No County Money for Sidewalks in Castro Valley

In the 2019-2020 fiscal year, there is no funding for sidewalks in Castro Valley in the Alameda County Public Works Agency (PWA) budget. While we continue to pay SB 1 taxes at the gas pump, and Measure BB taxes on our property taxes, those funds are going to projects elsewhere in the county and in the state. Despite our advocacy, Alameda County has chosen to not tap into these funds for sidewalk projects in any part of unincorporated Alameda County.

Previous Funding from the Active Transportation Program

For the past several years, the vast majority of sidewalk funding in Castro Valley has come via the state Active Transportation Program (ATP). In the years that the Castro Valley Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) worked on the grant proposals, this has been a successful approach. In the other years (2014 and 2018), the Alameda County Public Works Agency (PWA)’s grant proposals did not yield sidewalk funding.

ATP funds are not a reliable or sustainable source of funding for sidewalks in Castro Valley. PWA has not convened the Castro Valley BPAC since Paul Keener passed away in July 2018. And the PWA has never had a successful grant ATP grant proposal for infrastructure without BPAC input. However, PWA has chosen to rely only on ATP grants for future sidewalk funding . . . with no BPAC to provide critical support on the proposal-writing.

Local and State Funding Sources

After ATP money was used for design work for sidewalks on Stanton Avenue, PWA allocated state transportation funds from Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) for construction work on those sidewalks, and PWA expects to have bids for this work in Summer 2019.

We have been cautiously optimistic about this success, and had hoped that PWA would again tap into Measure BB or SB 1 funds for the construction work on projects that have design funding (Anita Avenue, Somerset Avenue). Nope. PWA will not use these funds for Castro Valley, or any part of unincorporated Alameda County. While other communities use our taxpayer money to invest in infrastructure, Castro Valley’s built environment will continue to lag behind its neighbors.

What’s Next?

In the long term, only local self-governance for Castro Valley will allow us to invest in our community’s priorities for safety and walkability. In the short term, we are actively brainstorming a new advocacy approach. Please share your comments and ideas with us! (Leave a comment on the blog, or email us at bikewalkcv@gmail.com)

And by the way . . . we’ve only gotten what we have so far because of the sheer number of people who’ve emailed Supervisor Miley or Castro Valley MAC members, shown up at MAC meetings and town halls, and provided letters of support to grant applications. Thank you, all of you, so much for your time and energy. We hope that you continue to speak up for sidewalks whenever we have an opportunity to do so!

Next Forum for Eden Area BPAC on 1/23 at 6:30pm!

The Eden Area Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Commission (BPAC) is moving toward becoming a reality as Castro Valley and all of the Eden Area’s official voice with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors (BOS) on bike & pedestrian safety and accessibility improvements. The proposed BPAC will come before the Alameda County Unincorporated Services Committee (Supervisors Nate Miley and Wilma Chan) as an “action item” next Wednesday, January 23rd at 6:30pm at the Castro Valley Library. We need your presence and voices to help support this idea.

This is a critical time in the area of bike/ped safety improvement planning, as the draft update to the Bike/Ped Master Plan (the Plan) is currently pending – and this Plan provides the “wish list” for the next 10 years for any improvements we could ever hope for.

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To date, Castro Valley has had representation through the Castro Valley BPAC – which is advisory only, and reports to the Director of Alameda County Public Works Agency (PWA). And, historically, PWA has allowed the CV MAC to weigh heavily on important projects (like the Plan update). The MAC has shown themselves to be uninformed in matters regarding bike/ped safety, including how critical it is to improve safety for students & other community members to feel comfortable riding bikes in and through our community. The MAC has been helpful in pushing for pedestrian improvements, but has asked PWA to summarily remove any proposed improvements for biking from the Plan update. Only through increasing the number of pedestrians and bike riders will we address all those areas critical to the sustainability of our community – including improving health, expanding access to the downtown (including the new Marketplace) beyond the available parking spaces, reducing greenhouse gases (thus reaching climate action targets), improving access to/from our BART station, etc. The proposed Eden Area BPAC would report to the BOS – giving it real “teeth” and the ability to speak to the body that oversees PWA. This is a huge step toward allowing the communities of Castro Valley and all of the Eden Area to have a real voice in how bike/ped funds are spent and projects designed in our communities.

