BART Board hits a home run with latest vote for no minimum replacement parking at Plaza TOD

On October 28, the BART board met, and the El Cerrito Plaza Transit Oriented development was on the agenda. This time, the boare was to vote whether or not to adopt the goals and objectives for the station, including defining a range in the number of replacement parking spaces that should be included onsite.

The video of this agenda item can be viewed here, with this agenda item happening at the 2 hour 30 minute mark of the meeting.

(As an aside, it is particularly difficult for members of the public to participate in BART board meetings, as they occur during weekdays, and your agenda item of interest might come up when you have to do school drop offs / pick ups or be at work, etc.)

During their presentation, staff recommended a replacement parking range of 100 to 250 spaces. What was a surprise to many of us in the Plaza for the People community was the minimum of 100 spaces. For us, if BART can enable its riders to access the station without any replacement parking, that would better enable our vision for this Plaza station area to fulfill its potential as El Cerrito’s downtown and community destination.

Staff justified the 100 minimum spaces by recent data indicating 13% of current drive and park riders would need to continue driving and parking due to mobility challenges.

Of note is that the 13% figure is much higher than the 2019 survey which said only 3% of drivers needed to park due to mobility challenges.

BART Board Vice-President Rebecca Saltzman made a motion to lower the minimum to 60 spaces, with Director Janice Li offering an additional amendment to not set any minimum, and only set a maximum of 250 spaces. In a victory for the potential of this transit oriented development, the amended motion passed unanimously!

Now things shift to BART staff and the City of El Cerrito. They must work together to ensure that we are doing everything we can to get BART riders to the station without needing to drive. This means we need a clear commitment from the City of El Cerrito to create a managed parking program for the thousands of spaces that surround the station. We also need to see protected bike lanes on Central Avenue and/or Fairmount St, both for those coming from west of San Pablo Ave, as well as for those coming from the hills to the east. And we need to look at all options for bus/shuttle, for scooter/e-bike rentals, autonomous vehicles, and everything in between. These options need to move from the theoretical to a reality, so that when BART needs to decide on the final replacement parking number, the board can feel confident with having no replacement parking onsite, aside from ADA and BART maintenance / staff needs. If there truly is $40 million available for access improvements, let’s see those dollars to go eliminate the need for any replacement parking at all.

What can members of the community do?

  • Send an email thanking the BART board members for their votes to not set any parking minimum:
    • BoardofDirectors@bart.gov
    • Rebecca.Saltzman@bart.gov
    • Janice.Li@bart.gov
  • Speak out at the upcoming El Cerrito City Council meeting on November 2 during the opening public comment time, asking the city to start working with BART right now to design the managed parking program, and to put in protected bike lanes in the east-west direction to improve access to BART.

ACTION: BART Board Meeting 10/28, 9am start

The BART board will be meeting this Thursday 10/28, starting at 9am. The BART El Cerrito Plaza TOD will be on the agenda. More specifically, the board will be deciding on the what range of BART passenger replacement parking spaces will be built on the BART property. Staff has recommended a range of 100-250 spaces.

We hope as many people as possible will call into the meeting and speak out in favor of as low of a parking minimum as possible, ideally even lower than 100. Some talking points you can use include:

  • We wish for the El Cerrito BART station to become a vibrant center with mixed-income housing, commerce, and public spaces that enhance the existing neighborhood and furthers the Plaza’s potential to serve as a community-gathering hub for all.
  • The City of El Cerrito already has thousands of on-street parking spaces within walking distance of hte station, and the city has expressed its desire to pursue an on-street managed parking program. BART should work cooperatively with the city to help establish that program.
  • 150 parking spaces would cost 12 million dollars to build, benefitting about 150 daily riders. That same 12 million dollars could go towards bike, pedestrian, and other multimodal access enhancements, benefitting thousands of daily riders.
  • Therefore, we wish for BART to set the minimum parking space count at 0, aside from ADA passengers.

Zoom link for the meeting:

https://zoom.us/j/86931965608

Presentation for this agenda item:

You are also encouraged to email the BART board directly at BoardOfDirectors@bart.gov, as well as board.meeting@bart.gov with subject line “Public Comments Agenda #7A”

For more of our thoughts on this issue with additional detail and talking points, please see our prior post here:

ACTION: 10/12 6-8pm Community Meeting Focused on Station Access and Parking Strategies

BART is hosting a community meeting on October 12 from 6-8pm via Zoom. Registration is required in advance by clicking this link. We encourage everyone to register and attend the meeting to learn about BART’s plans and make your voice heard.

