Tag Archives: Pat Kernighan

Parking meters not just “cash cows”: City Council discusses parking demand management

7 Mar

As I mentioned in a previous post about last week’s City Council meeting, the meeting was full of important discussions and decisions. Though most attention has been paid to the zoning update and Energy and Climate Action Plan – and rightfully so considering how long the City and the Council has been working on those items – the discussion I found most interesting was the one on parking at the very end of the meeting. Continue reading

Demystifying Oakland City Council committees

8 Feb

When writing about the state of the Oakland Main Library I mentioned that most of the policy work the Council accomplishes happens in committee meetings. This makes it somewhat difficult for Oaklanders to shape policy unless we’re really engaged, partially because most committees meet during the day on Tuesdays, when most of us are at work, and partially because committees are a mystery to most residents. Sure, the engaged Oakland resident may have been to a Council meeting or two and has a sense of what they deal with, but most have not been to committee meetings and may not understand what they handle. I can’t fix the issue about meetings taking place during the workday (and believe me, I wish I could so I could attend more of these meetings), but I thought I’d attempt to shed some light on committees, what they do, when they meet, and who’s on them. Continue reading

Tweeting BRT

22 Apr

Tuesday night’s Council meeting was long and contentious. I’d love to blog about many things that were discussed, but sadly don’t have the time for it. Instead, I offer you tweets on the BRT discussion.

But before I do, I want to thank everyone who spoke in support of BRT at the Council meeting. There were 45 speakers total, and most were supportive of BRT. I especially want to thank TransForm, and particularly Joel Ramos, who did a kick ass job organizing folks to attend and providing talking points. It was so inspiring to see so many people speak at a Council meeting for the first time. You all did a great job!

Thanks also to everyone who tweeted. If you’re not on Twitter yet, join already! You don’t even have to tweet. Just follow Oaklanders and you’ll see how easy it is to keep up with meetings, events, and local breaking news. Some regulars are featured below – Vsmoothe, dto510, das88, lotormatic, and me. MaxAllstadt and jawnie also regularly tweet Oakland meetings.

I’ll post some video of the discussion next week because some of the comments need to be seen and heard, as Twitter can only capture so much.

OaklandBecks OMG – Reid trying to shift items around to have BRT heard before Central Estuary Plan! Prob hoped advocates wouldn’t have arrived.

lotormatic 45 speakers on BRT – why does this worry me.

OaklandBecks Was it really worth it for Council to take off a week when it lead to this mtg from hell? We’ll be here all night at this rate.

OaklandBecks I think I’ve heard the presentation on BRT so many times now that I could probably give it with help of slides.

Vsmoothe BRT up. Crazy northgate lady speaking now. Big surprise, she’s against it. BRT is redundant b/c she can already take BART to SF.

Vsmoothe Why are Oaklanders so hell-bent on opposing any change to anything ever? Our citizenry is united against all progress. Depressing.

Vsmoothe Senior opposed to BRT: “Seniors don’t need BRT because we are not in a hurry to get anywhere.”

OaklandBecks Joel from TransForm refutes previous anti BRT arguments with map showing convenience of BRT to senior services.

Vsmoothe Joel Ramos of TransForm up now. Talks about extensive outreach, corrects inaccurate information about BRT. Great speech.

dto510 The head of the Slow Food Drive Fast association dramatically decried the possibility of putting people before cars!

lotormatic These commenters on BRT are making me reconsider a career in transportation planning

Vsmoothe Merchant: BRT will put us out of business. We blocked parking in front of our store for 30 minutes and store went completely empty.

Vsmoothe Terence Candell opposes BRT. Infringes on people’s right to walk across the street. Well, he won’t be getting my vote for Mayor.

dto510 CM Larry Reid is way pissed off about BRT and especially transit advocates. Something to do with the OAC perhaps?

Vsmoothe CM Reid repeatedly interrupts, insults, and attacks pro BRT speaker during his speech. Rudeness is shocking, even for Reid.

Vsmoothe CM Kaplan lists things she wants included in BRT project: repave entire street, pedestrian lighting, signalized crosswalks…

OaklandBecks Kaplan mentions that BRT will have service every 5 min. That is the kind of service I dream of.

