File #: 2021-679   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: City Council
On agenda: 3/2/2021
Title: Recommendation to Endorse Commercial Streets, Slow Streets, and Paid Parking COVID-19 Program Next Steps. (Planning, Building and Transportation 4226287)
Attachments: 1. Correspondence from City Manager



Recommendation to Endorse Commercial Streets, Slow Streets, and Paid Parking COVID-19 Program Next Steps. (Planning, Building and Transportation 4226287)




To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council




In March 2020, Alameda County and the City of Alameda (City) took initial actions to address the fast moving COVID-19 pandemic as it raced around the globe. Locally, the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly and dramatically changed the closely inter-woven transportation and economic environments in Alameda. In response, City Council took swift action to implement a variety of transportation system modifications to ensure that residents, businesses and visitors can safely live, work, shop and dine in Alameda.


This March 2021 report is intended to provide City Council and the community with a one year status report on the City’s COVID-19 Commercial Streets, Residential Slow Streets, and Paid Parking Programs previously approved by City Council and the staff proposals for the upcoming six (6) months.




On April 29, 2020, City staff launched the Slow Streets Alameda program in response to the COVID-19 emergency to provide more space for residents to walk, run, bike, scooter and roll, while meeting the current physical distancing requirements of at least six feet. In the same month, staff began planning with the business districts for the Commercial Streets program.


On May 19, 2020, City Council endorsed the implementation of the Commercial Streets program and the residential Slow Streets programs, and provided general guidance on continuing these programs in the short-term, through October 2020. Like many of the new COVID-19 programs, implementation of these programs has required broad departmental coordination, extensive community outreach and communication, new policy development, and ongoing coordination and maintenance.


The key activities visible on the ground include the following:

                     4.5 miles of streets have been temporarily re-configured with temporary barriers and signs to discourage through traffic, while still allowing emergency vehicles and those needing to access a destination on the street, like residents and delivery drivers.

                     The core blocks of Park Street and Webster Street have been restriped to support business needs for additional space to address public safety and COVID-19 by creating more space for people to safely walk along the commercial corridors while physically distancing, safely stand in lines to shop at businesses, and provide additional space for outdoor restaurant dining and retail sales. 

                     Half a block of Alameda Avenue has been closed to provide outdoor dining space for Park Street restaurants.


On September 1, 2020, City Council unanimously supported the continuation of the Commercial Streets program beyond the initial end date of November 3, 2020 through October 31, 2021 in response to the continuing pandemic. At their May 2020 meeting, City Council had previously endorsed continuing the Slow Streets program while the physical distancing requirements are in place, and staff intends to continue the program through October 31, 2021.


On October 20, 2020, City Council took action to waive the parklet and other Encroachment Permit fees associated with the Commercial Streets program through October 31, 2021; and authorized the City’s grant application to the Alameda County Transportation Commission’s (Alameda CTC’s) COVID-19 Rapid Response Bicycle and Pedestrian Grant Program for funding to enhance and expand the Commercial and Slow Streets Programs, and to allocate $75,000 In local matching funds. 


In October 2020, Alameda CTC approved the grant request, which with the local match of $75,000, provides for a total of $150,000 to enhance and expand the Commercial and Slow Streets program. These funds must be expended by March 31, 2021.




Commercial Streets Program

From the community responses so far and the close work with the business community, the program appears to be working as planned. The business districts appreciate the roadway re-striping along Park and Webster Streets, and the parklet spaces are being utilized by local businesses.


If we receive City Council concurrence, over the next month, staff plans to use the Alameda CTC grant funds to restripe the final commercial block of Park Street between Encinal Avenue and San Jose Avenue. This last remaining four lane section links the existing 2-lane portion of Park Street from Encinal Avenue north to Santa Clara Street and the 2-lane portion of Park Street from San Jose south to Otis Street.  With this final two block effort, Park Street will have a consistent 2-lane configuration from Santa Clara Street to Otis Street. 


Staff will continue to work with the business districts on Park Street and Webster Street to improve the street re-configuration by adding additional barriers  and enhancing existing barriers, and also analyze and address any re-occurring or new issues. Once such concern relates to transit, and the reduced speeds of AC Transit buses along the corridors. As the City continues to work with AC Transit to re-build ridership on public transportation after COVID, it will be essential that public transit is not impacted on these two important transit corridors.   Staff is also continuing the evaluate recommendations from the City Attorney’s Office with respect to the use of linked concrete barriers.


As reported in the October 2020 staff report, in early summer, staff will evaluate the Commercial Streets program, and will bring a recommendation for the future to City Council by September 2021. It will address the future lane configuration on Park Street and Webster Street after the end of the pandemic. Based upon discussions with the business community and the public to date, staff anticipates that the final recommendation will be to maintain the new 2-lane configurations with necessary modifications to address transit, parking, and improved bicycle and pedestrian access. 


Residential Slow Streets Program

The residential Slow Streets program includes four streets that were selected based on either being identified as bicycle routes in the current Bicycle Master Plan, bicycle boulevards in the draft Active Transportation Plan, or both:

                     Pacific Ave. (9th to Oak Streets)

                     Versailles Ave. (Fernside Blvd. to Calhoun Street)

                     Santa Clara Ave. (Pacific Ave. to 6th St.)

