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File #: 2019-7191   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: City Council
On agenda: 10/1/2019
Title: Recommendation to Approve the Design Concepts for Up to Six Public Access Pathways Along Fernside Boulevard and Eastshore Drive. (Recreation and Parks 280)
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 - Summary Report, 2. Exhibit 2 - Layout Plans, 3. Exhibit 3 - Public Input Data Summary Report, 4. Exhibit 4 - Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Report, 5. Correspondence

Title

 

Recommendation to Approve the Design Concepts for Up to Six Public Access Pathways Along Fernside Boulevard and Eastshore Drive.  (Recreation and Parks 280)

Body

To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

As a part of the Tidal Canal transfer project in 2016, six public access pathways along Fernside Boulevard and Eastshore Drive were identified as needing further community discussion. City of Alameda (City) staff conducted an extensive public input process and are recommending boundary adjustments and improvements at five pathways, with one pathway being determined to not be owned by or subject to an easement in favor of the City.

 

BACKGROUND

 

As part of the Tidal Canal transfer, the City, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, transferred 84 lots of submerged land to the adjacent residents. At that time, City Council directed staff to conduct a feasibility study on three public pathways along Fernside Boulevard, as well as three pathways on Eastshore Drive.

 

The Feasibility Study of Six Public Access Pathways on Fernside Boulevard and Eastshore Drive (Feasibility Study) was issued in August 2018 and can be downloaded at www.alamedaca.gov/pathways <http://www.alamedaca.gov/pathways>. A public input process was conducted in September and October of 2018, including two community meetings and an online survey.  44 people attended the meetings, primarily composed of East End residents (92%), and 494 people provided input through the survey, with more than two-thirds living on the East End (69%). Exhibit 3 is a summary report of the information compiled from the survey and community meetings. There was substantial consistency in the responses and prioritization of options for each pathway.

 

As a result of a community request made during the input meetings, Alameda Police Department (APD) staff, who are certified in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), conducted a thorough assessment of all six pathways using the CPTED criteria and issued a report (Exhibit 4). This information helped inform the recommendations. 

 

In response to questions raised by the public during the input process, the City Attorney’s office determined it was necessary to conduct further title analysis to clarify boundaries, ownership and other property rights related to the pathways. This title research and analysis was conducted throughout the later winter/early spring of 2019. Further analysis was conducted by the City’s Risk Manager in April 2019.

 

Concurrently, staff from the Planning Department, Recreation and Parks Department, Public Information Officer, and City Attorney’s office, met to review the CPTED report, property issues, and to formulate staff recommendations for each pathway.

 

DISCUSSION

 

For ease of reference, the pathways are referred to as A through F, with pathway A being the pathway closest to the High Street Bridge and the other five pathways proceeding down Fernside Boulevard and then down Eastshore Drive, with the last pathway nearest to Meyers Avenue being referred to as pathway F.

 

OWNERSHIP AND EASEMENT INFORMATION

 

The additional title analysis undertaken by the City Attorney’s office provided the following information with respect to the six pathways.

 

Pathways A, B, and C: Ownership of these pathways is held jointly by the adjacent property owners or a predecessor of an owner. The title information for each of these pathways shows that the area was designated as a “public thoroughfare” and that the paths were then dedicated to and accepted by the City on a 1912 map. The impact of this information is that the City holds an easement over each pathway that it may enforce in order to protect the rights of the public to safely access these paths in an unobstructed manner. 

 

Pathway D: Ownership of this entire pathway is held by the owners on only one side of the path. The title information for this pathway indicates that the City has an easement for street and incidental purposes; and that private parties who own other lots shown on the map also have easements for ingress and egress. Again, these easements give the City the right to enforce safe public access over the pathways, as described above.

 

Pathway E: Ownership of this pathway is held by the original developer. The title information for this pathway indicates that the public has an easement for street purposes and that private parties who own other lots shown on the map also have easements for ingress and egress. Again, these easements give the City right to enforce safe public access over the pathways.

 

Pathway F: Ownership of this pathway is held by a single person who presumably held the land when it was mapped. The title information for this pathway does not show that rights on or over this pathway were ever dedicated to the City or that any easements over it were dedicated to the City, the public, or any private parties. In other words, the City has no rights or legal interest in this pathway. As a result, the City does not have any rights that it may enforce in connection with this pathway.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

 

Please see Exhibit 1 for a summary of the recommendations and Exhibit 2 for a layout of each pathway with recommended boundaries shown.

 

Pathway A: This pathway is recommended to remain open in its current condition with minimal improvements. The pathway is narrow and winding and not currently in compliance with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. The first phase of improvement would include installing fencing and safety lighting along a cone shape that is 35 feet wide at the water’s edge and narrows to match the 10 foot wide pathway, approximately 30 feet from the water’s edge; enforcing encroachments outside of that area; and maintaining landscape to CPTED standards with bushes no taller than 3 feet and trees no lower than 3 feet. A second phase, if funded, would include significant grading and construction of an ADA compliant level pathway, installing retaining walls, and new landscape. The estimated cost for this full scope of work is $750,000 and will bring it into compliance with ADA standards. Staff will include design of this pathway in the overall pathway detailed design project and will seek funding for this pathway construction through grants and other opportunities.