Vsmoothe CM Kaplan, cont: emergency vehicle access, impact area hiring, preserve nice medians, new nice medians, etc.

Vsmoothe CM Reid: BRT will destroy East Oakland, ruin chance of retail in East Oakland ever.

OaklandBecks You know what else I dream of? Crossing Telegraph w/o fearing for my life. The BRT ped improvements will make that a reality.

OaklandBecks Reid – BRT will destoy East Oakland community. Oh, but the OAC will do no harm?

Vsmoothe CM Reid’s obnoxious self-righteousness is really off putting. Says transit advocates never take bus to his District. I do.

OaklandBecks Reid saying he wants vital retail in East Oakland. Um, BRT has increased retail vitality in every city.

dto510 I also take the bus to D7. i don’t think the enormous road capacity is good for the area.

lotormatic Reid says AC Transit should provide more frequent bus service instead of BRT. Um…

Vsmoothe Now CM Reid is just straight up making shit up. Claims AC Transit will eminent domain houses near BRT route.

OaklandBecks Reid says he’ll take us on tour of his district to prove us wrong. Strange, since he consistently refuses mtgs w transit advocates.

OaklandBecks De La Fuente thinks Oakland should look at all options, which is what staff and and advocates want.

das88 Why is CM Reid so upset? Is OAC on the agenda? Did he receive some secret tweets?

OaklandBecks Note – Reid has never attended the BRT interagency steering committee that he sits on.

OaklandBecks Staffer Bruce Williams explains that Oakland will get to weigh in again after EIR, AC Transit can’t move ahead w/o them.

Vsmoothe CM Kernighan to staff: Are you sure AC Transit does not have eminent domain power to take over our street? Answer is yes.

OaklandBecks Why does everything confuse Brunner? How does she not know what a locally preferred alternative is?

Vsmoothe Jesus. I know the Council doesn’t often deal w/transit, but it’s bizarre to watch them all be so flummoxed by the concept of an EIR.

Vsmoothe CM Kernighan: I don’t really think having buses on the main street is the same as building a freeway through your neighborhood.

Vsmoothe Jean Quan apparently did not bother to read or learn anything about BRT before the meeting. I suppose I should not be surprised.

Vsmoothe Staff tries to explain possible mitigations to CM Brunner, she talks like she didn’t hear one word.

OaklandBecks Kaplan proposed center boarding, which would save half the parking spots. Also, lost parking will be mitigated.

Vsmoothe CM Brunner: I support idea of transit, would like us to be like Portland. But transit seems to cause many problems.

OaklandBecks BRT locally preferred alternative passes unanimously. Yes, even Larry Reid voted for it.

OaklandBecks  OMG – Reid trying to shift items around to have BRT heard before Central Estuary Plan! Prob hoped advocates wouldn’t have arrived.

lotormatic 45 speakers on BRT – why does this worry me.

OaklandBecks  Was it really worth it for Council to take off a week when it lead to this mtg from hell? We’ll be here all night at this rate.

OaklandBecks  I think I’ve heard the presentation on BRT so many times now that I could probably give it with help of slides.

Vsmoothe BRT up. Crazy northgate lady speaking now. Big surprise, she’s against it. BRT is redundant b/c she can already take BART to SF.

Vsmoothe Why are Oaklanders so hell-bent on opposing any change to anything ever? Our citizenry is united against all progress. Depressing.

Vsmoothe Senior opposed to BRT: “Seniors don’t need BRT because we are not in a hurry to get anywhere.”

OaklandBecks  Joel from TransForm refutes previous anti BRT arguments with map showing convenience of BRT to senior services.

Vsmoothe Joel Ramos of TransForm up now. Talks about extensive outreach, corrects inaccurate information about BRT. Great speech.

dto510 The head of the Slow Food Drive Fast association dramatically decried the possibility of putting people before cars!

lotormatic These commenters on BRT are making me reconsider a career in transportation planning

Vsmoothe Merchant: BRT will put us out of business. We blocked parking in front of our store for 30 minutes and store went completely empty.