In addition, at present, the CVBPAC seems to have been abandoned by PWA since the tragic loss of Paul Keener, PWA’s Sr. Planner who facilitated the CVBPAC and essentially all of the bike/ped programming for much of unincorporated Alameda County. Thus, we currently have no representation at all on matters regarding bike/ped safety & accessibility. We run the risk of having the Plan update permanently watered down, and the voice of our community evaporated. The Eden Area BPAC can not only turn this around, but vastly improve our influence and outlook.

We hope you’ll join us next Wednesday night, 1/23 at 6:30pm at the CV Library to ensure that Supervisors Miley and Chan hear directly from you that the new Eden Area BPAC is important to our community. Please share with your friends & neighbors as well. Hope to see you there!

Share Your Views at MAC Town Hall 10/18

Supervisor Miley is holding a Town Hall regarding local MACs on Thursday, October 18th at 7pm at the Castro Valley Library, 3600 Norbridge Avenue. This is your opportunity to share your concerns about the Castro Valley MAC.

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The Castro Valley MAC has made it clear in two meetings earlier this year (March 19 and May 21) that they do not support improvements to safety for students, commuters, or anyone else who wants to ride bikes in Castro Valley. Even more alarming, they have shown themselves to be ignorant of the current infrastructure available to cyclists in Castro Valley.

In March, when Public Works brought the vision of greatly improved protections for people riding bikes in Castro Valley (including protected bike lanes) and the entire unincorporated Alameda County, as part of the proposed Updated Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan, Marc Crawford (the MAC chair) and the rest of the MAC said they opposed any cycling improvements, especially if they come at the cost of even one parking space. Even though the updated plan is only a vision – and every project would be vetted through the community, the MAC refused to share the vision that Public Works and the consultants developed through an extended public process of over 50 public meetings and over 1,000 public comments.

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In May, the MAC continued to push back on Public Works’ revised proposed Bicycle & Pedestrian Plan Update, despite the fact that Public Works heavily reduced the extent of bicycling improvements. Although 25 speakers spoke in favor of cycling improvements and 2 spoke against, Chair Marc Crawford stated that the MAC gets to determine what is good for the community — and that doesn’t include bicycling improvements. The MAC also refused to accept a proposed design for Stanton Avenue, which was also developed by Public Works and agreed to by the residents on and around Stanton in their own public meeting. That plan included a “climbing” buffered bike lane on the uphill side only, due to the limited width of Stanton Avenue, and would have included removal of only 9 parking spaces in exchange for this buffered bike lane for a full mile along Stanton Avenue. According to Crawford, the loss of one parking space is too high, no matter the benefit for students and others in the community who want to safely ride a bike.

Please come to the Town Hall on October 18th and let Supervisor Miley know that you want a MAC that genuinely represents all the interests in Castro Valley, including people who ride bikes. Riding bikes is good for health, it’s good for business, and it’s great for the environment. And we need a MAC that understands, protects and even promotes bicyclists, whether they are students, commuters, leisure or recreational riders. Hope to see you there!

In Memory of Paul Keener

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From the very early days of BikeWalkCV four years ago, we felt the support and compassion from Paul Keener, Sr. Planner at Alameda County Public Works Agency.

Paul was there to coordinate Castro Valley’s ATP grant proposals: for sidewalks, bike treatments, crosswalks, and pedestrian ramps. The grant proposals were gigantic, filled with statistics, photos, letters of support, and other evidence of need. Yet, Paul powered through, with the help of several of our team, to submit over a dozen proposals in the last four years – five of which have been granted so far. Five sidewalks that would not have happened without his passion and efforts. Yesterday, his assistant, Diana, submitted four more that we again helped out with. Paul is up there somewhere, smiling down, proud of the efforts we carried on in his honor.

