Election 2010: City Council Candidates Respond to ASR

Joanne Wile did not answer the questionnaire.

Marge Atkinson states in response to question 11 that there is a cycling/walking master planning workshop on October 25th.  Please note the workshop is actually on October 23rd from 9 to 4 at city hall.

Marge Atkinson’s response failed to note she voted against the upcoming Pierce Street cycling path in response to question 13(http://albanyca.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=1506).  The street reconfiguration plan she voted against had a loss of 1 on-street parking space out of 114 current spaces (http://albanyca.org/Modules/ShowDocument.aspx?documentid=4662), rather than a loss of 17 or 3 spaces as suggested by her response.

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1. Do you use a bicycle for transportation? If so, for what purposes (commuting, recreation, errands) and how often?

Caryl O’Keefe: No – I’m afraid to in Albany – I consider it very difficult for drivers to see bicyclists in many locations especially along streets where larger cars are parked, which is most streets.

Francesco Papalia: Yes. For ten years, when I took my car into Saturn of Oakland for service, I would ride home on my bike and ride back in to pick it up. I have particularly enjoyed going door-to-door on my bicycle during this campaign, as it sends the double message that is important to communicate about adapting my lifestyle and using my car less. My favorite bike ride is from my house at 809 Key Route, up the Ohlone Greenway to Cutting Blvd, over to the Bay Trail via Bayview in Richmond, then up to the Richmond Marina and then back to Albany via the Bay Trail. That’s my grand loop. When I use local businesses, I often ride to do my errands.

Marge Atkinson: I have been riding to areas to campaign. I don’t commute much, but when I sub at the HS I bike if possible. I am trying to mentally think of biking before driving, particularly since I can actually get to Solano faster than driving and parking.

2. Do you walk for transportation? If so, for what purposes (commuting, recreation, errands) and how often?

O’Keefe: Yes, I walk about a quarter mile each way most days to the YMCA, so for recreation.

Papalia: Yes. I have been a major stroller on Solano Avenue and all around Albany since I moved here 23 years ago. A have walked from my house to the top of Solano and back on average 5-10 times a week during that period of time.

Four years ago, I chose to work at an office that is a block from my house. This was a conscious decision to make a lifestyle change, so now I have an enviable and pleasant one-block walk to work.

Over the last four years I have made a conscious effort to change my shopping patterns so that I can utilize as many of the local businesses as possible. I have used local stores for everything from fresh ground coffee to car repair and from chiropractor services to large appliance purchases so I can walk to do those errands.

Atkinson: Not much.

3. Please indicate how you most commonly commute to work.

O’Keefe: Moot – I’m retired!

Papalia: I walk.

Atkinson: I am retired.

4. Do you feel Albany is a bicycle-friendly city?

O’Keefe: Not friendly enough for me to risk injury.

Papalia: Somewhat, but it can and should be improved. The lack of proper bike racks that are easy to secure your bike on is a major disincentive for people who want to cycle to stores. Albany must provide many more racks around town so wherever someone wants to go, there’s a rack there.

One other important improvement that must be made is access to the Waterfront, one of Albany’s treasures. Most people, especially those with kids, whom I’ve talked to about this issue find the experience of riding to the Waterfront to be nerve-wracking and it definitely prevents families from going there.

Atkinson: Not friendly enough. We have a ways to go to feel safer on a bike, particularly with Marin traffic. We have improved some of the thoroughfare street surfaces and have some plans in the works for a bike route down Buchanan and across a section of Pierce St. to El Cerrito/Richmond. We are fortunate to have the BART greenway a many use this path to get across town.

5. Do you feel Albany is a pedestrian-friendly city?

O’Keefe: Yes, it’s fairly friendly for pedestrians, but pedestrians have to be a lot more careful crossing streets than should be necessary – especially when approaching intersections where cars are turning right, and the driver is not looking to the right.

Papalia: Somewhat, but it needs to be improved, especially for children walking to school. In general, traffic calming measures will slow motor vehicles, thus making Albany safer for bicyclists, pedestrians and wheelchair users.

