By Peter Snarr---The City of Oakland released its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the Oak Knoll development project in April and responded to resident concerns and complaints. The 188-acre project on the former naval hospital site drew criticism and concerns on a range of issues, most notably traffic and the environment.
Elise Bernstein worked to preserve Knowland Park from expansion by the Oakland Zoo in 2011. Bernstein is afraid of the destruction of Oakland’s natural open spaces and sees the Oak Knoll project as another attempt to take away more. While most of the Oak Knoll land will be used for development, the plan does include 14,000 square feet for civic use and restoration of nearby creeks and open space. Despite this, Bernstein is still skeptical of whether there will be a commitment to preservation.
“The lesson I learned [with Knowland Park] was that the city talks a big game,” Bernstein said. “The city has policies that protect open space, but they don’t follow through.”
Other environmental concerns stem from the possible vehicle traffic Oak Knoll may bring, both from new residents and commercial traffic, which Midori Tabata feels will lead to more greenhouse gasses in the area. The city responded by citing plans to provide subsidies for workers if they take public transit, providing a shuttle from the Oakland Coliseum BART Station to the project site, and hopeful optimism that workers utilize ridesharing.
“I don’t feel like they provided any additional solutions,” Tabata said.
In her initial letter to the city, Tabata argued that ridesharing is ineffective due to cars still being on the road, and transit subsidies would be “like giving money for a product that doesn’t exist” because of the lack of bus routes in the area. The city acknowledged that these measures would be largely ineffective and would only reduce traffic by less than one percent per solution. Transit shuttles from BART to Oak Knoll would help reduce traffic by nine percent, however, according to the EIR.
“If no other measures are taken than what is already published, this development is unsustainable as presented and should not go forward,” Tabata said.
Aside from vehicle emissions, increased traffic in and of itself is a big concern amongst neighbors. The nearby 580 freeway is already jam-packed, the thoroughfare unusable, according to residents.
“The current situation with traffic is awful,” Bernstein said. “With [the estimated] 500 additional car trips, I just can’t imagine. We try to avoid 580 from 7 a.m. to 9:30 am and from 3 p.m. to 7 [p.m.]. It’s just ludicrous.”
Felix Guillory, another neighbor in the area, says the intersection at Mountain Boulevard and Golf Links Road, which holds an E rating—a low score indicating needs for improvement—already gets backed up by as many as 15 vehicles due to Zoo traffic and another 580 offramp. Guillory can’t see how adding more drivers to the area would help the situation. The city responded to Guillory’s concerns by citing plans to build more lanes, and extend existing lanes at the intersection.
“I would need to see a diagram of which they are referring to, to determine if it is a solution to the excessive traffic,” Guillory said. “The city will be held liable if the reality becomes worse and lives are lost because of their miscalculation. We, the citizens, deserve better and safer traffic flow.”
Read the full Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Report.