Vsmoothe Terence Candell opposes BRT. Infringes on people’s right to walk across the street. Well, he won’t be getting my vote for Mayor.

dto510 CM Larry Reid is way pissed off about BRT and especially transit advocates. Something to do with the OAC perhaps?

Vsmoothe CM Reid repeatedly interrupts, insults, and attacks pro BRT speaker during his speech. Rudeness is shocking, even for Reid.

Vsmoothe CM Kaplan lists things she wants included in BRT project: repave entire street, pedestrian lighting, signalized crosswalks…

OaklandBecks  Kaplan mentions that BRT will have service every 5 min. That is the kind of service I dream of.

Vsmoothe CM Kaplan, cont: emergency vehicle access, impact area hiring, preserve nice medians, new nice medians, etc.

Vsmoothe CM Reid: BRT will destroy East Oakland, ruin chance of retail in East Oakland ever.

OaklandBecks  You know what else I dream of? Crossing Telegraph w/o fearing for my life. The BRT ped improvements will make that a reality.

OaklandBecks  Reid – BRT will destoy East Oakland community. Oh, but the OAC will do no harm?

Vsmoothe CM Reid’s obnoxious self-righteousness is really off putting. Says transit advocates never take bus to his District. I do.

OaklandBecks  Reid saying he wants vital retail in East Oakland. Um, BRT has increased retail vitality in every city.

dto510 I also take the bus to D7. i don’t think the enormous road capacity is good for the area.

lotormatic Reid says AC Transit should provide more frequent bus service instead of BRT. Um…

Vsmoothe Now CM Reid is just straight up making shit up. Claims AC Transit will eminent domain houses near BRT route.

OaklandBecks  Reid says he’ll take us on tour of his district to prove us wrong. Strange, since he consistently refuses mtgs w transit advocates.

OaklandBecks  De La Fuente thinks Oakland should look at all options, which is what staff and and advocates want.

das88 Why is CM Reid so upset? Is OAC on the agenda? Did he receive some secret tweets?

OaklandBecks  Note – Reid has never attended the BRT interagency steering committee that he sits on.

OaklandBecks  Staffer Bruce Williams explains that Oakland will get to weigh in again after EIR, AC Transit can’t move ahead w/o them.

Vsmoothe CM Kernighan to staff: Are you sure AC Transit does not have eminent domain power to take over our street? Answer is yes.

OaklandBecks  Why does everything confuse Brunner? How does she not know what a locally preferred alternative is?

Vsmoothe Jesus. I know the Council doesn’t often deal w/transit, but it’s bizarre to watch them all be so flummoxed by the concept of an EIR.

Vsmoothe CM Kernighan: I don’t really think having buses on the main street is the same as building a freeway through your neighborhood.

Vsmoothe Jean Quan apparently did not bother to read or learn anything about BRT before the meeting. I suppose I should not be surprised.

Vsmoothe Staff tries to explain possible mitigations to CM Brunner, she talks like she didn’t hear one word.

OaklandBecks  Kaplan proposed center boarding, which would save half the parking spots. Also, lost parking will be mitigated.

Vsmoothe CM Brunner: I support idea of transit, would like us to be like Portland. But transit seems to cause many problems.

OaklandBecks  BRT locally preferred alternative passes unanimously. Yes, even Larry Reid voted for it.

The Sanjiv Handa Rule, needed because two people rambling at public comments does not equal open government

4 Mar

After years of trying multiple means of controlling the time Sanjiv Handa wastes takes up at City Council meetings, on Tuesday night the City Council passed rule changes that might finally accomplish that goal.

I’ll get to that part in a minute, but first, I’ll cover the rule changes that even Sanjiv supported. The Council is finally admitting that their meetings are absurdly long so they should start them earlier and acknowledge that they end later. From the staff report, here’s a breakdown of the current and now amended meeting times:

Current

New

Commencement

6pm

5:30pm

Non-consent

7pm

6:30pm

Adjournment

10:30pm

12:00am

This is great news. The Council will start its ceremonial items at 5:30pm and hopefully end those and the consent calendar by 6:30pm. Even when they’re running late with long ceremonial items, they should at least start by 7pm. This will be a welcome change, since in the past, when ceremonial items dragged on, the Council sometimes didn’t get started until 7:30 or 8pm. The adjournment time change is really no change at all, just an acknowledgment that the Council almost never ends by 10:30pm (maybe once or twice a year they do). It’s pretty silly that at basically every meeting a motion has to be made to extend the meeting, so that will now be done away with.