Atkinson: Yes, I think it’s pretty good. There are dangerous areas, which are being addressed. Marin is always an issue with the speed of traffic, and we have bulb-outs going in there. Jackson and Buchanan will have a new left-turn light to make it safer for the school children.

6. AB 32, California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act, was enacted in 2006 and calls for a reduction in Greenhouse Gases (GHG) to 1990 levels by the year 2020–a 25% reduction from 2005 levels. In addition, the Air Resources Board currently is selecting GHG reduction targets for the Bay Area. What will you do as a City Councilmember to reduce the City’s transportation-related GHG’s?

O’Keefe: I would look for opportunities to implement additional components of Albany’s Climate Action Plan adopted earlier 2010 by Council. I served on the City committee that worked with the consultant who created the plan. Right now, and for many years to come, the fiscal situation is such that Albany can’t afford to implement all of the components – but Council can and should be looking for opportunities.

Papalia: I would work to continue Albany’s improvement of the cycling infrastructure so all of our residents feel comfortable riding wherever they want to go – to the Waterfront, to school or to go shopping.

Any way that we can support regional planning and implementation of affordable and convenient mass transit will be one of my priorities.

Atkinson: It is very important to me to meet our goals in our Climate Action Plan to reduce GHG’s and we will not be able to do this without the community’s help. I am working with community groups to engage and educate the public about lowering carbon emissions and ways to do this. I would plan community outreach to educate and encourage all citizens to be part of individual and group actions that would do this. The group I’m involved in is already doing this with films, gardening days, sharing items, encouraging biking, growing food and promoting sustainability. I would have the City work on ways to promote biking, alternate forms of transportation like car sharing, electric plug in sites, and areas where it is easy to access a shared car. There is a site in UC Village at the moment and I would like a site on Solano. I have already been working with staff to try to find a way to get a shuttle between places like BART, Target, Solano, GGF and El Cerrito. It’s a little tricky working with all the entities involved but I would like to see more progress for public transportation around town.

7. When making streets safe for bicycling, as called for in the Bicycle Plan, there are often conflicts between the needs for more parking, sufficient traffic flow, bus service, and safe bike access. This particularly happens on busy arterials where buses run and where there are many businesses that want sufficient parking for their customers. Yet, bicyclists need to patronize these businesses as well use the streets to get to and from work. These streets are often the most direct routes and the safest for cyclists to use at night, which is why they are included in the City’s Bicycle Plan. Knowing that in many cases, streets will likely have to be reconfigured to accommodate bicyclists, reducing the number of conventional car lanes and/or converting space for on-street parking to make room for bicycle right-of-way, what ideas do you have to make our busy arterial streets safe for bicycling?

O’Keefe: The only idea I have is to replace current diagonal parking with back-in diagonal parking. It has to be less dangerous than current backing out. It’s ironic that Albany requires two off street parking spaces per housing unit, but many residents choose to park cars on streets making it harder for bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers to see each other.

Papalia: The reconfiguration of Marin Avenue is an example of a successful road change, which have benefited cyclists and pedestrians, while not having a negative impact on motorists.
If you go to Berkeley, you see that most of the main auto thoroughfares (MLK, Ashby, Sacramento) are paralleled by designated Bicycle Boulevards (Milvia, Russell, California respectively.) Obviously Albany is smaller than Berkeley so there are fewer options, but having designated bicycle routes that parallel major roads will help cyclists have a safer and more comfortable experience.

Atkinson: We have a very active Traffic and Safety Commission and the Rollers and Strollers group is a constant presence there. I think they can come up with a much better plan and idea for answering this question than I can, and I will be looking forward to seeing those ideas. I am in favor of making sure that bicyclists are safe and have access. I think that we have to look at, encourage and incorporate ways to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and go in a direction that is as carbon neutral as possible. I am interested in all ways that might help us do this.

8. What ideas do you have to make our busy arterial streets safe for walking?

O’Keefe: At a few key intersections I’d explore banning right turns except on green. Drivers do not look right when turning right, especially when no stop is required, and pedestrians walk on the left side of the street about half the time.