According to BART, the meeting will start with a presentation covering:

  • The proposed maximum number of BART rider parking spaces in the development 
  • An initial menu of strategies for riders getting to and from BART without parking 
  • Other potential options for BART rider parking  

Questions and comments will follow the presentation.

We believe that in order for the station area to maximize its potential and benefits to the community, we need to minimize the need for BART property to be taken up by vehicle parking spaces.

We hope to see an “all of the above” approach proposed to help BART riders access the station conveniently and safely without needing to drive and park. And for those who absolutely must drive, we hope to see BART refer to the City of El Cerrito’s commitiment to pursue an on-street managed parking program on the streets that surround the station. We believe that taking the “all of the above” approach to station access, combined with managed on-street parking, should lead to a need for 0 replacement parking spaces on BART property, aside from handicapped and station agent spaces.

For more detailed solutions regarding station access, please see our prior post on the topic. If any of our solutions resonate with you, please make your voice heard at this upcoming community meeting.

2 ACTIONS: City Council Meeting August 17, Corridor Access Study Open House

At the August 17 city council meeting, agenda item #5A features a study session regarding TOD access strategies, including the possibility of the city creating an on-street parking management program.

We strongly support the city creating a parking management program, as it will provide a station access option for BART commuters who must drive, while preserving parking options for local residents.

Zoom link for the meeting:

https://zoom.us/j/97341195745?pwd=QVIxSkhSQTgweCtEVmg0aGxrT3BjZz09

Use the “raise hand” feature to comment live during the meeting. Alternatively, you can email cityclerk@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us with subject “Public Comments – Agenda #5A”. Be sure to send any emails prior to 4PM on Tuesday 8/17.

Meeting packet is found here:

Additionally, please be sure to make your voice heard during the final days of the virtual open house for BART’s corridor station access study. The website closes on August 20!

https://bartberkeleyelcerritocap.participate.online/

More of our thoughts on station access can be found at: https://plazaforthepeople.org/2021/07/02/tell-bart-and-the-city-of-el-cerrito-take-action-to-minimize-the-need-for-replacement-parking/

ACTION: Participation Opportunities for the Corridor Station Access Project

The Berkeley El Cerrito Corridor Access Project (“BECCAP”) is underway, and numerous opportunities for public participation are either available now or coming up. We believe that enhancing station access is a critical step to enable BART to minimize replacement parking and allow the site design to maximize the benefits to the community.

Please check out and participate in the following opportunities:

Additionally, there is an “online open house” website that is live and available for the public to participate anytime through August 20. This website has a lot of information about the project, plus an opportunity to fill in a survey as well as make suggestions on a map!

https://bartberkeleyelcerritocap.participate.online/

For more details regarding these outreach opportunities, please visit https://www.bart.gov/about/planning/station-access/berkeley-elcerrito-corridor-plan/outreach

For more of our thoughts regarding station access, please visit https://plazaforthepeople.org/2021/07/02/tell-bart-and-the-city-of-el-cerrito-take-action-to-minimize-the-need-for-replacement-parking/

BART Plaza Conceptual Site Plan: Community Ideas and Feedback

In May 2021, the Development Team (Holliday Development, Related California, and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates) presented their initial vision, design principles, and conceptual site plan to the El Cerrito City Council and the community. Link to the full presentation here.

We are excited about the start of this process and the potential for this project to create and help catalyze the growth of a more walkable, amenity-filled, delightful downtown zone for our city. We are eager to participate in subsequent design sessions with the development team and BART and look forward to partnering on the design development process.

Below is the conceptual site plan provided by the development team – we have added our high level ideas, questions, and feedback to it, and summarize them briefly here. The team has not shared more detailed design information yet, and we look forward to reviewing architectural and landscape designs as they progress.

Our thoughts on the initial conceptual design plan

(if you can’t see the image above well, you can download a PDF here).

Site Design and Programming – Key issues:

  • Plaza for the people – There is broad community support for the creation of a large, sunny plaza space (vs. several smaller nooks) adjacent to shops + cafes, and potentially adjacent to the new park as well. THis would support the retail with outdoor seating and provide space for live music, outdoor art, and other gathering opportunities at different sizes and scales. Consider the optimal location for this, ideally taking advantage of the views, sightlines, and daylight throughout the year.
  • Pedestrian Flow / Circulation – How does the Plaza location (noted above) relate to and help inform the location / flow of foot traffic from BART to the Plaza and into the community? Consider foot traffic support of retail both within the courtyard and on Fairmont, and flow into the existing EC Plaza and surrounding community.
  • Bike Parking – Ensure adequate bike parking capacity and security, including for e-bikes, cargo bikes, etc. to meet the needs of both new and existing cyclists (more residents will access the station this way once car parking is reduced).
  • Playground – Think about playground location – consider locating it closer to family housing units and retail and off the traffic corridor. Make it convenient to families both in the development and visitors to the retail / plaza areas.
  • Traffic Safety / Walkability – Discourage through traffic for vehicles on the new Oak St. Should it be for bus access only? Perhaps it also can include taxi, rideshare, and private drop-off and pick-up? The key is we want to encourage and facilitate safe pedestrian and bike usage to the maximum extent possible.

