City Council Candidate Question 6: University Village Development

6. The current design of the University Village Mixed Use project does not include any cycling lanes or paths connecting to or through the proposed project from any of Albany’s cycling routes. ( The traffic it generates could form a barrier to safe cycling connections that are important to Albany families. (The bicycle routes that could be negatively impacted–or potentially greatly improved– by the University Village project include Dartmouth-Codornices Creek, a route residents west of San Pablo will use to get to Marin School and the UC campus, and Marin-Buchanan, a route which residents east of San Pablo will use to get to Ocean View School and Park and the Bay Trail.) What do you think is the best way to ensure safe connections?

[Sheri Spellwoman] I think the best way to ensure safe connective bike routes to and around this development is to include those connections in the Development Plan itself. I was disappointed that the City Council decided to remove those provisions from the plan at the last minute in its final approval. The time to create the cycling paths we need is in the original design. Period. It will be much harder and more expensive to try and create them later. There is really no excuse not to require new commercial developments to accommodate safe, accessible bicycle transportation, unless we are saying that this is not a priority for Albany.

[Pete Maass] Obviously, separating cyclists and motorized traffic is the superior solution. How far to push this becomes the political question, as recent events have born out. I don’t think that the AS&R suit was the reason that Whole Foods backed out, but I am concerned that UC will use the public discontent about WF to back away from doing any more to further cycling route improvement. I’m also concerned that misguided public discontent will have a negative effect on election returns.

[Peggy Thomsen] As a sitting council member, I cannot speak to this question at the present time as the project is the subject of litigation, and the city is likely to be involved in future issues regarding bicycle path connections.

[Nick Pilch] Requirements to provide connections to and through the project were understood to be included as mitigation measures in the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). These requirements were seriously weakened, at 1AM in the City Council meeting where the EIR was to be certified, immediately before the vote, without opportunity for public comment. Staff reassured the Council that the changes did not significantly affect what they were about to vote on. This is not the case These changes must be reversed. I support the Albany Strollers & Rollers (AS&R) and Carbon Neutral Albany lawsuit to reverse the last-minute EIR changes.

[Michael Barnes] As I have stated before, I have no strong opinions about bike trails, I don’t tend to use them. I also live on the east side of town, and wouldn’t be using bike trails in that part of town in any case. However, I used to live in University Village, and if I were heading east on Buchanan and needed to get to the mixed use project, I turn south on Jackson and go by Oceanview School, left on Monroe, and then right again on that street just behind what will be the location of the new buildings.
I am presuming that there would be a rear entrance to the building for village residents, and that bike parking would be there. From the rear entrance riders could make their way to Dartmouth St., assuming a stoplight and crossing are created there.
I must be missing something, because this is too easy. As I said, since I don’t use bike paths, I don’t have strong opinions about them, so I would be happy to listen to those people who are willing to participate in a public discussion of bike trails in that area, particularly the upcoming Complete Streets planning meetings and the meetings that were funded by the PUD process approved at the July 9 city council meeting.

[Tod Abbott] The UC Village project does include features to facilitate bicycle use. The bicycle path planned for the perimeter of the project provides save, convenient access for casual bicyclists and children. Additionally, the plans for the “Gill Tract” parcel are in flux, and could offer opportunities for bicycle access. Could the plan be better? Of course, but we run the risk of allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. UC has already committed to work with AS&R to hire a consultant to work on the problem of safe bicycle access on San Pablo avenue — after the plan suggested by AS&R was rejected by the city Traffic and Safety Commission.
UC has been very responsive to public input, including input from AS&R, over the years this project has been in development. It is a very different project than when it started out, and a lot of the changes are in direct response to public comment. To the extent the solutions to date are a compromise, it is also true that this is an early stage of development and there are still opportunities during design review and other milestones to address some of the concerns. Additionally, while the plans being made do not at this time include all of the features requested, they also do not close off the options, leaving the way open for additional features to be added at a later date.
Perhaps the argument should shift now from insisting that UC include all the requested features at this point, to persuading the city to set aside a certain percent of income from the project to fund improvements related to the development. I see that as a more fruitful avenue (no pun intended) going forward.

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