But with the new rules on speaker limits, Council meetings could potentially end before midnight! If you’ve ever seen a Council or committee meeting, you know that Sanjiv Handa takes up a LOT of time at these meetings. He signs up for every single item and gets to speak for two minutes on each item. Sometimes the meeting chair negotiates with him and gets him to take all of his time at once and speak for a slightly shorter amount of time total. No matter what the chair does though, Sanjiv regularly takes up 45+ minutes of Council meetings and 20-30 minutes of committee meetings. It’s maddening.

And lately, David Mix has been joining him at every Council meeting so that together they end up taking up an hour and a half of each meeting! It might make them feel like they’re sticking it to the Council and standing up for Oaklanders, but their main effect is to turn people off by making the Council meetings run on and on until everyone who’s not paid to be there goes to sleep.

The new speaker limit rules seem to solve this problem. From the staff report, here’s the breakdown of the new speaker limits:

Meeting

Speaker Limit

Standing Committees (including Rules)

Speakers who submit more than 4 speaker cards (excluding open forum) will be given 2 minutes per card up to a maximum of 10 minutes. If all speakers are given 1 minute, speakers with 4 or more cards will be given a maximum of 5 minutes.

Rules Committee Meetings (Scheduling Item)

Speakers will have one minute per scheduling request up to a maximum of 5 minutes, provided that total time on all items on the Rules agenda (excluding open forum) for each speaker shall not exceed 10 minutes.

City Council Meetings – Open Forum

Speakers are allotted a minimum of 1 minute and a maximum of 3 minutes (no change).

City Council Meetings – Items before Non-Consent

Speakers with multiple cards will be given 2 minutes per item up to a maximum of 6 minutes (excluding open forum).

City Council Meetings -Non-Consent Items

If 20 or total cards have been submitted, speakers who submit 4 or more cards will be given 2 minutes per item up to a maximum of 10 minutes.

What does this mean? Let’s take Tuesday’s Council meeting for example. Under these rules, Sanjiv Handa and David Mix would have each been able to speak for 1 minute during Open Forum, 6 minutes during consent, and 10 minutes during non-consent. They would have each received a total of 17 minutes, or 34 minutes combined. This would have made Tuesday’s Council meeting an hour shorter!

Handa and Mix argued that limiting speaker time closes access to the government, and Councilmember Desley Brooks agreed. But this argument is  based on the assumption that two people rambling for an hour and a half (longer than most of the elected councilmembers speak at a meeting!) equals open government. Sure, it opens the government up to two people, but it closes it off to everyone else.

The Council and their staff get paid to sit through those ramblings, but the rest of us don’t. So when we get tired, hungry, or just can’t take it in anymore, we leave City Hall or turn off our computers and TVs. If you follow Council meetings on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed that between 7pm-9pm, there are several people tweeting the meeting. At 9:30 or 10pm, one or two drop off. By the time 11pm rolls around, it’s rare that even one person is left tweeting. Why? Well, for me, I have a job to get to in the morning and unless there’s something really exciting on the agenda, I can’t justify staying up so late.

With the new rules, I’ll make it through most meetings, and I bet others will too. As Brooks noted, it’s unlikely that many more people will speak at meetings, but that’s not the only important part about open government. More importantly, people will be able to sit through the whole meeting (or come close to it). More of us will know what happened at the Council, either by watching or by following on Twitter.

Thanks to Councilmembers Brunner, De La Fuente, Kaplan, and Kernighan for introducing these changes. I look forward to watching entire Council meetings and to having to use my mute button a lot less frequently.

<!–[if !mso]>

Current

Proposed

Commencement

6pm

5:30pm

Non-consent

7pm

6:30pm

Adjournment

10:30pm

12:00am

Yesterday’s budget meeting via Twitter

18 Dec

I had hoped to write a real blog post yesterday or today, but yesterday flew by and today I woke up with a nasty cold and I can’t really focus. So you won’t get a super-excited post from me about City Attorney John Russo’s opinion, issued yesterday, that clearly states that the Council must implement IRV because it’s a voter mandate. (But you should read it – it’s short, easy to read, and important.)