Other thoughts regarding issues influencing the design:

  • Library – We hope to see discussions soon regarding the optimal future location for the Library, considering space needs, access modes, funding sources / amount / timing. What are the tradeoffs between using space for a library versus additional commercial space or homes?
  • Replacement Parking – Please see our prior post here regarding parking requirements, strategies, and access methods. Ideally, the access needs of local BART riders can be met with a mix of strategies that allow replacement parking to be minimized or eliminated, making more room for retail, dining, homes, and open space.

We’ll keep you posted on future discussions and design development, and we invite your thoughts and participation as well. The more community input we gather, the more valuable our feedback will be to the City, BART, and the development team. Feel free to comment below or contact us at plazaforthepeople@gmail.com.

Tell BART and the City of El Cerrito: Take action to minimize the need for replacement parking

Many of us share high hopes for transit-oriented development at the El Cerrito Plaza BART station. We envision many badly-needed new homes for households of all types. We also envision a new downtown for El Cerrito, where residents and visitors alike can have fun, interact, eat, drink, shop, and more. Lastly, we envision the most accessible station in the BART system, with abundant and safe bike parking, safe and well-lit pedestrian access, and easy access to public transportation. Much of this we’ve written about previously. However, in order to maximize all of these benefits to the community, we need to be able to utilize all of the available space on BART’s property for these benefits, and minimize the need for space to be taken up by vehicle parking spaces.

A recent report by Transform also articulates the need for minimizing replacement parking at the BART station in order to achieve BART’s goals for transit oriented development. We encourage everyone to read the report to understand their methodology and conclusions.

We believe that BART and the City of El Cerrito should take action to minimize the need for replacement parking at the station. In fact, we believe that, apart from some handicap and station agent parking, the goal should be for zero replacement parking spaces to be built at the site.

That said, we understand that some of our fellow community members are concerned about how they will access the station without available on-site parking. This is where we believe our transit agencies and city leadership should come together and deliver solutions. The first set of solutions should focus on making it as safe and convenient as possible to get to and from the station without needing to drive and park:

  1. Bicycle infrastructure should be improved on surrounding city streets
  2. Abundant secure bicycle parking should be made available at the station (including space for e-bikes, cargo bikes, bikes with car-seat attachments, etc).
  3. Agencies should consider subsidies for e-bikes and other “last mile” solutions. Conta Costa County currently has a rebate program in place that can be used as an example.
  4. Transit agencies and the City should coordinate to determine the feasibility of additional bus service from the station to the communities that surround the station.
  5. The design of the station area and surrounding streets should leave room for the possible future use of autonomous shuttles and other emerging types of transportation that will exist in the decades to come.

All that being said, we understand that for some, there may be individual circumstances that make driving to the station more of a necessity. For these individuals, they may be asking, “but where am I supposed to park”? Luckily, local resident Laura Maurer studied this very issue for her master’s thesis while earning her degree at San Jose State. While we highly encourage everyone to read her thesis for themselves, Laura found that if we can optimize the available parking on city streets that surround the station, people can still reliably park by the station if that is a necessity. The key recommendations were as follows:

  1. Parking space delineation on surrounding streets. Many of the streets that surround the station do not have parking spaces marked with paint. This leads to inefficient parking of cars, and missed opportunities to fit additional parked cars into the available curb space. Delineating parking spaces would increase the supply of parking spaces, and the cost is minimal (e.g. paint).
  2. Shared on-street parking with the use of BART parking permits, allowing for dedicated on-street parking for BART riders. These permits could be based on zones, with blocks closest to the station differentiated from those further away. BART commuters could have permits giving them the ability to park on specific blocks, knowing that the quantity of permits was regulated to make sure they would be able to access parking on the block and would not need to circle residential streets in search of available spaces. This would also offer a revenue-generating opportunity for the City of El Cerrito, with those revenues used to benefit the affected neighborhoods.
  3. Changes to the El Cerrito residential parking permit program. Laura’s research found that many of the residential parking permit blocks are currently underutilized. By using precise parking zones similar to recommendation #2, and incentivizing residents to park in their driveways and garages, the right balance can be struck between residential permit parking and BART commuter parking.
  4. Demand-based pricing. Currently, BART charges only $3 per day to park at the station. If recommendation #2 were implemented, pricing for BART on-street permits should be dictated by the demand for those spaces. Blocks closest the station should cost more than those further away. This demand-based pricing again manages demand to ensure that those who truly need to park will have a space available and encourages people to park further away from the station or change transportation mode all together (also benefiting public health). This also generates the most revenue for making neighborhood improvements.
  5. Shared parking lots. There are several other parking lots near the station, linked to banks, churches, and other organizations (even the Plaza shopping center) whose usage may not be very high during commute hours. Portions of these parking lots could be incorporated into the BART parking permit program, or the parking lot owners could manage it themselves.