Papalia: There are basically different groups with different needs that may require different solutions in certain circumstances: children, the elderly and adults. The single most talked about issue with pedestrian safety is the speed of travel by cars in the blocks that are on either side of Solano and Marin where cars are not using the appropriate speed necessary for a residential neighborhood with children. It is not an automatic decision to slow down when you turn down these blocks when turning off of Solano and Marin. This is also true west of San Pablo when turning off Solano and Buchanan. Perhaps better signage at the entrance to the streets and caution/ slow speed warning could be painted on the street surface of every block. The Marin/Santa Fe intersection is being redesigned with safety measures that will improve safety for school children.

Atkinson: The City of Albany employs an Environmental Resource Specialist and a Transportation Planner, two highly qualified individuals that are constantly working on just such issues. As they come to the Council for approval we are able to allocate money to make improvement to make busy streets safe for walking. If we had the money or could get a grant, I would love to see flashing lights embedded in the pavement on Marin or at our two main intersections on San Pablo.

9. Human-scale transit is defined as a way of getting around that allows one to legally and safely stop and talk to a friend or acquaintance spontaneously. Walking, skating, cycling, scootering, wheelchairing are some forms of human-scale transit. Do you feel Albany does a good job of accommodating human-scale transit modes?

O’Keefe: Yes, at least on Solano and San Pablo where people are most likely to travel and most likely to meet others, the streets and sidewalks and transitions are fairly good for human transit.

Papalia: As I have said, Albany is fairly bicycle and pedestrian-friendly, but we need to work on improving those conditions.

Atkinson: I don’t think we’ve given human-scale transit as much thought as getting some bike lanes created. It’s possible on the BART greenway, but I don’t see Solano as conducive to anything on wheels, especially as most of this would have to be on the sidewalks and they are pretty narrow.

10. What human-scale transit provisions and amenities do you favor or propose for new developments such as a remodeled Safeway on Solano or a Whole Foods development at UC Village? How do you think these developments would affect traffic patterns in Albany? What can be done to mitigate adverse affects of potential higher traffic?

O’Keefe: I’d propose a larger number of bicycle parking stations (comparable to Berkeley Bowl West) with some larger stations for those whose wheels are larger to accommodate merchandise transport. Your questions really need the facts in an EIR. My thinking will depend upon real information in that EIR, which has been drafted but is not yet available to the public. A few thoughts – UC Village already has a very low traffic speed (15 mph) in the Village which would increase the safety of bicyclists from the Village. On the potential for higher traffic, the EIR should address the overall impact on driving with each of these two projects – is there more in Albany but less in the region overall?

Papalia: The Safeway and Whole Foods projects are crucial to Albany’s financial health and sustainability. Obviously that will bring in customers, some of whom will drive. The ease of walking and biking to both these projects, as well as access by mass transit, should be implemented in a way for them both to be a sterling example of proper design and planning for bicyclists and pedestrians in the coming decades. Safeway must provide parking for bicycles in a variety of locations – on the sidewalks, by the café areas, in the underground parking lot. When people shop by bike, they may tow a trailer or ride an XtraCycle with extra storage, and the bike parking facilities need to take that into account. A key aspect to determine the number of parking spots is understand number of parking spaces for bicycles upon projected cycling mode share 20+ years down the road, not in 2010.

Atkinson: I think the UC project and Safeway are projects that will help Albany fiscally when they are finished. The P & Z commission is working closely with Safeway and the neighbors to address concerns about size and traffic. The UC development with Whole Foods will be more difficult as San Pablo is a State Hwy, but the City will be actively pursuing measures to mitigate impacts on traffic and the neighborhoods. In process are changes at Jackson and Buchanan for a safer light with dedicated left hand turns, a dedicated right turn from Buchanan south on San Pablo and an adjustment of traffic flow at Dartmouth to see what can be done about the street off-set with Monroe.

11. Many of the infrastructure improvements called for by Albany’s current Bicycle Master Plan consist only of paint and signs without any other street alterations, while others require extensive street alteration. As an elected leader, how would you prioritize implementation of these types of improvements?

O’Keefe: Albany doesn’t have funds for extensive street alteration, so I’d go for what we could afford. It’s a matter of looking for opportunities and grants.