Instead, I’m taking a page from V Smoothe’s book and will share with you Twitter coverage of yesterday’s budget meeting. Though not a lot of new ideas were proposed, I’m glad this meeting was not delayed until January because the Council did approve some staff suggestions and gave staff direction on various other proposals. Hopefully the January budget meeting will be more productive because of this.

If you’d like to see the full budget meeting, it’s only 2 hours and can be viewed online or downloaded.

OaklandBecks: Council budget mtg just started and @Vsmoothe speaking at open forum about KTOP online streaming being down.

OaklandBecks: She’s also saying it’s difficult for people to watch this budget mtg because it’s at 10am and people don’t have Comcast at work.

OaklandBecks: City Administrator Lindheim explains that server has crashed and it will cost $25K to fix. They’re trying to fix it.

OaklandBecks: Lindheim also says it will be improved – currently only allows 250 connections and will allow unlimited connections.

SeanforOakland: @OaklandBecks Someone tell Lindheim to move the server to 365 Main in JLS and this won’t happen.

OaklandBecks: Now @MaxAllstadt is speaking. Suggests taking back $182K from Chamber of Commerce for Chiodo sculpture.

OaklandBecks: Staff – most of our budget “solutions” are one time funds and fund transfers.

OaklandBecks: City Administrator doesn’t recommend spending reductions – so little time left in fiscal year that it wouldn’t make difference.

OaklandBecks: Also, these spending reductions would decimate services, like closing 6 recreation centers or elimination of all IT support.

OaklandBecks: You can see the full staff budget proposal here: http://bit.ly/75k4Ut

MaxAllstadt: Dan Lindheim: Selling assets to cover operating costs makes no sense, but we’re so screwed we might have no choice

dto510: The problem with selling assets isn’t just that prices are low, it’s that sales wouldn’t close for a long time.

OaklandBecks: Lindheim – to close budget gaps w/o one-time solutions, we need further revenue. Asks Council if they’d put rev measures on ballot.

MaxAllstadt: Why isn’t anybody discussing the possibility of selling one of our 3 golf courses?

OaklandBecks: Parks advocate – don’t dismember the already skeletal parks staff we now have. Many parks don’t even receive routine maintenance.

MaxAllstadt: Local 21 rep wants a freeze on hiring to replace early retirees. Demands in house promotion where replacement is essential.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan – we can’t put this off forever with one-time money – we’ll eventually have to make drastic cuts.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan – police/fire budgets growing as general fund shrinks. Eventually have city that’s nothing but police/fire if continues.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan again recommending more billboards on freeways and more medical cannabis facilities as way to create ongoing revenue.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan – permit more medical cannabis dispensaries & permit growers for increased revenue. Permitting growers is way overdue!

OaklandBecks: Kaplan also suggests increased local vehicle registration fee for funds for road repair (which Oakland’s streets desperately need).

OaklandBecks:
Why is Quan speaking? I thought she wanted this meeting to be held off until January: http://wp.me/p55RV-Ap

OaklandBecks: Quan – Mayor’s office, IT department, and police need to come within budget (they’re currently over budget).

OaklandBecks: Quan – should do citizen’s survey on funding & revenue priorities. Sounds like city-funded research for her mayoral campaign.

OaklandBecks: De La Fuente increasingly concerned about structural deficit that we’re not addressing. We haven’t had political will to make cuts.

OaklandBecks:
De La Fuente says we should sell golf courses. We’d get immediate cash and they’d be managed better. That was @MaxAllstadt’s idea!

MaxAllstadt: We should sell a Golf Course: lock in huge ad valorem tax, mandate subdivision + development within 10 years, create more ad valorem tax!

OaklandBecks: De La Fuente – we need to deal with pensions or the city will go bankrupt. We need union/city comm to look at pension problem.

OaklandBecks: Brooks doesn’t think public would respond well to new tax measures since city hasn’t handled Measure Y well.

OaklandBecks: Nadel agrees with Kaplan on permitting & taxing medical cannabis growers but concerned about increased billboards.

