The City Council on Monday approved a conceptual design for curb/sidewalk “bulb-outs” at two intersections along Oakland Avenue and El Cerrito and Jerome Avenues, to increase pedestrian safety.
Monday’s 3-0 vote — Councilmembers Conna McCarthy and Tom Ramsey recused themselves from this discussion and vote because they live nearby — comes after months of back-and-forth between the city, AC Transit and residents living near the sites of the proposed bulb-outs. For safety/line-of-sight reasons, the bus stops at the Oakland Avenue/Jerome Avenue and Oakland Avenue/El Cerrito Avenue intersections will need to be relocated as part of the work to make permanent bulb-outs along this busy Piedmont thoroughfare, a popular route for children walking to and from school.
The bulb-outs are designed to make the street narrower at those spots, making the pedestrian crossings shorter and thus safer, and also, to an extent, slowing traffic. Similar bulb-outs now exist along Linda Avenue near Linda Playground.
Piedmont Public Works Director Daniel Gonzales said a concrete curb structure is a much better deterrent than bollards, the flexible posts sometimes used to guide vehicle traffic.
These plans have been a long time coming. The Jerome and El Cerrito bulb-out projects have, in fact, been in discussion in one form or another since at least 2014, when they were among a number of intersections proposed for such work as part of the city’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan.
“I’ve heard about this project in department head meetings the entire time I’ve been here,” City Administrator Sara Lillevand said Monday night. That’s the year she started working in Piedmont. These two intersections are first to have conceptual plans approved, Gonzales said, because of the vehicle traffic and pedestrian traffic, and because so many kids go through the area on their way to and from school.
But It wasn’t until last year that relocating bus stops became part of the bulb-out project, after AC Transit officials reviewed the bulb-out plans. Transit officials said the bulb-out design guidelines would require the relocation of two existing bus stops along Oakland Avenue to the far side of the two intersections, to increase sight-distance for pedestrians.
That’s also when loss of parking became a concern. News of the bus stop moves generated complaints from residents of several homes in the immediate area, who said the bus stop moves, combined with the bulb-outs, would not only put the bus stops directly in front of more homes, but would consume valuable street parking spaces in the area. The conceptual plan approved Monday night will mean the loss of six street parking spaces from near the El Cerrito bulb-outs, and one more from near the Jerome project.
In fact, city staff has said the parking space dilemma has been one of the biggest challenges to this project.
The project, with a price tag of about $559,000, also calls for high-visibility crosswalks, new pedestrian ramps, improved bright yellow “rectangular rapid flashing beacons” for Oakland Avenue traffic, refreshed street paint and new signs. The Jerome Avenue project has “plantable space,” and Piedmont Beautification Foundation President Karen Sullivan said on Monday the foundation has donated $50,000 to support the project as a safety improvement, especially for children going to and from school.
Oakland Avenue resident Kathy Moody praised one of her neighbors, Chuck Oraftik, for being instrumental in helping move an agreeable plan forward. Lillevand also praised Oraftik for the time and expertise he lent to the bulb-outs discussions.
Resident Paul Lettieri said he hopes the work will have minimal impact on the neighborhood charm there. Lettieri, who said he rides the bus regularly, also told the council one of the two AC Transit routes along Oakland Avenue doesn’t stop at El Cerrito anymore. That prompted Mayor Jen Cavenaugh to ask Gonzales to talk to AC Transit about that, as the city went to considerable effort to modify its bulb-out plans to accommodate the requirements of buses.
Monday night’s approval of the conceptual plans includes directing city staff to complete the construction bid documents and seek bids for companies to do the needed work.
(You can see more on the bulb-out project HERE.)
The council on Monday night also unanimously approved an agreement with Roseville-based Bennett Engineering for design of improvements related to the sixth and most recent phase of the city’s ongoing program to upgrade and replace the city’s sewer system.
This sixth phase continues the city’s years-long effort to comply with an Environmental Protection Agency consent decree to eliminate groundwater infiltration and storm water inflow into the sanitary sewer system. Several other cities have also entered into that decree.
To date, Piedmont has completed five phases of its long-term sanitary sewer replacement that started in 2001, resulting in nearly 70% of the city’s sanitary sewer collection system being replaced.
Highlanders’ women’s soccer
The City Council on Monday honored the Piedmont High School girl’s soccer team, which recently won the 2022-23 North Coast Section Division 4 championship. Team members were on hand to receive a proclamation from the city declaring March 6 “Piedmont High School Women’s Soccer Team Day.”
Cavenaugh noted that Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in any school or other educational program setting that gets funding from the federal government, marked its 50th anniversary last year.
“This goes to show you what happens when we invest in women’s sports,” an emotional Cavenaugh said. “I’m proud of you girls.”
Contact Sam Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org