 

The remaining portions of the bulb-out will be sold by the City to the adjacent owners together with the sale of the submerged land. The price for the land side will be based on the market rate for non-developable land in the City.

 

The majority of survey respondents and meeting participants chose to maintain this pathway as public access in its existing condition with minimal improvements. During the budget challenge portion of the survey, all respondents allocated the least amount of funds to this pathway.

 

Pathway B: This pathway is recommended to be improved as a viewing area of the water and widened at the water’s edge in a cone shape that is 35 feet wide, narrowing to match the pathway that is 10 feet wide and 30 feet back. The improvements will include new fencing, added landscaping and other amenities such as benches, trash/recycling receptacles, and other components to create a pleasant public viewing area of the water. The remaining portions of the bulb-out will be sold by the City to the adjacent owners together with the sale of the submerged land. 

 

The majority of survey respondents and meeting participants chose to keep this pathway for an overlook or viewing area to the water.

 

Pathway C: The recommendation for this pathway is to vacate the City easement and sell the vacated easement to the adjacent property owners, along with the submerged land. Given that this pathway serves as a driveway for both homes on either side and is used by vehicles multiple times each day, there are safety concerns regarding the conflicting uses of vehicles and pedestrians on this pathway. In addition, vacating this easement is consistent with the City’s adopted Vision Zero plan to reduce the likelihood of pedestrian and bicyclist injuries and fatalities by 2030. The City’s easement would be released in a recorded document.

 

The majority of survey respondents and meeting participants chose to keep this pathway open for an overlook and viewing area. The option to close the pathway was the second choice for the meeting respondents and last choice for the survey respondents.

 

Pathway D: The recommendation for this pathway is to improve it as a water viewing area with nearly all portions of the City easement being enforced on both sides of the pathway, which includes removing the tall hedge barrier and fencing to the southeast. A portion of the easement in front of the house to the northwest is recommended to be vacated and released to the owners with a requirement that no fencing may be installed.  This provides full access to this home’s walkway and driveway. Other improvements would be added such as benches and low rock, logs, and other natural seating areas. The pathway will be widened to approximately 45 feet across. Improvements will also include removing the roughly poured concrete along the rock wall at the end of the pathway and creating a more natural, informal access to the water for nearby residents. This pathway is already informally used to launch watercraft and there are ways to make that informal water access easier. 

 

A non-motorized boat launch was considered for this location and while it is feasible, staff recommends a formal non-motorized watercraft launch (canoes, kayaks, paddle boards) be located instead at Towata Park, which is less than ¾ of a mile from this pathway.  Towata Park is at the base of the Bay Farm Bridge and is a more suitable location for a formal watercraft launch due to the existing parking, larger area for a boat launch and related amenities, and closer access to deep water. This idea was raised at the community meetings as a viable option for the launch location, so it was not originally included in the public input process. Additionally, after consultation with a local kayak operator, Towata Park was confirmed as a significantly preferred and safer location for non-motorized watercraft launch. 

 

The majority of survey respondents and meeting participants selected the option for a water viewing area and kayak launch as their top choice. During the budget challenge portion of the survey, all respondents allocated the highest amount of funds to this pathway. 

 

Pathway E: This well-used pathway is recommended to remain as public access to view the water and be improved with increased public amenities. There are no significant encroachments. The City will take over maintenance responsibility and will improve the pathway with amenities such as picnic tables, benches, trash/recycle receptacles.

 

The majority of survey respondents selected the option for a pier for fishing and ADA accessible parking space, while meeting participants selected the option for a water viewing area.

 

Pathway F: This pathway is not owned by the City and the City holds no easement over it. Therefore, the City has no rights to this pathway and it will remain closed.

 

These recommendations for all six pathways were reviewed and recommended by the Recreation and Parks Commission on June 13, 2019.

 

OVERALL ELEMENTS FOR ALL PATHWAY RECOMMENDATIONS

 

Per the boundaries shown for each pathway on Exhibit 2, it is recommended that encroachments within those areas be enforced.

 

Where any easement area remains that is not recommended to be enforced as part of a public pathway area, it is recommended that the City do the following:

 

                     Survey the modified path (see Exhibit 2 for estimated boundaries) to create a new legal description.

                     Sell unused easement area (such as the portions on either side of the 35’ wide cone shape at the water’s edge) to adjacent property owners, together with the sale of submerged land. 

                     Record replacement easement reflecting the new legal description and clear statements of the obligations of the parties with respect to the path, such as the City’s maintenance obligation.