Paul was also an unwavering fixture at every Bike to Work/School day, supplying us with flashing bike lights and reflectors, and staffing his station – ready to make every effort to ensure the safety of our community received all the support he could give.

Paul lead our Castro Valley Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee through years of gathering community input and spirited exchange on various projects. Paul listened with his compassionate ear to the well-intentioned yet occasionally frustrated community members who always wanted more – more sidewalks, more bike lanes, more everything. Paul was always the diplomat, making note of every request, whether he would be able to convince the powers that be at the county to grant them or not. And although the wheels of PWA turn slowly, turn they have. And we owe a lot of our forward progress to Paul’s diligence and dedicated efforts.

Paul also attended and spoke at countless other community meetings and events where he could support the many safety projects or proposed projects in our area – Safe Routes to School programs, parent meetings, county meetings, etc. No matter the situation, Paul always had a smile and a positive outlook that never wavered. His personal life was filled similarly to overflowing, always giving, always a smile, always a positive attitude.

On July 21st, Paul was setting up “Bike Day” at Castro Valley BART in the early morning. He was working yet another weekend, giving generously of his time, to further the cause of safety. Paul suffered a heart attack and tragically passed away that evening. Castro Valley, Alameda County, and the many good friends he made in our community and many communities have lost not only an incredibly valuable resource, but a steadfast and supportive friend and a good man.

Our sincerest condolences go out to Paul’s family, friends, co-workers, and the countless communities he touched. He left the world a better, safer place. He will be greatly missed.

Raise your hand for bike infrastructure!

The Castro Valley community has spent the last 18 months working closely with the Alameda County Public Works Agency (PWA) on updating the local bike & pedestrian plan (full name “Alameda County Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan for Unincorporated Areas”). This plan is a wish list for infrastructure improvements to improve safety and accessibility for people to walk and bike in Castro Valley – and the rest of unincorporated Alameda County – and is a key guiding factor in decision-making for the County.

The old master plan was created in 2012, and gathered input at only one community meeting in Castro Valley. This plan reflects the then-lack of interest in making our community a thriving, walkable, bikable place to live. Six years later, we’ve awakened to wanting a more active, thriving, environmentally friendly place to live that is not 100% dependent on driving. We have the opportunity to make a plan that holds the vision for what we’d like to see, limited only by funding.

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Over the last 18 months, PWA has facilitated or presented at no less than 30 community meetings, 11 of which were held in Castro Valley, as well as offered an online tool, to gather input from the community on what it wants to see as far as improvements for walking and cycling infrastructure. We helped promote the online tools and open houses in Castro Valley. Dozens of people attended the meetings, and the online tool received input from hundreds of residents about where they want to safely bike and walk in Castro Valley.

This process was due to result in an updated plan by June 30th. This process was interrupted on March 19th when PWA presented the draft updated plan to the MAC. At that meeting, the MAC responded saying that infrastructure for cars was far more important than infrastructure for bikes, that they were sure this is what Castro Valley wants, and asked that bike infrastructure improvements be stricken from the updated plan.

What the MAC hasn’t heard enough yet:

  • Our community values safe walking AND cycling
  • Our kids want to ride to school – except it isn’t safe
  • We want to ride to the village and the new marketplace – except it isn’t safe
  • Despite the fancy new shared parking, the answer to getting more people to downtown isn’t in more cars – it’s on foot and on bikes
  • We want to ride a bike to BART for our commutes (since we can’t fit any more cars into the parking lot) – but it isn’t safe
  • More people biking downtown is good for business – it’s been proven!

How can we help inform the MAC? Next Monday, May 21st, at 6pm at the CV Library, PWA will return to the MAC to try to better explain the purpose of the updated plan – that it’s a wish list, and no infrastructure changes will be made without community meetings for each project, and that the source of the update – the wish list – is our community. And we need YOU to come to the meeting and let the MAC know that you support bike infrastructure improvements. Please come to the meeting, bring your kids, your neighbors, your friends. Help us educate the MAC on what the community wants – safer cycling infrastructure that is good for everyone in our community. Thank you.

