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File #: 2021-1383   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: City Council
On agenda: 10/19/2021
Title: Recommendation to Provide Direction to Staff to Pursue One or More Options for Reducing the Negative Impacts and Public Safety Challenges Associated with Automobile-Oriented Events at Alameda Point. (Planning, Building and Transportation 20962700 / Public Works 31041500 / Police 10031100)
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1- Existing Conditions, 2. Exhibit 2 - Additional or Modified Barrier Options, 3. Exhibit 3 - West Hornet Fencing Plan, 4. Presentation, 5. Correspondence, 6. Councilmember Herrera Spencer Photos

Title

 

Recommendation to Provide Direction to Staff to Pursue One or More Options for Reducing the Negative Impacts and Public Safety Challenges Associated with Automobile-Oriented Events at Alameda Point.  (Planning, Building and Transportation 20962700 / Public Works 31041500 / Police 10031100)

Body

To: Honorable Mayor and Members of the City Council

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

This report is provided in response to a June, 2021 City Council referral pertaining to automobile-related events at Alameda Point.  Automobile-related events at Alameda Point include permitted special events and tenant hosted events allowed under an approved use permit or lease, non-permitted (informal) large scale events, and individual reckless driving in open, undeveloped areas.  This report identifies a range of potential actions for City Council’s consideration to address the negative impacts (i.e., noise, and speeding) and public safety challenges (i.e., large vehicle numbers that could hinder first responders access) associated with these “events” at Alameda Point.  At the same time that we are exploring ways to address these impacts, other cities have also been working on ways to address impacts created by events such as sideshows

 

BACKGROUND

 

Residents of West End neighborhoods and the Alameda Point Collaborative have reported encountering large numbers of speeding vehicles that endanger pedestrians and bicyclists and generate excessive noise.  Staff believes that these observed conditions are partially related to the use of Alameda Point by auto enthusiasts for car events and gatherings. 

 

Alameda Point is an attractive location for car shows and other large gatherings due to large open areas.  However, these events present numerous public safety challenges for law enforcement.  Large scale events can often include hundreds of vehicles, large crowds of spectators, unsafe driving on public streets, excessive noise and trash, property damage, and negative impacts to adjacent businesses.  Public complaints relate to speeding on residential streets, noise (squealing tires and loud engine/exhaust), near misses of pedestrians, cyclists and other cars, and an increase in climate emissions.  Vehicles participating in reckless driving behavior are particularly concerning as these dangerous acts can cause harm to the driver, present significant danger to pedestrian spectators, and cause damage to surrounding structures.  Dealing with large crowds also has an inherent risk to first responders.  Adding vehicles that are driving dangerously in the presence of pedestrians only intensifies that risk.

 

The traffic congestion caused by large events can sometimes back up traffic on surface streets for over half a mile.  The traffic congestion also impacts the surrounding businesses, making it difficult for customers to reach the businesses and challenging to park.

 

From January 1, 2021, through September 20, 2021, the Police Department has received 428 reckless driving calls for service throughout the City of Alameda (City).  Of those 428 calls for service, 109 were generated from Alameda Point.  The Monarch Street area accounts for 50 of those 109 calls for service.  In addition, the Police Department has sent multiple reckless driving crime reports to the City Prosecutor’s Office for charging since January of 2021.  Multiple cases have subsequently been charged by City Prosecutors while others are pending review.

 

DISCUSSION

 

City Permitted Automobile-Oriented Events.  With an approved use permit or with an approved Special Event Permit, an organization can hold an organized automobile event at Alameda Point.  Historically, groups like the Porsche Club and various automobile dealers held annual driving events at Alameda Point.   Over the years, the Planning Department and the Planning Board have been slowly reducing the number of automobile-oriented events based upon the policy directive that Alameda Point is planned to be a transit-oriented, mixed use, environmentally sensitive new neighborhood.  

 

Although the number of automobile-oriented events permitted at Alameda Point is significantly reduced as compared to past years, the City continues to permit a limited number of events.  The USS Hornet Museum Use Permit (Hornet Use Permit) allows the museum to serve as an events center.  The museum is allowed to have events of 1,000 guests or less without the need for a Special Event Permit.  Events with over 1,000 guests require a Special Event Permit.   The current Hornet Use Permit does not prohibit automobile events. 