 

Per CPTED guidelines, safety measures outlined below will be implemented at all public access pathways. This includes trimming and pruning bushes and trees, installing safety lighting that is directed toward the pathway and away from homes, creating clear entryways and installing signage, and possibly installing security cameras aimed at the pathway areas.

 

SAFETY MEASURES AT ALL PATHWAYS

 

CPTED provides design guidelines for public areas in order to create a safer environment and reduce the incidence of crime. APD produced the CPTED Security Survey and Assessment Study for the six pathways. The recommendations to increase safety include:

 

                     For path areas that are further from the street and not as easily seen by an officer in a patrol car, install uniform lighting with shields or a lower height light (such as bollard lights) to avoid light bleeding into neighbor windows. 

                     Install 6 foot fences along all boundaries between a pathway and an adjacent home.

                     To increase visibility and reduce areas to hide, maintain and install landscape with bushes trimmed down to 3’ or lower and trees trimmed up to 3’ or higher. 

                     For pathways remaining open, improve signage so entries are more identifiable and create celebrated entryways.

                     Consider fencing into the shore area for the two pathways on Eastshore Drive to discourage concealment along the estuary bank.

                     Remove any items, such as moveable trash bins, that can be used as makeshift ladders into surrounding private properties.

                     Fix irregularities in concrete/asphalt pathways to improve safety.

                     Install surveillance cameras to discourage criminal behaviors. 

 

NEXT STEPS

 

Based on City Council’s final approval of the layout of each pathway, staff will engage an architect for design of the pathways, submit for regional and local permits, and ultimately construct the pathway improvements.

 

Concurrently, the City Attorney’s office will work on creating legal lots for each of the submerged lots behind the Fernside Boulevard homes, legal descriptions for any remaining easement areas potentially being sold to owners, and legal descriptions for the pathways as modified. Once completed, the City will sell to the applicable owners, the submerged parcels and any remaining easement areas. The lot lines for these submerged parcels are anticipated to be drawn around existing docks as was done for the other submerged land sales along Fernside Boulevard. These docks do not block views to the water and are recommended as compatible with the viewing areas.

 

The final maps and easements for each the public access pathway will be consistent with the approved designs and brought back to City Council for approval.

 

Staff will work with the City Attorney’s office to monitor encroachments and take appropriate enforcement actions when necessary.

 

ALTERNATIVES

 

                     Approve the design concepts as presented.

                     Make additional changes or adjustments to any of the recommendations for each of the five public pathways.

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

There is no direct financial impact from this action to approve concepts for each of the five pathways. There is available funding in the amount of just over $900,000 for this project, which will first be used for design, construction drawings, environmental assessment and regional permitting. Total construction costs for all five pathways and a non-motorized watercraft launch are anticipated to exceed the remaining funding. Once fully designed and permitted, the pathways will be improved in priority order based on safety, accessibility, and available funding. There may be a need for additional grant funding and budget appropriations to complete all five pathway improvements.

 

MUNICIPAL CODE/POLICY DOCUMENT CROSS REFERENCE

 

This action has no effect on the Alameda Municipal Code.

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

 

The proposed project is categorically exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to CEQA Guidelines section 15301, as it is a minor alteration of an existing facility involving negligible expansion of use. The proposed project is further exempt because it could be seen with certainty that the project would have no adverse significant effect on the environment.

 

CLIMATE IMPACTS

 

Final design of these public pathways may include planting more trees and applying additional amounts of compost. Both address the sequestration section of the Climate Action and Resiliency Plan to:

 

1)                     Further develop the urban forest which provides shade and reduces heat-related risk, slows soil erosion, blocks sound, helps settle particles in the air, provides bird habitat, and enhances the beauty of the City; and

2)                     Apply compost to Alameda parks and open spaces, which promotes stormwater recharge, flood reduction and heat/drought resilience as well as carbon sequestration and decreasing soil erosion, water usage, and application of fertilizers and herbicides.

 

Additionally, Eastshore Drive is identified as a location vulnerable to flooding and inundation from sea level rise. Flood protection improvements will be considered in the specific design of each of the pathways along Eastshore Drive.

 

RECOMMENDATION

 

To approve the design concepts for the Public Access Pathways along Fernside Boulevard and Eastshore Drive. 

 

CITY MANAGER RECOMMENDATION

 

The City Manager concurs with the Recreation and Parks Director recommendation.  I believe this is a difficult issue to work through and that the Recreation and Parks Director and others worked through to come back with the best possible solution that meets the competing values facing the City Council. 

 

Respectfully submitted,

Amy Wooldridge, Recreation and Parks Director

 

Financial Impact section reviewed,

Elena Adair, Finance Director

 

Exhibit:

1.                     Summary Report

2.                     Layout Plans

3.                     Public Input Data Summary Report

4.                     Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Report

 

cc:                     Eric Levitt, City Manager