I live in Alameda, California. Alameda is a small island city located in between Oakland and San Francisco. Seventeen years ago, the naval air station in Alameda closed. The area has been virtually unused since that time. For the past three years, a developer, SunCal, has collaborated with the community to create a master plan that addresses the needs of the community. The focus of this plan has been on what is termed Transit Oriented Development (TOD). On Wednesday night I attended a transportation forum meeting as part of SunCal's efforts to reach out to the community.
The project features 145 acres of open space with 21.5 miles of biking and walking trails.
As a TOD project, residential, recreational, and commercial services are near one another to reduce local traffic congestion. The hub of the area features an enhanced ferry terminal, community bicycle strategy, connection to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains, carshare and carpool programs, and guaranteed ride programs. Each resident receives an EcoPass which is a free mass-transit pass.
The redevelopment includes 3,712 residential units of which 928 come under the affordable housing classification. The master plan includes: single-family detached, zero lot line single-family, workforce housing, multifamily, duplex, and live-work (commercial first floor, residential second floor) structures.
I live right next to Alameda Point. In fact the ferry that I ride to work each day docks at Alameda Point. The main concern for residents like myself is the potential for increased traffic.
The project has reduced traffic as a goal. Reduced is a relative term - reduced as compared to projects of the same density that are not TOD. Right now the space is virtually empty. Traffic has no choice but to increase. At least a TOD approach will attempt to minimize the impact. I know many of you It's Alive in the Lab readers have knowledge in this area. What should the average resident look for in an Environment Impact Report that you would consider a red flag in the planning of a new community?
BART is very popular in the Bay Area. One of the keys to reducing traffic in and around Alameda Point is to encourage bus ridership. This means a bus stop has to be more than a sign and a bench. Plans feature stops that include cafes, places to buy magazines, valet parking for bicycles, and electronic signage "Next bus in N minutes." Busses will cruise through Alameda in dedicated lanes and/or use queue jump lanes (e.g. turning lane with its own signal where the bus gets a green light ahead of the other lanes. The bus goes straight and then moves over into the normal lane.). The goal is to make riding the bus as pleasant and riding BART.
In terms of sustainability, it was nice to see: a carbon neutral design, sustainable material use and waste minimization, drought tolerant landscaping, rainwater collection, water recycling and low-flow fixtures, local material sourcing, residential facilities to separate recyclables, compost, and waste, and 50% of the development debris will be diverted from landfills.
Seeing a modern approach to community planning, in my own backyard, is alive in the lab.