While not mentioned in Laura’s thesis, another option is for local homeowners and renters to rent out their driveway space to BART commuters. I’m sure someone in our Bay Area tech community could develop such an online marketplace.

The solutions are out there — it is possible to maximize the benefits to the community on the BART site itself, with BART riders able to access the station without circling cars through residential neighborhoods. We need the will of the people and leadership from our transit agencies and elected officials to make it happen.

Want to get involved? There are many ways to do so:

Reminder: Community Meeting Tuesday 5/25 6-7:30pm

The next public event planned for El Cerrito Plaza BART project project is THIS TUESDAY, May 25, from 6-7:30pm.

Zoom link for the event is here.

This is a great opportunity to learn more about the project and the teams that will be working on it. There will also be opportunity to hear from the public, so please join and participate! Please speak to what matters most to you. This could include housing, station accessibility, walkability, biking, environment / greenhouse gas reductions, a new town center, shops / parks / restaurants / public amenities, and more. A lot of great ideas can be found here.

Please see the flyer and details below:

ACTION: Attend May 25 Community Meeting

Thanks to everyone who attended, wrote, or spoke at the El Cerrito City Council meeting this week. For those who missed it, you can see the video of the meeting here (you can use the event bookmarks to jump to the relevant section of the video).

The next public event planned for this project is on May 25, from 6-7:30pm. We will have more to say as the date approaches, but mark your calendars now! Your voices matter!

Zoom link for the event is here. Please see the flyer and details below:

RELEASE DATE: 04/30/2021

El Cerrito Plaza TOD Team Introduction & Community Meeting: Last fall, BART selected the team of Holliday Development, Related California, and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates to advance transit-oriented development (TOD) at El Cerrito Plaza BART station.  Two meetings on this topic are coming up in May:

On Tuesday, May 4 at 7:00pm, the City Council of El Cerrito will hear a presentation on TOD at El Cerrito Plaza BART station during its regularly scheduled meeting. The presentation is item 5 on the agenda and will cover the City’s and BART’s goals for this potential project and an introduction to the developer team. The agenda, materials and link to join are posted here

On Tuesday, May 25 at 6:00 pm, the City of El Cerrito and BART will be co-hosting a community meeting along with the developer team selected for El Cerrito Plaza station.  All are invited to join this introductory meeting; similar to the May 4 presentation, this will be a chance to learn about the City’s and BART’s goals for this potential project, and to meet the developer team:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84342090452

These events are the first of many opportunities planned for community residents and other interested people to ask questions and share comments with the project team. 
A flyer for the May 25 community meeting is attached – please share with other community members who may be interested. 

Further information, including a Frequently Asked Questions document, is available at https://www.bart.gov/about/business/tod/el-cerrito-plaza

Action: Attend the May 4 City Council Meeting

The El Cerrito Plaza BART TOD project is on the agenda for the May 4 City Council Meeting. Included in the meeting packet are presentations by city staff, BART staff, and the developer team. This is a great opportunity to hear from the key players involved with the project. You can join the meeting via this zoom link.

Since this is a presentation item on the agenda, there will not be public comment at the time of the presentation. Any public comments for this item will need to happen at the beginning of the council meeting during “oral communications from the public”, item #3 of the agenda. You can also email cityclerk@ci.el-cerrito.ca.us with subject line “Public Comments – Agenda Item #5” before 4pm on Tuesday 5/4 and have your comments shared with the council in their supplemental materials prior to the meeting.

We encourage everyone to speak in support of our core principles. Our Plaza For The People community is advocating for the El Cerrito Plaza BART station to become a vibrant center with mixed-income housing, commerce, and public spaces that enhance the existing neighborhood and further the Plaza’s potential to serve as a community-gathering hub for all.

We believe in housing for all, market rate and affordable, units for households of all types and sizes. We believe in a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly destination where the broader community can gather and enjoy. We believe the station should be accessible to all, encouraging walking, biking, and public transportation.

This piece articulates our vision in greater detail. Please join the Council meeting and make your voice heard. Thank you!