transportation could be around the Bay Area, and holding firm where there are permit requests on their basic approach that this access would be a good thing on the Richmond Bridge.
Caltrans has been very responsive to the request to bring back better data and cost/benefit analyses. I would like to suggest, therefore, that we try the BATA pilot experiment. There is an argument about the data and how to interpret the data and there is some evidence that this model is very highly sensitive.
If you run the numbers asking to what the Golden Gate experiences at the lower end of their range that brings the cost per user trip down to $5.20 per trip. And that’s pretty close to the kind of cost per trip that the North Bay voters just approved for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit. Leaving bicycle trips out of that calculus, we were looking at numbers around $4-6 per trip and the voters approved that with a sales tax measure.
So the problem is we just don’t know. There is a debate about data, and I think the best way to sort out whether people would use it and what utility it has and what the safety data provides is to actually run the pilot with some good safety procedures -- like stopping use on it in a high wind situation sounds like a good idea. And I think the only way we’ll know for sure is to actually try the pilot. We ran a pilot 30 years ago with the pipeline over the bridge and the safety data suggested that it might not be as much of a concern, not only that time but during the retrofit. The direction I would give if I were in the majority is, if you were going to come in for a permit let’s make sure we try the pilot in the meantime so we can understand what the real data would tell us.
Chair Randolph expressed the view that he felt conflicted about the whole issue. He commuted for years and years by bicycle and appreciates the issue of bike lanes and bike access. When he puts on the economist’s hat -- and leaving aside the issues of safety -- it strikes him that the issue of volume and cost/benefit --. I do appreciate Caltrans having come back and responding to Commissioner Gibbs and myself with some data, some reference points, for likely levels of usage.
The Richmond-San Rafael Bridge -- that I cross all the time -- is very different from the Golden Gate Bridge, which has a lot of recreational use, a lot of tourists, and major concentrations of jobs on one end and a pretty good number of people on the other end. The destinations are much farther apart in the case of the San Rafael Bridge.
It’s not just the length of the bridge but where are the destinations that would draw people. But how many people? There has been no evidence that there would be a significant number of bicyclists using it or that they would exceed the numbers that have been put on the table today by Caltrans for the Dumbarton Bridge. So if we just average, say, 44 riders per day ,or double or triple that --.
From a state budget standpoint, we know the state budget is bad and it isn’t going to be very good next year or the year after that. So there’s not going to be much money around and ultimately the taxpayers pay for this stuff. I did a little “back of the envelope” calculation. Let’s say a taxpayer in California pays $5,000 in state tax and the price tag of this is $72 million. That would be 15,000 taxpayers paying 100% of their tax to the state to support this bike line. If it were a $54 million price tag that would be 10,000 taxpayers paying 100% of their tax money for 34, 44 bikers. I’d have a hard time telling the taxpayer that they’ve been working hard all year to pay their tax so that 40 people a day can cross the bridge on their bike, who actually have other options, who have the option to put the bike on a bus or a shuttle.
So, I’m very sympathetic to the idea of a pilot. Pilots can give you data and I’m sympathetic to the idea of a pilot that has very rigorous criteria so that when it sunsets and the standards against which continuing that project on a permanent basis can be compared -- would be a valuable thing. And to be very, very tough about that. I still get very hung up about the cost. Can we justify this at a time, and probably for some time to come, where everybody is kind of hurting, taxpayers are very stressed, the state budget is deep in the tank; and is spending $54 million or $72 million or whatever that figure is, is that the highest and best priority for how we use very limited public resources? I feel it’s not. Maybe in the future it could be. Public access is a wonderful goal on the bridge but I have a very hard time at this time and place seeing how we’re going to justify it.
Commissioner Wieckowski stated that what would be helpful for him to make sense of the data is -- it’s a worthy goal to have the pilot project. He is mindful of the lack of money that the state has and what is going through his mind is trying to figure out, if we had $70 million or $45 million to put in other areas of the Bay Trail. We’re looking at the bridge, and that’s important and the money would be of use there, but there are other pockets that were there.
How would that increase the access? I don’t have a very good sense of, from San Mateo Bridge down to San Jose, what are those pockets and how many people would use that. He is trying to make sense of it in his mind. He has been on the Dumbarton Bridge -- it is a long ride across the Dumbarton Bridge to get to Palo Alto. He knows that people go to Stanford, and he’s done it.
But there is an element that he hasn’t gotten from the presentation. He knows the advocates would like to have it, but once you get there, what’s there? It’s a different -- it makes a difference.
Commissioner Gioia commented that every time access has been gained across the bridges it’s always come with a lot of incremental progress and it’s always taken a lot of effort. And clearly this will take a lot of effort as well. He does think the pilot project makes a lot of sense. There’s no reason to change BCDC’s existing policy. From a reality standpoint there’s not much that’s going to happen, given the current position at Caltrans. So the best we can do is collect data, look at when there is a future permit opportunity --. And he does think that eventually there will be a lot of good data.
Commissioner Nelson agreed with Commissioner McGrath’s statement and very strongly supported the idea of a pilot project. He would like staff to research and help the Commission understand exactly what it would cost to come up with a pilot project and how the Commission would make that happen.
Secondly, questions for Caltrans -- how often are design exceptions granted, and can you give us examples in the Bay Area where they have been granted? And does Caltrans have a response to the safety data that the bicycle advocates presented regarding the changes in safety during the retrofit on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge that was accompanied by changes in speed limits on the bridge?
Executive Director Travis stated that, if it is acceptable to the Commission, staff will bring that data back in a report and then once they get it they can decide whether they want to have a further briefing.
Commissioner Gibbs thanked Caltrans for coming back before the Commission with the data, which was responsive to the Commission’s request. He also thanked the bicycle coalition members for coming back with a compelling report. There is some talking past each other but he also sees a little movement. He wonders if there is a way to convene the parties other than every six months and maybe help them move together on some of these issues.
Executive Director Travis stated that they will try to continue to foster that kind of dialogue.
Commissioner Bates also noted that it’s important to realize that a pilot is not cheap. The Commission will keep pushing this and hopefully they can get Caltrans to change their mind. And Caltrans has been cooperative. They’ve been to the table, they’ve brought information and they’ve brought arguments. So, he is committed to keep trying to find a way to get access.
Vice Chair Halsted thanked Commissioner Bourgart for coming before them with additional thoughts.
Chair Randolph thanked everyone for their comments.
Consideration of 2008 Annual Report. Executive Director Travis asked for Commission approval to mail out the Report.
MOTION: Upon motion by Commissioner McGlashan, seconded by Commissioner Wieckowski, the Commission unanimously approved the Report for mailing.
- Consideration of Strategic Plan Status Report. Executive Director Travis stated that it appears that the state budget will severely impact the Strategic Plan. There are a number of items that may either have to be dropped, postponed or eliminated. There are a couple of changes that they’ve already had to make. He asked for approval of those changes.
MOTION: Upon motion by Commissioner McGlashan, seconded by Commissioner Wieckowski, the Commission unanimously approved the changes in the Strategic Plan.
- New Business
There was no new business.
- Old Business
There was no old business.
Following Executive Director Travis’s comments, Chair Randolph entertained a motion to adjourn.
Upon motion by Commissioner Reagan, seconded by Commissioner Wieckowski, the meeting adjourned at 4:55 p.m.
R. Sean Randolph, Chair