OaklandBecks:
Nadel – some neighborhoods get street cleaning weekly & could deal with less. I’ve heard this suggestion from people in her district

OaklandBecks: Why does Brunner never understand staff reports? She’s asking questions about something that was incredibly clear.

OaklandBecks: It seems so simple to understand that while $3.2 mil unspent exists, we can’t touch it because it’s committed already.

OaklandBecks: The CMs keep talking about cutting everything that is not core. But none of them have explained exactly what is core.

OaklandBecks: Many of them seem to agree that the city can’t afford to fund non-profits, outside of what’s required by ballot measures.

OaklandBecks: Brunner says we need June ballot and it should be public-safety measure. People won’t vote for this after Measure Y failure.

OaklandBecks: Also, June ballot initiatives negate potential IRV savings. We wouldn’t have to pay for June election if we don’t have initiatives.

dto510: @OaklandBecks Is that you pointing it out, or CM Brunner?

OaklandBecks: @dto510 That’s me pointing it out. It apparently either hasn’t occurred to her or she just doesn’t care.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan wants to see anticipated revenues & expenditures for next 5 years at next budget mtg to help decide about tax measures.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan – before we go for ballot measure, must cut everything public sees as a waste.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan wants to see Measure Y revision on ballot but prefers Nov ballot. Not saying this, but she’s thinking about IRV.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan – who authorizes police standing around watching peaceful protestors like lockdown of City Hall Tues due to trucker protest?

Vsmoothe: @OaklandBecks Yes, who does authorize that? I had to fight for a long time to be let in for Finance Committee on Tues. Ridiculous!

OaklandBecks: Council approves staff recommendations to close part of budget & tells departments to stay w/in budget or come in Jan to explain.

Oakland Public Works to BART: Oakland does have a stake in the OAC

16 Sep

Disclosure: I am working on a part-time, short term basis for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign. However, the thoughts expressed in my posts on this subject are my own and should not be construed to be those of TransForm.

Yesterday, the Oakland Public Works Committee meeting got off to a rough start for BART and stayed that way throughout the hearing on the Oakland Airport Connector. Chairwoman Nancy Nadel began the hearing by asking BART to respond to the questions that the committee sent to them last month. Tom Dunscombe, project manager for the OAC, stumbled, explaining that he had not prepared a presentation but that he was prepared to answer questions. (A kind of odd thing to say, considering the committee had already sent him the questions to which they wanted answers.) So Molly McArthur, a BART spokesperson who I’d never seen at an OAC meeting, stepped in and read off of the response BART had sent to the committee (a very late response that councilmembers did not see until Monday morning and that did not make it into the public packet).

She read about how great this project is for Oakland, claimed the OAC would provide tons of jobs, and told the councilmembers that it was Oakland’s fault that intermediate stops weren’t being built. She ended by talking about funding sources and by explaining clearly that Oakland is not funding this project, which led her to say, “Oakland does not have a stake in this project.”

I nearly jumped out of my seat to begin debating her on this claim, but instead I just wrote a bunch of exclamation points next to her remark in my notebook. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised, since I’ve heard this before. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty (yes, the same one who is now a Democrat) said something very similar at the last ACTIA meeting on this project. But I could not believe that BART would say this to a committee of the Oakland City Council – it is so disrespectful!

The committee wasn’t having it though. As Molly was speaking, the clerk passed out a resolution authored by Councilmembers Nadel and Rebecca Kaplan. The resolution (which you should click through to and read in full) concludes:

RESOLVED: that the Oakland City Council supports an improved connection to the Oakland International Airport, but one that does not economically jeopardize the local or regional transit, and whose fare will attract greater local and regional transit ridership and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED: that the Oakland City Council urges our regional transportation authority (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) to reconsider using the $70 million in federal funding for the current BART OAC project, and instead prioritize funding for local bus system improvements and a more cost effective and environmentally sound airport connector alternative.

After Molly spoke, Councilmembers Kaplan, Nadel, and Desley Brooks explained briefly what they think is wrong with this project, focusing on how the stimulus funds could better be used for BART and AC Transit operations, which would help the agencies avoid some of their service cuts. Brooks had to leave early to get to the Alameda County Supervisors to speak out against the rapid appointment of a District Attorney with no process (a hearing which didn’t go as well) so she moved the resolution, Kaplan seconded, and Brooks registered her yes vote before leaving.