Pedestrian Safety Along Stanton Avenue

We have several updates regarding pedestrian safety along Stanton Avenue and other key corridors in Castro Valley — both short-term solutions and long-term plans for pedestrians.

At the December 18, 2017 MAC meeting, the Alameda County Public Works Agency (PWA) gave a presentation on upcoming work on Stanton Avenue. The good news:

  • In early Winter 2018, PWA will paint white lines on Stanton Avenue in places where there is no proper curb delineating the road from the pedestrian right-of-way.
  • The pilot program was announced on the front page of the Castro Valley Forum on January 31, 2018. PWA also intends to provide information to households on or near Stanton Avenue.
  • Alameda County Code Enforcement is currently addressing encroachments (overgrowth removal, pole and sign repositioning, etc.)
  • Design work for sidewalks along Stanton Avenue has already begun (using money from the successful ATP grant), and construction work is slated to begin in Summer 2019. This is an accelerated schedule; Alameda County has received an influx of money due to SB 1.
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Diagram of parking/walking delineation lines from PWA presentation at 12/11/2017 Castro Valley MAC Meeting

The bad news:

  • The Alameda County Sheriff’s Department has been consulted on this by PWA, but has not unambiguously committed to enforcing parking violations along these areas. These incidents are left up to the officer’s discretion; however, the white lines will decrease the ambiguity about where the road ends and where the pedestrian right-of-way begins.
  • As of December 2017, there was no timeline for when this pilot will be evaluated for success before rolling out onto other critical streets.
  • As of December 2017, there was no timeline presented for sidewalk construction on other roads in Castro Valley which have received ATP funding for design (such as Anita Avenue and Somerset Avenue).

A final takeaway: I am cautiously optimistic that the Safe Routes to School program and the Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan Update are working in concert with each other. The Safe Routes to School program has identified safety concerns near the schools that can be quickly fixed (e.g. crosswalks), while the Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan Update is focusing on larger scale infrastructure and network issues. We will keep you posted as any Safe Routes to Schools updates come to fruition.

What’s next? The Alameda County Public Works Agency Annual report was slated for the January 2018 MAC meeting, but was pushed back to March 2018 due to the full agenda. Stay tuned to our BikeWalkCV Facebook page for updates!

Want to Walk on Stanton Avenue?

Stanton Avenue is one of the many streets in Castro Valley plagued by lack of sidewalks. In spots lacking true sidewalks, parked cars and overgrown landscaping often block the pedestrian right-of-way. On Monday, December 18th, at 6pm at the MAC meeting at the CV Library, the public will have a rare opportunity to share concerns and hold public agencies accountable.

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Community Complaints

In Fall 2016, parents from Stanton Elementary (myself included) approached the Castro Valley MAC about the safety concern that this presented near the school. The MAC formed a subcommittee to collaborate with the multiple Alameda County agencies responsible for maintaining the pedestrian right of way — Code Enforcement (in the Community Development Agency) handles encroachment from overgrowth, the Sheriff’s Department handles parking enforcement, and Public Works is responsible for the engineering of roads and sidewalks.

MAC and Public Agencies

The MAC launched a pilot project in August 2017 to tackle the walkability of Stanton Avenue, and Code Enforcement’s report back to the MAC at the 11/20/2017 meeting was underwhelming.

