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Just the Facts About Transit Village Traffic, Please

When the City Council certifies an Environmental Impact Report, do they only consider those “facts” that further the Council’s pro-growth agenda?

At the October 16, 2012 City Council hearing for the Walnut Creek BART Transit Village, I attempted to point to an omission from the traffic component of the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR). 

Back in 2002, a study prepared for the Mercer condos showed that when the traffic from that now completed project was factored in, the left turn movement out of Cole Avenue onto California Boulevard would operate at, or close to, Level of Service (LOS) F, the worst possible rating – and the threshold that normally triggers some requirement for remediation. There was, and still is, no traffic light at the Cole Avenue intersection. The Council at that time accepted the Mercer developer’s argument that the intersection might not operate as poorly as the LOS would indicate, so they didn’t make the developer pay to install a traffic signal. 

Now, ten years later, the Walnut Creek BART Transit Village with almost 600 units will dump new traffic onto California Boulevard just a few blocks upstream from Cole, yet the Transit Village EIR didn’t even analyze the Cole Avenue intersection.  If an intersection is already operating close to LOS F, wouldn’t you think that it deserves a new look when 600 units are proposed only two blocks away?  That’s the question I raised at the City Council’s public hearing.  As usual, the City Council thanked me at the end of my three minute testimony and asked no follow up questions – indicating that it was time for me to go sit down and shut up.

After the public comments were closed, then Council member (now Mayor) Cindy Silva made a big show of “following up” on my testimony with the developer’s traffic analyst, while deftly avoiding the issues I raised.  She never asked the consultant about the 2002 traffic study I mentioned.  She emphasized the fact that the intersections to both the north and south of Cole operate smoothly, and concluded that it must be valid to therefore assume there couldn’t possibly be any issues at Cole (conveniently overlooking the fact that the intersections to the north and south have traffic signals, but Cole Avenue doesn’t).  The Council then voted to certify the BART Transit Village EIR and approve the project.

Now a draft EIR for a new project down the street at 1500 North California has been posted and, interestingly enough, their traffic study includes the California and Cole intersection.  The study shows that the intersection is currently operating at LOS E, but with the additional traffic generated by already approved projects (12 units on Cole and 600 units at the BART Transit Village) the intersection will exceed the LOS F threshold before new traffic from 1500 North California is even considered. (And since the previously approved projects will already cause an unacceptable level of service, the 1500 North California developers aren’t responsible for fixing the situation, either.)

The Walnut Creek City Council certified that the Environmental Impact Report for the BART Transit Village was complete when clearly it wasn’t.  The study should have evaluated traffic impacts at the Cole/California intersection.   But Cindy Silva and the rest of the Council were only interested hearing “facts” that supported their pro-growth agenda.  

Our City Council members regularly blame traffic congestion on regional issues.  But they themselves are far from blameless.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

John January 26, 2013 at 05:41 AM
I agree. I believe transit village should expand from where the old Le Virage building was, down to the Chevron station. That whole block is gross, and would look very nice. Not to mention, it wouldn't disrupt traffic flow.
michael frederick January 26, 2013 at 10:25 PM
Once again, this is the Crappy +1 Doctrine routinely employed by Walnut Creek to avoid considering state mandated legal requirements. It basically states that since we've already screwed-up the area under consideration to acheive Crappy, LOS F in this traffic case, the new proposal only represents achieving Crappy + 1 and should proceed without further review. The next proposal will be (Crappy + 1) + 1 ... and so on. What's of particular concern, given the pace of activity downtown, is that (Crappy +1) + 1 -- 1500 N. Calif. -- is being justified based upon a Crappy +1 (BART) that hasn't broken ground. We're doing Quantum Crappy! There are good points to Smart Growth -- excusing away rational thought and local knowledge aren't amongst them. Having a pimply-faced civil engineer whip out a map and compass, to draw a circle around the BART station probably doesn't rise to a level of "smart" that excuses away all other considerations as unquestionably less so, as those without a clue misrepresent. To those who "like" building for building's sake, library, art, swimming, Cindy, ... -- let me just say I like WC, decent government, and rational thought. But, don't let what I like dampen your enthusiasm. WC is preferentially building housing for barren yuppies and old farts with urban sensibilities. This doesn't resemble WC and portends conflict with crime, education, traffic, and many other things that deserve more thought and planning than Silva's tortured excuses.
srl99 January 27, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Maybe we should start putting memorial plaques on traffic lights, so that City Councillors can get part of the legacy they crave.
WC-Independent January 28, 2013 at 07:58 PM
what's all the fuss about traffic? The 'smart' growth crazies state everyone will be walking or taking public transit.
michael frederick January 29, 2013 at 12:27 AM
The STATED goal is for everyone to walk or use public transit. That is the regional mandate the UNELECTED govern under. In practical terms, it fuels speculation and building. How's that going? MTC and ABAG perform land speculation on an HQ far exceeding present or future requirements. County supervisors OK reduced Sufi parking, based upon an off-site location they have no right to and a proximate bus stop. Supervisors eliminate the bus stop within months. WC warns residents that if the city doesn't meet POTENTIAL state housing requirements, state funds MIGHT be withheld. In General Plan 2025, staff proposes no growth limits to achieve growth 30+% higher than ABAG projections. Blubaugh supports Neiman Marcus by declaring valet parking as an "innovative parking solution." No one mentioned it a few years earlier during GP2025 deliberations. Elimination of parking requirement = $8M. Likewise, EVERYTHING downtown is deemed "BART proximate." Instead of 2 parking spaces / unit, 1 is required. This is worth $40K per unit + additional buildable area. Developers are hog-wild to save polar bears! At the last West Downtown meeting, the staffer in charge was delighted by "community" turn-out. My table included a Martinez architect, a bike advocate "not from here", and a Fairfield investor. Of the five, one was a WC resident. Are "building lobbyists" really synonymous with "community", as the committee chosen to filter public input would indicate?

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