June 23, 1993

City of Berkeley Planning Department

2180 Milvia Street

Berkeley, California 94704

Re: West Berkeley Plan Draft EIR -- Surreptitious Losangelization in the Name of "Planning"


This document represents classic 1950's thinking, but couched in 1990's jargon. While using such hopeful phrases as "Seek Trip Reduction" and "Protect Local Residential Streets from Through-Traffic", it actually ensures that nothing of the sort will happen.

To wit, it recommends that "intersection levels of service (LOS) do not fall below ... D/E". (Of course, this is the level of service to drivers! Pedestrians, bicyclists, and other nonpolluters will receive lower service, due to the encouragement of larger volumes and speeds of traffic, left-turn signal phases that make them wait for left-turning vehicles to pass first, and traffic signal synchronization (TSS), which benefits auto drivers at the expense of nonpolluters.) Facilitating the smooth movement of traffic, as we all well know, simply encourages people to drive farther and more often, and causes traffic volumes and speeds to increase.

It recommends "improving ... traffic signals", and other euphemisms for the synchronization of signals to maximize vehicle throughput. TSS is another Trojan Horse for more traffic and a less pedestrian/bicycle-friendly environment. I wonder how many pedestrians know that their tax dollars are being used to restrict their travel and subsidize long-distance auto travel?

It complains of "Parking Shortfalls" and recommends building additional parking. Apparently, the mere presence of an automobile is considered by your planners as ample justification to sacrifice more of our precious land to this unproductive use. It makes me wonder about the Integrity Shortfall in the Planning Department. Apparently, business interests come ahead of residents' needs. Funny, I thought that you worked for the City....

Increased "Demand" at restaurants elicits your recommendation for allowing the construction of more parking. Oddly, the same "Demand" at our rail station causes you to recommend increased transit access to the station. Is there a double standard here?

"Traffic Increases" give rise to recommendations to lengthen and widen roads, add lanes, and synchronize signals -- a vicious cycle if ever there was one. As someone said at a recent transportation conference, this is like trying to lose weight by loosening your belt. (Similarly, you recommend reducing noise by building a wall next to the freeway!)

Such poor, anachronous planning cannot be "mitigated". The only way we can improve the quality of life in Berkeley is to make it more difficult and unpleasant to use a car here. That means allowing congestion to take its natural course, reducing and increasing the cost of parking, and making car ownership and use more expensive. Eliminate the auto subsidy! Make the auto and truck owner and user pay for the services they receive, such as road maintenance (necessitated by trucks, cars, and buses, not bicyclists and pedestrians), police and ambulance services, and residential street parking.

And make all employees of the Planning Department who were involved with this Plan live in the area they are planning. This is the best way to guarantee that it is fair. I guarantee, that if they were required to live there, they would not be recommending measures to facilitate more traffic flow!

You have said absolutely nothing about the natural world (you know, the one that was here before man came), although it is required by CEQA! If I moved into your house and told you that you would henceforth be restricted to your back porch, you would understand exactly what we have done to wildlife in Berkeley. What hubris! Everywhere that mankind moves, he/she takes the best land for himself/herself and relegates wildlife and native peoples to the leftover scraps. This is not only stupid, it is suicidal. The West Berkeley Plan, like all other human plans, should include provisions for the needs of the indigenous people and wildlife, including adequate living habitat as well as safe travel corridors. In particular, east/west and north/south wildlife corridors should be restored to the West Berkeley area, including safe access across all intervening streets and the freeway (ideally, the human facilities should tunnel under the wildlife corridors, so as not to impede animals' travel). Did you really mean to imply that plants and animals don't matter?


Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.