Well, no tree-sitters yet, but a few Niles residents protested Saturday night as Caltrans crews began removing trees from a section of Niles Canyon Road. If Caltrans’ plan comes to pass, more than 400 trees will be chopped down and more than two miles of retaining walls will be built to widen the road.
Here’s a photo from Steven Ashley Wilson:
And here’s a video show what looks to be tree branches on the ground:
Niles Canyon Road will have lane closures Saturday night into Sunday morning and every night next week so work crews can trim, and yes, remove trees from the canyon.
The work is part of the first phase of Caltrans’ project to improve road safety. Opponents, who are gearing up to kill the next phase, fear all the transportation agency is doing is helping motorists drive faster while ruining the canyon’s natural beauty.
Caltrans was nice enough to email me a description of the project:
Regarding the Niles Canyon I Safety Improvement project, pre-construction for the project began Wednesday, and construction is expected to begin this spring. This safety improvement project will widen shoulders to meet current standards, realign the northbound direction around the existing pier at the Rosewarnes Underpass, lower the roadway to meet vertical clearance standards at the Rosewarnes and Farwell Underpasses, construct a left-turn pocket at Palomares Road, shift Palomares Road towards the west, and construct centerline and shoulder rumble strips.
Fremont has a $330,000 federal grant to study redeveloping the land around the NUMMI plant, gosh darn-it, it’s going use it.
The city’s next stop, it turns out, is to do an air quality study to see if they really can’t put housing near Union Pacific’s future railyard.
Here’s a snippit from a city report going to the council on Tuesday:
During a January 21 meeting with UPRR, staff learned that it is likely these sites would be used for freight rail of agricultural products or for automobile marshalling.
Since two of the three land use concepts envisioned include residential uses, staff finds it prudent that the City better understand the breadth of compatibility issues and constraints of expanded rail uses on the Union Pacific parcels to determine if residential development is viable from an air quality perspective.
To provide this understanding, air quality studies are underway and will be complete by late March to inform refinement of the land use alternatives. Once the study results are known, staff will be able to determine if residential uses are feasible in proximity to the future rail area.
In addition, after completion of the air quality studies, review of hazardous material operations in the area may be required to further ensure that any proposed land use scenario is feasible given existing constraints in
Fremont employee union contracts expire at the end of June. On Tuesday the council gets into labor relations mode with a long report that outlines the rising cost of city employees.
Here’s a snippet:
Major Cost Drivers
This section presents historical information about some of the major General Fund budget cost drivers. As depicted below, the average cost of City employees has continued to increase. Accounting for wages, employer-paid CalPERS costs and the health benefit allowance (HBA), the average cost of Fremont public safety employees has increased from $134,477 in 2007 to $160,427 in 2010, a 19% increase. Similarly, the average cost of miscellaneous employees has increased from $104,567 to $116,488, an 11% increase. The aggregate average cost of all City employees has increased 15% for the same period, from $115,593 to $133,210.
The report also spelled out that if there’s an impasse, the council can impose the city’s last, best offer — two councilmembers don’t have to worry about running for election ever again, but it’s still hard to imagine negotiations getting to that point.
There’s been a depressing pattern for Fremont over the past year. Something bad happens, city folks try to make the best of it only to have fate spit on them again.
It happened with NUMMI. After the plant closed, the city was all gung ho on making area a hub for high-paying jobs. Then UP came along.
And now it might be happening with redevelopment. The city last year secured about $400 million in redevelopment projects, only to have Gov. Brown propose doing away with redevelopment. The city tried to make the best of it by racing through $140 million in redevelopment bonds that would at least pay for a BART station in Irvington.
The city was scheduled to issue those bonds this morning and sell them on the 28th. But what happened? More bad luck. The state late yesterday issued a 27-page framework for how it would do away with redevelopment. It includes a prevision that would give the state up to three years to review the validity of redevelopment projects approved after the start of the year.