Papalia: Albany certainly needs to improve its accommodation of human-scale transit modes, which is why the city is presently updating its Bicycle Master Plan and creating a Pedestrian Master Plan. City staff, transportation consultants, and a group of Albany’s citizens are working on this important process. They are involving the community in workshops and planning sessions. They will come up with a comprehensive plan and prioritization of how to improve safety and accessibility for all people using human-scale transit modes. Paint and signage improvements are inexpensive ways to quickly improve the cycling infrastructure and make Albany’s streets safer for all users.

Atkinson: There is an all day city workshop on Oct. 25 to engage the public about just these issues. I will be interested in what comes out of that. If there is money or grants for improvements, I would like to see Marin safer for bicyclists and improved east/west safety lanes, perhaps on Washington and Portland, which are fairly wide streets. I would prioritize for what is the most cost effective with improved safety, based on information from bicyclists and the public, and more expensive changes need to be addressed through capital improvement money or grants. Some street alteration may be possible along Masonic because of BART retrofit, and I think that would be a main thoroughfare improvement I would like to see as many commute riders don’t use the BART paths.

12. Albany has a “transit-first” policy in its General Plan. This policy prioritizes transportation modes other than private automobile. Provide examples where you have or will implement this policy.

O’Keefe: I am supportive of the ideas of both the Safeway and UC developments, assuming they meet all code and contain generous bike parking. Their presence would provide closer access to groceries for thousands of people, access by bike or on foot, which is a big step in reducing use of private vehicles.

Papalia: I have always wanted a shuttle running up and down Solano Avenue. This would be particularly important for seniors. I also think there should be a shuttle going to El Cerrito BART station.

Atkinson: See above.

13. Many projects to improve conditions for cycling have or will involve removing on-street parking (Safe Routes to School infrastructure improvements, Pierce Street Bay Trail connector, Buchanan cycling path, Complete Streets as called for in the Climate Action Plan). When presented with this choice, how did you or will you decide to vote?

O’Keefe: I would vote for small reductions in parking to achieve Council goals – after listening at a public meeting for any compelling reason not to (not likely, but you have to listen).

Papalia: I can’t state how I would vote for something that is not an actual measure or plan.
As I’ve said before, Albany needs to add many more bike racks all over town – in shopping districts, at schools, at Target and at the Waterfront. Many European cities have replaced on street auto parking with parking for bicycles. Berkeley has followed suit in a few locations – losing two parking spots can create parking for 12 bicycles, and we can consider this measure, if warranted.

Atkinson: The Council, including myself, tend to give great weight to the recommendation of the city staff that has come to their recommendations after a lot of thought and public input. I would have to see the proposals and hear public comment, but I am in favor of these projects to encourage alternative transportation. As an example, the first plan for Pierce St. lost up 17 parking spaces and the Pierce St. residents complained. I was insistent that the city and the residents look at all alterntives before the final plan. There was much outreach and discussion. The final plan has the lost of three parking spots, improved crossing at the bus stop and continued safety for people on the sidewalk. It’s not perfect but everybody knows they worked hard to compromise and come up with a workable plan.

14. Measure F has provided the local matching funds for numerous cycling and walking improvement project grants garnered by Albany. Funds for this purpose have been leveraged at a rate of about three to one so far. These funds will likely run out during your tenure if elected. Do you think Albany should continue to dedicate local funds to cycling and walking improvements, and if so where should these funds come from?

O’Keefe: It would be ideal for Albany to continue to make such good use of money, the concern is whether Albany will have enough money to avoid layoffs. Until that question is settled it is very unclear what funds could be used after Measure F.

Papalia: We must grow our economic base by supporting our existing businesses. Safeway and the University of California have proposals to invest $135,000,000 in our community for new retail stores and assisted-living senior housing units. These plans would revitalize Solano Avenue near Safeway and San Pablo Avenue next to UC Village. If we create economic revitalization, we can ensure that Albany will have the fiscal means to foster environmental sustainability.