Then the public took to the microphone to speak about this project. Seventeen people spoke against the OAC and for the resolution, including many Oakland residents, BART union members, AC Transit union members, transit advocates, and social justice advocates. The six people speaking in the support of the project mostly represented the building trades.

Pat Kernighan spoke after public comment, saying that she was not entirely decided about the project, but that she was leaning towards opposing it. She brought up four main concerns that she’d like to be addressed before the full council meeting on this issue:

  1. Whether the time saved over the current AirBART or the proposed BRT justifies this very large expense.
  2. Would the OAC reduce car travel on roads regionally? (This gets at the ongoing questions about ridership numbers.)
  3. The likelihood of the BART core system having to subsidize the OAC.
  4. Whether spending money on the OAC would take money from other transit projects.

The meeting ended with the committee directing that the resolution come before the full council on Tuesday October 6th and asking Oakland Public Works staff to provide a neutral analysis of the OAC.

You might think that BART would have heard the message loud in clear at this meeting and might have been a bit more deferential in their comments to the press. Well you would be wrong. Just after the meeting ended, I saw ABC reporter Cecilia Vega interviewing the BART rep, Molly McArthur in City Hall. This is part of what she had to say:

“We are interested in understanding what they think about it, but at the end of the day they are not a signatory to the project,” said BART project spokeswoman Molly McArthur…

“It’s shovel ready. In one week from today we’re receiving proposals on this project and we are prepared to move forward with construction,” said McArthur.

Translation: Oakland can say all it wants, but in the end, we’re building this project no matter what.

Somehow, I don’t think the Oakland City Council is going to take too kindly to that message, especially since the only reason they waited so long to have a hearing on this subject is because earlier this summer BART asked them to wait:

So clear your evening for October 6th. We need you down at Oakland City Hall for a showdown on the OAC. We need to tell BART that Oakland does have a stake in this project and that it does matter what we think. We need to make it clear why a $550 million project that is sucking money from other transit projects, won’t be much quicker than the current bus, won’t spur economic development, and is not guaranteed to provide jobs to Oaklanders is unacceptable for Oakland.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Oakland Public Works Committee strongly questions Oakland Airport Connector

17 Jul

Disclosure: I was recently hired to work part time on a short term basis for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign. However, the thoughts expressed in my posts on this subject are my own and should not be construed to be those of TransForm.

On Tuesday morning, the Oakland City Council, via the Public Works Committee finally had a chance to review the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). The last time they had reviewed the project was in 2006, and it has changed greatly since then, with projected ridership plummeting and costs growing. And the Public Works Committee members seemed to understand this well, asking pointed questions of BART and agendizing the project as an action item for their first meeting in September, when they return from recess.

Before the committee deliberated, BART and TransForm gave 10 minute presentations. BART’s presentation was the same one they’ve been giving for weeks – I think I’ve seen it three times now. I don’t have a copy of the Powerpoint slides, but here are the key points in it:

  • The first page has renderings of the OAC stations that are entirely inaccurate now. The airport station shows a covered walkway directly from the station to the terminal, even though this was taken out of the project due to costs long ago.
  • On ridership, BART concedes that its financial model shows that there will only be 4,350 riders in 2020 but explains that this is a very conservative model and makes the arguments that its 13,000 ridership projection from the EIR is still valid (I’ll get to why that’s wrong later)
  • BART explains away eliminating the two intermediate stops, essentially blaming it on Oakland for building a Walmart at one of the proposed stops and then saying that one day in the future the other stop “could” be built. (Yeah, because BART is so good about building infill stations.)
  • There is one slide that mentions the rapid bus alternative that TransForm has proposed and then says that BART studied it and it doesn’t work. There is no more information provided on this.