 

Permit Option.  If the City Council wishes to prohibit all organized, permitted, automobile events at Alameda Point, the City Council could direct staff to deny all automobile oriented special event permits at Alameda Point and direct staff to schedule a public hearing to amend the Hornet Use Permit and other Alameda Point use permits as necessary to specifically prohibit or scale-down automobile-oriented events. 

 

Unpermitted Automobile-Oriented Events.  Many unpermitted automobile-oriented events have occurred without the benefit of a City permit.  Staff has viewed on-line advertising for events at Alameda Point that are not organized by tenants at Alameda Point.  Therefore, we anticipate that such events will continue to occur at Alameda Point and create impacts, even if the City Council directs staff to deny all future requests for permits for such events.

 

In recent months, the Public Works Department staff in collaboration with other departments has taken a number of steps to minimize the attractiveness of Alameda Point for these unsanctioned events and for individuals looking for places to drive recklessly.  In August, staff the Public Works Department in coordination with the Police Department placed structural barriers (parking lot wheel stops) in the parking lot adjacent to the Alameda Point skate park, and on the south side of Building 5 to make these parking lots less attractive for reckless driving.  Staff also created a 40-foot lane with structural barriers and tree planters to prohibit public access in the open concrete area between the lookout tower and Building 25.  The lane allows continued bike, pedestrian and vehicle access to the southern shoreline, including for Building 25 customers and Building 29 tenants, as shown in Exhibit 1.   

 

While this effort was successful in prohibiting events in the open concrete area between the lookout tower and Building 25, there continues to be non-permitted events in the area to the south near Building 29 in the area generally known as the site of the future “DePave Park”.  For example, an event held the weekend of August 28th along the shoreline between Building 25 and Building 29 included over 500 cars and many spectators causing an emergency access and response hazard, among other issues.  

 

Staff has developed a number of possible barrier options for this area, but each option has potential tenant and/or public access impacts.

 

Barrier Option 1:  Retain existing barricades (shown in Exhibit 2) and add barriers south of Building 25.  This option allows bike and pedestrian access to the entire shoreline, provides vehicle access and parking for Building 25 customers, and restricts vehicle access south of Building 25 for tenants and emergency access only.

 

Barrier Option 2:  Retain existing barricades (shown in Exhibit 2) and add barriers to the south parallel to the shoreline.  This option allows bike and pedestrian access to the entire shoreline, allows vehicle access to the southernmost shoreline, and provides vehicle access and parking for Buildings 25 and 29.

 

Barrier Option 3:  Change the existing barricade layout to allow vehicle access and parking for Building 25 customers (shown in Exhibit 2).  This option restricts shoreline access to bikes and pedestrians.  Vehicle access is allowed for tenants and emergency access only.

 

West Hornet Option. The large open parking lots on the north side of West Hornet offer another attractive location for large numbers of automobiles to gather and/or a location for individual reckless driving.  For this area, the City Council may wish to direct staff to erect a fence around the parking areas to restrict access.  A potential parking area fencing plan is shown in Exhibit 3.

 

Regulatory Option.  Finally, the City Council could direct staff to prepare a municipal code amendment to criminalize street racing and reckless driving events in Alameda.  The City of San Jose enacted two similar ordinances in June 2021.  These ordinances (one to address promoters, and one to address participants) make it a misdemeanor to participate, plan, promote, or observe within 200 feet of a street race or reckless driving event.  At this time, staff is not able to predict how effective these two ordinances would be at deterring future unpermitted events.   Additionally, prosecution of any local misdemeanor, including this one, requires the District Attorney’s Office to first implement additional programing for electronic filing under such new local laws.  There is typically a charge to the City for such programming work.  That usually takes some time to accomplish, though we are unable to predict the exact time frame for such efforts.

 

Enforcement Option.  APD has routinely been present during vehicle events and has taken enforcement actions when laws related to safety have been violated. Available resources can be limited for enforcement activities; however, APD is prepared to continue to direct personnel to Alameda Point and on the streets leading to the area on an as needed basis.

 

Recommended Approach

 

Based on the effectiveness of the options implemented to date, staff is recommending that the City Council consider authorizing the implementation of all or selected measures as outlined below:

 

1.                     Restrict or eliminate use permits authorizing large scale automobile-oriented car events at Alameda Point. This minimizes noise, speeding, and emissions risks associated with these events;

 

2.                     Implement Barrier Option 2. This option can be modified to provide for additional public parking at the south end of the “De-Pave Park” area, but would further limit the ability for informal automobile-oriented events in the area;

 

3.                     Implement the West Hornet Fence Option. Installing this fencing will remove another large open parking lot as a gathering place for unauthorized events. The fencing will be ‘temporary’ in nature, and allow the City to continue to rent out the location for other uses;

 

 

4.                     Leave the parking space wheel stops that were placed at locations like the skate park parking lot.

 

 

ALTERNATIVES

 

The City Council could direct implementation of the recommended approach.

 

The City Council may direct staff to pursue one or more of the alternative options described above.

 

The City Council could direct staff to remove one or more of the physical barrier options implemented to date. 

 

The City Council could direct staff to explore additional options in addition to directing staff to pursue one or more of the alternative options.

 

The City Council may also choose to accept this report and take no additional action at this time. 

 

FINANCIAL IMPACT

 

Alameda Point’s Facility Maintenance operating budget (29061590) has sufficient funds to implement any of the proposed environmental design options (Barrier Options 1-3, as depicted in Exhibit 2).

 

The amendment of use permits would be a cost borne by the City, but it would be a cost similar to the cost for a Call for Review by City Council.  Staff would not recommend charging the tenants for the cost to amend their use permit.  Staff would recommend that the cost be covered by the General Fund.  The costs would be minimized by grouping all the use permits that need to be amended into a single application and a single public hearing.  

 

MUNICIPAL CODE/POLICY DOCUMENT CROSS REFERENCE

 

The General Plan and AMC do not currently address automobile-oriented events at Alameda Point.   

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

 

Providing direction to staff is not a “project” requiring environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  The placement of barriers is categorically exempt from CEQA pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15301 Minor Changes to Existing Facilities.  Adoption of an ordinance amending the AMC would be subject to review under CEQA.

 

CLIMATE IMPACT

 

Reducing automobile-related events at Alameda Point will reduce vehicle emissions and promote safe multi-modal travel, which also reduces potential climate impacts.

 

RECOMMENDATION

 

That the City Council authorize the implementation of all or selected measure from below to further reduce the negative impacts and public safety challenges associated with automobile-oriented events at Alameda Point:

 

1.                     Restrict or eliminate use permits authorizing large scale automobile-oriented car events at Alameda Point. This minimizes noise, speeding, and emissions risks associated with these events;

 

2.                     Implement Barrier Option 2. This option can be modified to provide for additional public parking at the south end of the “De-Pave Park” area, but would further limit the ability for informal automobile-oriented events in the area;

 

3.                     Implement the West Hornet Fence Option. Installing this fencing will remove another large open parking lot as a gathering place for unauthorized events. The fencing will be ‘temporary’ in nature, and allow the City to continue to rent out the location for other uses;

 

 

4.                     Leave the parking space wheel stops that were placed at locations like the skate park parking lot.

 

CITY MANAGER RECOMMENDATION

 

We are trying to balance the concerns and impacts of events with the desire to have residents have a positive experience at Alameda Point.  The City Manager concurs with the recommended approach developed by multi departments working collaboratively.  I believe the four measures collectively or individually could have an impact.  Furthermore, the Police Department intends to continue directed patrols for these violations.  In addition, I am seeking direction if there are further options the City Council would like explored. 

 

Respectfully submitted,

Erin Smith, Public Works Director

Andrew Thomas, Planning, Building and Transportation Planning Director

Nishant Joshi, Chief of Police

 

Financial Impact section reviewed,

Annie To, Finance Director

 

Exhibits

1.                     Existing Conditions

2.                     Additional or Modified Barrier Options

3.                     West Hornet Fencing Plan

 

cc:                     Eric Levitt, City Manager

                     Gerry Beaudin, Assistant City Manager