Atkinson: Of course, and we will have to weather the current economic storm and then see where we are with the money. The Climate Action Plan is very important and we will be doing everything we can to move the Plan forward, which would encompass cycling and walking projects to help lower carbon emissions.

15. Despite being public infrastructure on public land, all or half of the cost and all of the project management overhead of a sidewalk maintenance project in Albany is borne by the owner of the adjacent property. This provides for an uneven financial and effort imposition on such property owners through time, which is reflected in the uneven quality of Albany’s sidewalks in some places. This contrasts with street maintenance, which is managed and paid for by the city creating a uniform cost imposition on all Albany residents through time. Why does this disparity exist? Do you think it should persist? If not, how do you propose to change it?

O’Keefe: My understanding of why the property owner is designated as the responsible party for sidewalks is that the jurisdictions can’t afford to maintain all the sidewalks. Albany has had problems affording the street maintenance too. No, the policy shouldn’t exist, but if it didn’t exist the City still wouldn’t have more funding to do the work. Reality is so disheartening.

Papalia: At some point in the past, the city decided to shift the burden to the property owner in order to save money, despite the fact that many of the lifted sidewalks were caused by improper tree planting by the city decades ago. It’s a revenue issue but I believe it should be the city’s responsibility, and not the responsibility of the property owner, who didn’t cause the problem.

Atkinson: No answer.

16. The University of California will likely apply for approval of a major development along San Pablo during your tenure. As currently planned, this development consists of a supermarket north of Monroe and senior housing and small retail south of Monroe. As the supermarket would be the main trip generator, it would make more sense to place it south of Monroe along the Dartmouth/Codornices Creek cycling/walking corridor that is being implemented. Do you agree in concept, and if so how will you seek to bring this about if project passage appears likely/desirable?

O’Keefe: I’m not sure that I do agree in concept. My recollection is that the first proposal was for the store to be to the south, but local creek supporters asked that it be moved to the north. I would like to see the EIR and what information it has regarding the tradeoffs of where the store is located.

Papalia: This single project offers the most significant opportunity to the city to change a4.2 acres of non-taxpaying land into 55 parcels of taxpaying land. That is fifty-five sets of parcel taxes to schools and other city services. It will generate property tax revenue to pay off the bonds for our new pool school and civic center. And generate sales tax revenue to support a variety of needs expressed in this questionnaire. UC Village resident will be able to walk there. Everyone north of Gilman, south of Marin and west of Key Route Blvd can walk/bike too. Being on a main public transit line will be huge plus. What I see about this project is how we have to work with the UC to make this project work well on all levels. That is the skill I can provide with my architecture, construction, real estate negotiation and finance background. We can make it something to be proud of for decades to come.

Atkinson: No answer.

17. A world-wide trend to enhance the quality of city life and support economic development has led countless cities to create car-free space on city streets, providing opportunities for people to bike, walk and play safely in their neighborhoods. They have proven to be extremely popular around the East Bay. As Councilmember, will you commit to expanding pedestrian zones and to significantly increase funding for more car-free spaces in town?

O’Keefe: I commit in principle to expanding pedestrian zones, with the caveat that funding may not exist for years.

Papalia: Our city is 1.7 square miles and I don’t believe that is practical. I would, however, like to explore creating some car-free days on Solano Avenue, if the merchants think it would be positive for business. Unfortunately, the major stumbling block to this is that Solano is an AC Transit route and any changes to the bus route are complicated and difficult to coordinate with AC Transit.

Atkinson: I helped start Albany Streets, which is often known around the world as Sunday Streets, in which we block off streets so people can have a car-free space and participate in many fun activities. I don’t have a sense at the moment of how we might implement this idea or not in Albany. It would be a challenge with our small city and how to pick streets to close. I imagine this is kind of a “radical” idea that once implemented people just get used to. I would need to do more study on how this is working in other cities.

18. At the current rate of implementation, the Bicycle Plan will take many years to implement. A current challenge is limited staff time to devote to bicycle plan implementation. Will you commit to increasing staffing and resources directed toward implementation of the Bicycle Plan?