  1. At the start of the pilot, the MAC crafted a letter to homeowners in the Stanton School area notifying them that they needed to keep the walkway clear.
  2. Several MAC members and Code Enforcement did a “field trip” to Stanton and carefully reviewed about 15 properties along a block of Stanton Avenue.
  3. Code Enforcement made a determination on the various issues, from overgrown vegetation to sign posts to parked cars.
    1. For vegetation issues, Code Enforcement notified property owners giving them a deadline to correct the issues.
    2. For sign posts, Code Enforcement asked Public Works to move the signs.
    3. For parked cars, Code Enforcement notified the Sheriff, who responded with the typical reply that they would not ticket unless they could be provided with a clear property line
  4. Code Enforcement stressed several times that they wanted to partner with other agencies (Public Works, Sheriff, MAC, etc.) to rectify this long-standing problem.
  5. The MAC announced that Public Works would be attending the next MAC General Purpose meeting on Monday, December 18, 2017 and that one of the short-term solutions the MAC is pushing for is white lines to separate the walkway from parking. White lines give the Sheriff a means to enforce parking rules.

What Can We Do?

The MAC meeting on Monday, December 18, 2017 (6 p.m. at the Castro Valley Library) is an all-too-rare opportunity for Public Works to answer to us. Where is the pedestrian infrastructure? Why should kids have to walk in the street to get to school? How can those with wheelchairs or strollers get anywhere?

Pedestrians, parents, and other advocates have complained to the MAC (and to Supervisor Miley) for years about the lack of sidewalks in Castro Valley. (Parents from Proctor Elementary complained to the MAC about similar issues in 2015.) This is the biggest push we’ve seen from the MAC to address these issues — and showing up to the 12/18/2017 MAC meeting to make sure Public Works hears us is the next step. On Stanton and a few other streets in CV, we may see sidewalks by 2023 (decades more before we see them on so many other streets) – but we can’t keep waiting! Short term solutions like white lines to protect our walking space can take weeks, not decades. We need your faces and your voices to tell Public Works that we need real solutions to preserving a safe pedestrian right-of-way today!

Eden Area BPAC?

On October 25th, Alameda County Supervisors Nate Miley and Wilma Chan entertained the idea of asking the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to form an official commission that would advise the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on matters of bicycle and pedestrian safety in the unincorporated Eden Area (Castro Valley, Cherryland, Ashland, San Lorenzo, Fairview).

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This would be an “upgrade” of the current Castro Valley Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee in several ways:

  1. The official commission would report to the Board of Supervisors, not the Director of Public Works
  2. The commission would be given the opportunity to review and provide feedback on all Public Works’ designs for infrastructure changes that affect bike/ped safety and comfort, rather than a cursory review that does not affect design outcomes, as is currently, occasionally provided
  3. Commission members would be appointed by the Supervisors rather than chosen by Public Works

For the reasons above, the official commission would have more “teeth” to positively impact safety improvements in Castro Valley and all of the unincorporated Eden Area.

Stay tuned for the date of the next Alameda County Unincorporated Services Committee meeting in early 2018 where this topic will be discussed again, and hopefully approved for presentation to the entire Board of Supervisors.

 

Bike/Ped Plan Needs Your Valuable Input

We are looking for a few minutes of your time to provide your valuable input — your wish list for pedestrian & cyclist safety — using a cool design tool. Public works wants to know what you are concerned about and what you’d like to see in Castro Valley, and/or anywhere in unincorporated Alameda County, for walking and biking safety. Please click on this link now to give your input.

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Every tiny entry you make will be considered in updating the Alameda County Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan for Unincorporated Areas by mid-2018. If your suggestions/concerns are in the plan, we’ll have a better chance of making the needed changes happen.

Thanks for your time in helping us make Castro Valley and our neighboring unincorporated Alameda County areas safer for all of us.

New Paved Pathway Below Canyon Middle School

A big thank you to Alameda County Public Works Agency (PWA) for installing a new paved pathway along Heyer Avenue at the base of Canyon Middle School, just in time for the school year to begin! Now students have a safe path from where the sidewalk ends on Heyer Avenue to the Cull Canyon intersection.

We appreciate the improvements and hope to keep them coming!

Let your voice be heard about what you want to see improved, by coming to the Bike/Ped plan Open House on Thursday, 8/24 at the CV Library, or by emailing Paul Keener, Sr. Planner at PWA at paulk@acpwa.org.