John Knox White from TransForm followed with a new presentation, which mostly focused on ridership. Check out a YouTube version of the presentation:

The presentation shows that while the 2002 EIR projects 10,200 new riders per day, a lot has changed since then. The fare has increased from $2 to $6, AirBART ridership has increased much more than expected, and the intermediate stops have been taken out. The reality is that BART’s own numbers show that there are only projected to be 440 new riders per day. Yes, you read that right, half a billion dollars for 440 new riders per day! In contrast, a rapid bus would cost an estimated $60 million and bring in 700 new riders per day. You should check out the full presentation for all the images and numbers, but this one alone is quite telling:

OAC-vs-RapidBART

After the two presentations, several Oaklanders spoke about the need to study alternatives and why the current OAC is not the best project for Oakland. dto510 presented the committee with V Smoothe’s awesome presentation about financing. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out right away, as its some of her best work yet (which says a lot). A few OAC supporters also spoke, claiming the OAC was good for business and labor.

Then it was the committee’s turn, which was the really fun part. Between the four committee members, every question that we’ve been encouraging BART and MTC to ask were finally asked. Pat Kernighan started things off, saying that she wasn’t sure that she had access to all the correct info. She proceeded to ask a series of questions of BART:

  • What happens to the funds if they don’t go to the OAC?
  • What are the operations costs?
  • How many people will use it?
  • She asked for a clarification of the Port’s position, since Commissioner Margaret Gordon spoke and said the Port has asked for a study of alternatives and still has concerns about local hire requirements, and a Port staffer basically said the Port loves the project unequivocally.
  • What fees will fund this project? (i.e. airport passenger fees)
  • She asked for more comparison of a bus to the OAC, including pros and cons and wanted to know how a rapid bus would be different from the currently operating AirBART bus.
  • Are any of the funds from voter approved measures specifically dedicated to this project?

Desley Brooks followed, calling for the item to be re-agendized as an action item immediately to see if the City still wants to continue to support the project. She said that based on the information provided at the meeting and the letter from Don Perata, who was an early supporter of the project, she needed more information. Also, early in the meeting, before the presentations, she brought up concerns about hiring locally and hiring minorities, stating that BART has an atrocious record on these issues.

Public Works Chair Nancy Nadel said she wanted to echo Kernighan’s questions. Particularly, she was concerned about high costs, high fares, and local jobs. She also wanted more information on how smooth the transition would be on each alternative. Nadel ended her comments by saying that her district (in West Oakland) is seeing enormous AC Transit service cuts, and ACT is able to accommodate more people at lower cost. She didn’t say this, but I assume she was speaking to the fact that the stimulus funds, if they didn’t go to the OAC, would be reverted back to the transit agencies, including ACT.

Rebecca Kaplan, who has been a leader in fighting for a better connnector, spoke last. She explained that the stimulus money would not be lost if it was not given to the OAC, since it would be reverted back to the transit agencies. The only way it would be lost, she said, is if it is given to the OAC, since most of it would go to concrete, steel, and out of town jobs. She then asked for a legal analysis of BART’s 2006 contract with Oakland, which states that BART should give the RFP to Oakland before it is issued and allow Oakland 15 days to comment. BART did not follow this process and instead allowed Oakland to see the RFP several days after it had been issued.

Kaplan brought up the possibility of a third terminal being built at the airport and explained that at a BART board meeting, staff said that the Port would pay for an extension to this terminal if it was ever built, which is not true. She agreed with TransForm that BART’s ridership numbers  and revenue projections for the OAC include revenue from third terminal passengers but not the cost of extending the OAC to the third terminal.

Kaplan ended by making a pretty incredible comparison about jobs creations. The OAC, which costs more than half a billion dollars, is projected to generate 350 jobs, while another project that was heard at Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Committee later in the day on Tuesday, which has a similar price tag, is projected to generate 5,000 jobs.

The committee and the full council will be holding further hearings on the OAC in September, but there’s another important hearing next week before the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). They will be voting on $140 million in funding for the OAC. This vote will be one of the last votes on funding for the OAC, yet BART has failed to provide accurate information on projected ridership and a bus alternative. We are urging MTC not to approve this funding until BART can answer questions that advocates have been asking for months. Please join us:

What: MTC Meeting on Oakland Airport Connector Funding

When: Wednesday, July 22nd @ 10 am

Where: MTC Headquarters (101 Eighth St near Lake Merritt BART)

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector: