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File #: 2023-3125   
Type: Regular Agenda Item
Body: Transportation Commission
On agenda: 5/24/2023
Title: Review and Endorse Draft Recommendations for Park Street and Webster Street Commercial Corridor Restriping Plan (Action)
Attachments: 1. Exhibit 1 CrossSection, 2. Exhibit 2 Park Corridor Concept, 3. Exhibit 3 Webster Corridor Concept, 4. 6A_PublicComment_Updated5-25-2023, 5. 6A_Presentation_ParkWebster

Title

 

Review and Endorse Draft Recommendations for Park Street and Webster Street Commercial Corridor Restriping Plan (Action)

Body

 

To: Honorable Chair and Members of the Transportation Commission

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

 

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Alameda restriped portions of Park Street and Webster Street to re-purpose some sidewalk and roadway space for parklets and outdoor spaces for use by local merchants. Called the “Commercial Streets Program,” it was an important part of the City’s multi-pronged response to the pandemic’s dramatic and immediate negative impacts to the local business community.

 

The Commercial Streets program was established as a temporary program in 2020. In late 2021, staff evaluated the program and then brought recommendations to the Council on November 2, 2021 to continue the program for another two-years, through November 1, 2023. The recommendations included improving the Park Street and Webster Street striping plans and approving the concrete traffic control barricade standards, to be placed around the parklets. It also included updating the parklet permit program and issuing permits through November 2, 2023; maintaining the Alameda Avenue one-block street closure off of Park Street; and resuming pre-COVID parking management, fee collection, and enforcement activities, all of which have happened. Finally, Council allocated $630,350 in American Rescue Plan Act funds for these efforts.

 

Staff is preparing recommendations for the City Council regarding the future of the program.

 

At this time, staff is requesting that the Transportation Commission review and endorse the draft recommendations and striping plans (Exhibits 2 and 3).

 

BACKGROUND

 

Currently, Park Street from Lincoln Avenue to San Jose Avenue and Webster Street from Lincoln Avenue to Central Avenue are striped for one travel lane, a parking lane and a parklet “lane” on each side of the street. Each parklet lane is located immediately adjacent to the curb and sidewalk and the parking lane floats between the parklet lane and the travel lane. Approximately 19 businesses have parklets in the Park Street Commercial District and three business have parklets in the Webster Street Commercial District.

 

DISCUSSION

 

After discussions with the business community, residents of Alameda and observations of the existing conditions on Park Street and Webster Street, staff is considering recommending a new restriping plan (Exhibits 1, 2, and 3), which is designed to implement the following four recommendations regarding the Commercial Streets program.

 

1) Maintain the parklet program with modifications. Staff recommends maintaining the ability for merchants, including those on Park and Webster Streets, to apply for and hold annual encroachment permits for parklets in front of their businesses. The parklet program continues to benefit a number of merchants and the parklets enrich the commercial environments on Park Street and Webster Street. Per the 2021 City Council direction, all existing conforming and permitted parklets will be protected by decorative concrete barriers provided by the City. Staff also recommends modifying the program to limit the width of a parklet plus the (two-foot wide) barrier to the width of the parking lane adjacent to the curb (typically 8 to 9 feet). To comply with these new width requirements, several existing parklets will need to be modified in size, including but not limited to Burma Superstar, Daisy’s, and Café Jolie. These businesses have been notified of this.

In coordination with the recommended striping plans, City staff will continue to review and develop recommendations for updating the City’s parklet design guidelines, encroachment agreements and associated fees for continuing the parklet program.

 

2) Maintain the two travel lanes for automobiles and buses. Staff recommends maintaining the existing two-lane with left turn pockets configuration for vehicle travel. Staff does not recommend restriping the streets back to the pre-COVID four-lane configuration.

 

The two-lane configuration has improved the commercial environment on Park Street and Webster Street, and is generally favored by the business community. It has calmed traffic speeds and quieted traffic noise on Park Street and Webster Street, which makes these streets more pleasant and safer for pedestrians, shoppers, diners, and visitors to Alameda’s two main commercial streets. The 2021 Commercial Streets evaluation found that 66% of the respondents to the business survey stated that they would like to see the street changes continue beyond 2021, with another 16% responding “maybe.” Forty-eight percent (48%) agreed that “Park Street is now a more enjoyable space and there is less traffic noise.”  In the 2021 community survey for both streets, two thirds of respondents stated that they support the two-travel lane configuration as is, or with bike facilities added.

 

In addition, returning to four lanes would make the parklet program untenable. With four lanes the parking lane must be reduced to 7 feet. (The City’s 2020 Policy on Street Width, Lane Width, and Crosswalks only supports this narrow width if accommodating bicycle or transit facilities.) With a concrete barrier, a parklet in a parking lane would need to be reduced to approximately 5 feet in width, and diners in these parklets would be seated next to four lanes of traffic.

 

3) Move the parking lane back to the edge of the curb. Staff recommends moving the on-street parking spaces back to the pre-COVID location adjacent to the curb and parking meters. The temporary COVID striping with parking offset from the curb has been confusing for visitors, difficult to enforce and challenging to maintain due to the reliance on easily-damaged plastic bollards to define parking space locations. Moving the parking back to the curbside creates more space for emergency vehicles and buses within the travel way. As part of the re-striping, staff will work with the Business Districts to identify locations for dedicated parking spaces for people with disabilities and additional short-term parking zones to accommodate the increased reliance on delivery drivers. The latter will help reduce double-parking, which causes safety hazards, slows transit and auto traffic, and would block the proposed bike lane.

 

4) Add striped bicycle lanes between the parking lane and the travel lane. With the parking moved back to the curb and retention of the two travel lane configuration, there is extra space to use, and therefore staff recommend adding a striped bicycle lane between the travel lane and the parking/parklet lane. If this extra roadway space was not used for bicycle lanes, it would very likely be regularly and illegally used for double-parking. Although a striped bicycle lane does not provide a low-stress bicycle facility for the Park Street or Webster Street corridors, as recommended in the Active Transportation Plan, the Plan did anticipate a phased approach to providing bicycle facilities for these corridors. Accommodating people biking on Park Street and Webster Street with striped bicycle lanes affirms the City’s commitment to complete streets and supporting all modes of transportation on these important community commercial corridors while simultaneously planning for the longer-term solution of low stress facilities, as recommended in the Active Transportation Plan.

 

MUNICIPAL CODE/POLICY DOCUMENT CROSS REFERENCE

 

General Plan policies support complete streets, which are designed for all modes of transportation, and General Plan policies support decisions in support of local business and the economic vitality of the Mixed Use Community Commercial corridors. General Plan policies LU-3 Complete Streets, ME-10 Movement Action A. Complete Streets and policy LU-10 Park Street and Webster Street. The recommended striping plan also conforms to the Policy on Street Width, Lane Width, Crosswalks, and Bulb-outs (Resolution 15648) and the Policy for Improvements to Visibility (Daylighting).

 

ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW

 

Restriping the street to maintain the same number of vehicle travel lanes, add bicycle lanes and maintain the existing parklet program is categorically exempt from further review under CEQA pursuant to CEQA Guidelines Section 15301 Minor Changes to Existing Facilities.

 

CLIMATE IMPACT

 

Adding bicycle lanes to an existing street supports a non-carbon emitting mode of transportation which reduces greenhouse gas emissions from the City’s transportation sector. Transportation generates over 70% of the greenhouse emissions in Alameda.

 

RECOMMENDATION

 

Review and endorse Draft Recommendations for Park Street and Webster Street Commercial Corridor Restriping Plan

 

Respectfully submitted,

Andrew Thomas, Planning, Building and Transportation Director

 

Exhibits:

1.                     Cross Sections of Draft Recommended Striping Plan for Park and Webster

2.                     Draft Recommended Concept for Park St Corridor

3.                     Draft Recommended Concept for Webster St Corridor