                     San Jose Ave. (Morton to Oak Streets) plus Morton (San Jose to San Antonio Avenues)


At its May 19, 2020 meeting, City Council approved the staff recommendation to continue the Slow Streets program for the duration of the Shelter-in-Place Order, with its physical distancing requirements. As stated in the October 2020 Council staff report, staff plans to continue the Slow Streets program until October 31, 2021, similar to the Commercial Streets program. The temporary barriers and signs have successfully provided additional space for bicyclists and pedestrians to recreate and walk while maintaining social distancing.  Bicycling and walking have increased significantly, while auto traffic volumes have decreased by more than half on the streets. Traffic diversion impacts appear to be minimal, and many community members have requested that their street, or more streets around the city, be made into Slow Streets, showing the popularity of streets that are calmer, with less traffic. Unfortunately, because the modifications to the street are comprised of temporary barricades and signs that are not permanently fixed to the street, the program has been somewhat labor intensive to maintain. There have also been complaints about barriers being moved, blown or knocked over. The City is committed to fixing downed barriers as quickly as possible.


Over the next month, if City Council concurs, staff plans to use the Alameda CTC grant funds to replace some of the existing temporary barriers with more durable, low cost devices, and to pilot a few new devices, such as traffic circles and speed humps, in an effort to test out more permanent traffic calming implementation on these streets. As well, staff will continually monitor the program and make adjustments, as is currently being done.  Of course the transition into more permanent devices could raise concerns given that this program was initiated as a more temporary program.  


While staff had previously proposed to expand the Slow Streets program, building a Slow Streets network, staff now propose a much more limited expansion on Orion Street at Alameda Point to address program inequities and network needs in the next few months. Given the ongoing resources needed to maintain the existing program and the temporary nature of the barriers, staff propose to focus on maintaining the 4.5 mile network, and focus staff resources on developing longer term implementation plans for traffic calming.


As reported in the October 2020 staff report, in early summer, staff will evaluate the Slow Streets program, and will bring a recommendation for the future to City Council by September 2021. This will include a new round of public outreach to understand community perceptions of the program, including the residents of the Slow Streets themselves.


Paid Parking Program Update

With the implementation of the Commercial Streets program, much of the on-street paid parking in the downtown areas was converted to 15-minute zones to support the business districts and take-out and delivery services.  As a result of this change and overall reduction of parking due to the pandemic, revenue from parking is down substantially in Fiscal Year (FY) 2020-21.  Based on the current revenue projections for the Parking Meter Fund (224), operational adjustments or General Fund supplement will very likely need to be considered beyond this fiscal year to continue operating the parking program at current levels.

Over the next 3 to 6 months, staff will be making adjustments to the paid parking program with the goal of returning to “business as usual” near the end of 2021. These adjustments may include increasing the time limits of meters in certain areas (to restore the previous 2 hour limit) and more active enforcement of the 15-minute zones to encourage parking turnover and to help move long term parkers (including business employees) to off-street parking locations. Staff will also evaluate changes to the program to introduce “touchless” payment systems and “app-based” payment and enforcement technologies.  Staff will continue to work closely with the Park Street and Webster Street business improvement associations as these changes are implemented.



The City Council may:


1.                     Endorse the program next steps as described in this report.

2.                     Modify and endorse the next steps. 

3.                     Take no action, in which case staff will continue the programs as described in this report.




Besides the $75,000 Alameda CTC grant for the Commercial and Slow Streets programs, the COVID-19 programs described in this report impact City resources as they are not FEMA reimbursable.  As described above, the parking fund is not covering its costs, the maintenance of the slow streets program is labor intensive, and the City has waived encroachment permit fees for parklets, among other costs. The estimated staff and other program related costs through the end of this fiscal year are included in the $1,000,000 budget transfer from the General Fund to the COVID-19 Project (96027) identified as part of the proposed mid-year budget (File 2021-639). Costs beyond the end of the current fiscal year will be considered in the upcoming FY 2021-22 budget.




Actions to preserve the health and safety of Alameda residents and business customers and actions to support the health and economic survival of the Alameda business community are consistent with General Plan Land Use, Transportation, and Safety Element goals and priorities.   City Council’s adopted Street Design Resolution (#15648) states that “when designing, redesigning or resurfacing streets consistent with this policy, improvements and right-of-way space shall be allocated based upon the following principles and priorities…Provide safe and convenient access for vulnerable users including children, seniors, and people bicycling and walking..., and Safety for people walking and bicycling shall be the highest priority.”




Pursuant to California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Guidelines section 15269(c) Emergency Projects, 15301(c) Existing Facilities, and Section 15304(h) Minor Alterations to Land and the creation of bicycle lanes on existing public rights of way, the proposed reconfiguration of these existing streets to increase space for pedestrians and bicyclists is categorically exempt from further environmental review. 




Supporting bicycling and walking will help the City meet its goals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by supporting mode shift away from automobiles. The City’s 2019 Climate Action and Resiliency Plan found that transportation accounts for 70% of the City’s GHG emissions, and that moving people out of automobiles is paramount to reducing transportation-related emissions. Providing local Alameda streets for people to safely exercise, and encouraging these modes of transportation, can reduce emissions from people driving further distances to exercise, and help the community develop lifelong habits of walking and bicycling for fun and trips.




Endorse Commercial Streets, Slow Streets, and Paid Parking COVID-19 Program Next Steps.




The City Manager is seeking City Council direction on the proposed program.


Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Thomas, Director, Planning, Building, and Transportation Department

Erin Smith, Public Works Director



Andrew Thomas, Director, Planning, Building, and Transportation Department


Financial Impact section reviewed,

Annie To, Finance Director



cc:                     Eric Levitt, City Manager