By Roz Rogoff
Answering Patch postersUploaded: Sep 3, 2012
It's Labor Day weekend and I wasn't going to post a blog this Monday, but after reading the San Ramon Patch about widening Bollinger Canyon Road I felt it necessary to answer the misconceptions of posters there.
I don't post in the Patch. I did a few years ago when I commented on stories about Measure W, but my Editor at that time (it wasn't Jessica Lipsky) didn't approve. After all the San Ramon Patch is our competition. So I'm replying to Patch posters here in my Monday blog on the Express. They should all be reading the Express anyway.
I attended the August 28th City Council meeting in Dougherty Valley to find out which of the five Options in the staff report the City Council would choose to save the Sycamore trees. As I was walking into the meeting room, Todd Erickson, a resident of Vista Pointe, asked if I was reporting on the meeting. I said no but I would be writing it up in my blog.
Erickson told me Shapell is "pushing" the City to widen the road so it would not become a bottleneck and discourage potential buyers of the 3,000 new homes they are building in Gale Ranch. I had not heard that claim before; so I asked him to write his name and phone number down so I could contact him later.
I emailed him a draft of my blog a few days ago, but I couldn't find a way to fit his comments into this blog. I hope he posts his comments in a reply instead.
This blog is to answer posters on the Patch and correct misconceptions they have about the reasons for widening the road, who controls development in Dougherty Valley, and who pays for widening the road. I am replying to each comment in the order posted and including a summary of what he or she said with my answer.
Judy complained that the developers are responsible for the traffic because of the high density of their developments. This appears to be correct.
Janice answered Judy's post saying Option 1, which would remove the Sycamores from the median on Bollinger Canyon Road, is the worst option and the Council should add an Option 6 to "stop putting development after development after development in Windemere and Gale Ranch. That shouldn't be too hard."
Janice makes the common mistake that the City is allowing or even encouraging all this development. No, our City Council and City planners have no control over development of Dougherty Valley. It is all controlled by Contra Costa County. The County has already approved up to 11,000 new homes in Dougherty Valley. They were supposed to be finished by 2008, but the housing bubble caused the developers to delay building for the past few years.
The City originally approved 9,000 homes, but Contra Costa County approved 2,000 more. So the developers went with the County's plan. Shapell is now ready to build 3,000 new homes in Gale Ranch. These are already approved by the County. Our City Council cannot stop them.
Karyne replied, and Annette agreed, "The solution is to make the developers come up with a solution and pay for it without touching our trees and using our funds!"
The Dougherty Valley Settlement Agreement in 1994 required the developers to pay for street widening and other modifications to keep traffic flowing. That stretch of Bollinger Canyon Road was widened once before in 2008 and Cherry trees in the median were removed then.
Johnny commented on the far right lane going up the hill being scary and narrow. Yes, that's why the road is being widened, to make that lane safer. Eight accidents over the last seven years have resulted in drivers crashing into the chain link fence along the sidewalk.
At the June 12, 2012 City Council meeting I commented on the location of the sidewalk. This is from the minutes of that meeting. "She stated that the problem is not the median or the road but the sidewalk. She asked if the sidewalk has to be eight feet wide. She believes that the sidewalk is unsafe and recommended placing barriers." The sidewalk is also used as a bike path which is why it is so wide.
Johnny and Greg brought up the speed of drivers on that hill. Many of the speakers at the August 28th City Council meeting and in my recent blog said speeding is the main cause of the accidents. Police Chief Holder and Interim City Engineer Bornstein disagree, but surely if drivers can be kept to the posted speed limits accidents could be reduced.
Dee suggests lowering the speed limit on the hill to 30 mph. The speed limit already drops from 40 mph to 35 at the S curve near the top of the hill. Speakers at the August 28th Council meeting said that many drivers don't slow down when the speed limit changes. Putting one of the flashing signs with the driver's speed to alert drivers who are going too fast might help speeders to slow down. The one on Montevideo just before Mangos works for me.
Mary says to go back to two lanes. That might be OK if there is another access route to Dougherty Valley. Amy says drivers should use Crow Canyon Road to get there instead of Bollinger, but Bollinger is a faster route to or from the I-680 than Crow Canyon.
Pat wants the traffic lights timed to control speed up and down the hill, but Shapell would like a green light straight to their model homes. The council appears to be stuck between a rock and a hard place with Shapell pushing the Council to speed traffic up while residents are pushing them to slow the traffic down.
Residents living at the top of the hill, like Todd Erickson, are very passionate about the trees and believe the City Council and staff are not doing enough to save them. Mayor Bill Clarkson and other city Council members have said that pedestrian and bicycle safety are their most important considerations for widening the street.
The best solution in my opinion (and this is my opinion blog) would be to move the bike path/sidewalk out of the road and into the golf course, or as Bill Meine suggests, add another access road across from the PG&E Easement from Alcosta and put a bike path on it. That would link the bike and walking path to the Iron Horse Trail. Then the right lane on Bollinger could be widened without touching the median and the speed limits could be increased without endangering bikers, walkers, or other drivers.