In September, the Planning Commission’s lengthy hearing on Kaiser’s proposed new hospital plans drew a substantial number of public speakers. Complaints about the project focused largely on objections to signage and fears about compromising the historical integrity of Mosswood Park with promised improvements. The Commissioners disagreed with the comments on the signage issue, agreed to change the language in the conditions of the approval to accommodate the park people, and focused their discussion primarily on the building’s physical appearance. Lost in all the worries about the park and the signs were the three speakers who came to address the comparatively mundane issue of bicycle and pedestrian access.
They complained that the project was not compliant with the Bicycle Master Plan, described how the proposed changes would frustrate bicycle movement in the area, and requested the Commission send the proposal to the City’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) for vetting before approval. The Commissioners touched briefly on bike/ped issues in their comments, inquiring about the adequacy of secure bicycle parking and asking for a more friendly pedestrian environment on MacArthur, but didn’t even acknowledge the requests for the BPAC to have a chance to comment on the design.
Last month, Kaiser came back with a revised hospital design, and after many hours of comment and discussion, the Planning Commission gave the project their okay. Part of the project’s traffic circulation “improvements” involves installing a median along MacArthur Boulevard in front of the hospital. An unfortunate impact of the median that nobody seemed to consider is that it cuts off bicycle and pedestrian access to Mosswood Park from Shafter and Manila Avenues. More on the problems from the Walk Oakland Bike Oakland blog:
It is widely know in North Oakland that the majority of bicycle commuters from North Oakland use Shafter to access MacArthur to Broadway to downtown Oakland. In this proposed plan Kaiser and Oakland’s own transportation engineers ignored the information. A plan was drawn that was not adequately reviewed by our traffic engineers, and none of the issues have been reviewed by the Oakland Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee.
The access to Mosswood Park was inadequate prior to the median installation and is worse now. How are pedestrians supposed to access the parks. The Lion’s Oakland Blind Center is only a block away and they are truly denied access under the present plans. Where is pedestrian planning? How about adding High-visibility crosswalks and refuge islands for pedestrians.
Things should never have happened! And the only reason it was allowed to is because the City has no avenue to properly vet transportation issues. The taxi ordinance goes through Public Safety, sidewalks come to Public Works, a new parking structure will get approved by CED, and traffic mitigations and improvements related to new development are considered by the Planning Commission. Without a single body that considers all transportation-related concerns, nobody comes away with a complete picture of how people move around Oakland, and important circulation issues, like the one highlighted above, get completely overlooked, with potentially disastrous consequences. As regional density increases, ensuring the best possible circulation becomes ever more vital, and that simply cannot be accomplished under existing structures. The City needs to establish a Transportation Commission with really decision making power and they need to do it as soon as possible.