O’Keefe: See response to 17

Papalia: This issue only underscores the glaring need for more commercial-based revenue for the city. Albany’s Transportation Coordinator, Aleida Andrino-Chavez, is essentially flying solo in this important area. She has been extremely successful in securing grants for major projects such as the Buchanan Street bikeway and the Marin/Santa Fe reconfiguration, but her time is limited to deal with simpler issues like paint and signage. A part-time assistant would be money well spent, but Albany needs to have that money. More improvements could be implemented for our human-scale transit users, and Andrino-Chavez could concentrate even more on securing grants for larger projects.

Atkinson: No answer.

19. For generations, state, regional and even local policies have prioritized traffic flow and space for private motor vehicles, to the detriment of walking, bicycling and transit. Around the world, many cities are reversing this priority and using the following hierarchy in transportation planning; pedestrians first, then bicyclists, transit vehicles, and lastly private motor vehicles. If elected, will you support this priority hierarchy in the City?

O’Keefe: I would support exploration of using this hierarchy in planning. I say exploration because it’s important to hear from the public about impacts of these plans, and ideal timeframes. (For example, Albany recently enacted an ordinance to ban oversized vehicle parking on city streets. But after listening to the public identify the financial hardship that it would impose, on those who made decisions using current planning policies, Council offered a 5 year grace period.)

Papalia: Albany is a unique city with diverse groups that have different needs and priorites. I will respond to these groups needs as appropriate to encourages a healthier and safer lifestyle while building a community of mutual respect.

Atkinson: No answer.

20. Please respond to the following short questions:

-Do you support establishing a bike parking zoning ordinance for new
residential and commercial development?

O’Keefe: Yes

Papalia: Yes

Atkinson: Yes

-Do you support increasing local funding for bicycle projects?

O’Keefe: No*

Papalia: Maybe – if we get specific monies earmarked for those projects.

Atkinson: Yes

-Do you support doubling the bicycle mode share in the City in the
next four years?

O’Keefe: Yes*

Papalia: Yes

Atkinson: Yes

-Do you support establishing an effective pedestrian safety campaign
in the City?

O’Keefe: Yes*

Papalia: Yes, Yes, Yes! Particularly in neighborhoods with small children.

Atkinson: No answer.

-Do you support expanding the traffic calming program to limit thru
traffic in residential neighborhoods?

O’Keefe: Yes*

Papalia: Yes

Atkinson: Yes

-Alameda County has started work on Sustainable Communities Strategies as part of SB 375, which requires the state of California to reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Do you support the goal of reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled?

O’Keefe: Yes

Papalia: Yes

Atkinson: Yes

21. What other ideas do you have to increase the number of people
bicycling in town?

O’Keefe: Encourage safe bicycling instruction as a “free” or low-cost City and/or school sponsored course.

Papalia: More programs that promote safe and easy bike to school days. Changing the patterns and awareness of children will result in life-long positive habits. Any event that can engage the parent with the child in an event or activity with change the future. I

22. What other ideas do you have to increase the number of people
walking in town?

O’Keefe: nothing else

Papalia: It was not my idea but Art Attack Friday on Solano was an excellent idea to create a one day a month when stores stayed open late with special programs or events. At my office on Solano, I sponsored two events. One was a slide show and talk by a local historian Richard Schwartz and another by the Albany Historical Society featuring a slide show and talk by Karen Sorenson, the author of Images of America Albany. This kind of regular event that has people walking up and down Solano on a Friday night can be supported by the city staff.

Atkinson: Both of above, I want the city to do more outreach to citizens about alternate transportation because we will need buy-in for our Climate Action Plan. Plus, it is not healthy to walk and bike, but reduces the CO2s. It is also a stress-buster, which is really nice. We want to make it safer and more friendly for walkers and bikers, and my priority would be to improve the east-west streets that seem either dangerous-feeling or are not well-marked for bikers. I would like to see embedded lights at some key places on Marin and slower traffic on Marin. I am a member of the Transition Albany community group that is working with the city to inform citizens of all the ways we can lower our CO2 use. This includes working with many other groups to promote alternate transportation, such as biking, walking, car-share, electric vehicles and other ways to share in our community so that we can lower dependence on oil and lower our greenhouse gas emissions.

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