Attorneys for the city are reviewing the document for items that need to be disclosed to investors. The city is hoping this is just a bump in the road and that it can issue and sell the bonds next week.
But there are a couple of reasons for concern.
1) The city was hoping to get the bonds sold before March 1, the date Gov. Brown had set for terminating redevelopment
2) Even if Fremont’s bond offering is solid, there’s no way to know how investor’s will respond to the state’s plan. If the pool of willing investors shrinks, the city could find itself paying a higher interest rate on the bonds, which could make them unfeasible.
And if the city can’t sell the bonds, there’s no money for that BART station
My computer’s WiFi has been down for a couple of weeks, which prevents live blogging council meetings, and to a certain extent, has made it less convenient to blog altogether. Hope to get it fixed this week.
The council rejected a proposal to sell the former corporation yard on Sequoia Road to the city’s Redevelopment Agency. This was the latest in a string of proposals aimed at preserving city redevelopment funds if/when state-subsidized redevelopment kicks the bucket.
The council had been lapping up all these ideas from city employees to preserve redevelopment funds, but they spit this one out. The city’s five-person affordable housing lobby opposed the sale, and the council wasn’t going to go out on a limb to support affordable housing when affordable housing advocates didn’t like the deal.
The affordable housing advocates argued that the site wasn’t well suited for affordable housing since it’s not near any amenities, and would likely to score poorly when it comes to getting state and federal aid to help fund construction. The city in January 2009 had recommended selling the site to a for-profit developer and using the proceeds to subsidize affordable housing elsewhere.
As expected the council supported a study on banning trucks from Niles Canyon Road. However, Caltrans is scheduled to start construction on the first phase of its safety project in the canyon. That will also include cutting down trees and building retaining walls, and there appears nothing that can be done to stop it. The city is trying to stop Phase II of the project, which would cut down a lot more trees and add many more feet of retaining walls.
The city’s contract for towing illegal vehicles is in for a big change. There’s more back story here than you can imagine. For years and years, the police department divided the city up into three tow zones, which made sense because the city is so darn long, it can be a challenge to respond from the north end of town to the south end in 20 minutes.
But the city is going to get rid of the zones and rotate tow calls among several tow companies. The change stems back to last year when the department recommended keeping the towing zones, but replacing a long-time tow operator — who had one of the three zones.
On Tuesday, the City Council will be asked to approve $30,000 (in money from a regional bond measure) to begin the process of outlawing trucks on Niles Canyon Road.
If you recall, Caltrans, citing safety concerns, wants to widen the road from Fremont to Sunol and build lots of retaining walls. Fremont voiced opposition to the plan and proposed a truck ban, since trucks were involved in38 percent of collisions.
Caltrans hasn’t responded to the city’s letter lambasting the state agency’s plan for Niles Canyon Road. According to a city staff report:
Caltrans has recently communicated to staff that they are exploring alternatives to reduce the visual impacts of the roadway widening by using different retaining wall techniques and treatments, and analyzing other construction options that could reduce the number of retaining walls needed. They have not indicated whether they are considering reducing the amount of roadway widening though the canyon, as the city requested in its letter.
From the cops:
An alert jail guard stopped a man from trying to hang himself from a television.
After crashing his car into another car in the area of Blacow Road and Calaveras, a long-haired pacific islander rand away into a nearby flood control area, leaving behind a victim with six broken ribs. Cops and K-9 couldn’t find him.
Bonfaire Market was visited yesterday by a man with what appeared to be stun gun. The visitor left with $400.
Officers arrested two visitors Creekside Village, who were fidgety and non-compliant. One was arrested for making terrorist threats against a security guard.
From Assemblymember Wieckowski: He’s holding a hearing about that questionable pesticide that’ll be used on strawberries.
Sacramento – The controversial approval last December by the state Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) of a highly toxic fumigant called methyl iodide will be the topic of a joint hearing of the Assembly Environmental Safety & Toxic Materials Read the rest of this entry »