July 28, 1991

Patricia Cummings

Earth Island Law Center

300 Broadway # 28

San Francisco, California 94133-4529

Re: Fighting for the "Clean Air Alternative" to the Cypress Freeway

Dear Patricia:

The residents of West Oakland are fighting for their lives, literally. In 1955 a freeway was rammed through their neighborhood which resulted in lead poisoning, cancer clusters, destruction of numerous homes and businesses, division of neighborhoods, and countless other forms of social and environmental degradation.

Now, once again, Caltrans is threatening to do the very same thing to another section of the neighborhood just a few blocks upwind from the Cypress corridor. In a clear violation of CEQA, they are refusing to consider the possibility of the community attaining its objectives in any way other than by building another massive, health-threatening, earthquake-vulnerable structure that even the California Transportation Commission thinks is too expensive ($700 million for a couple of miles of freeway!).

The fact is, however, that the objective is to give people access to goods and services, not to move a certain number of heavy metal boxes from one place to another, and thus, there are many other, less destructive, ways of accomplishing this goal. The Clean Air Alternative Coalition (CAAC) has identified at least five public transit projects that could reduce the need for laying more pavement (A/C Transit, BART, Intercity Rail Service, Commuter Rail Service, and Light Rail Service). In addition, bicycle facilities and all of the techniques included in Transportation Demand Management would help make a rerun of the Cypress boondoggle unnecessary.

There is probably still a need for improved truck access to the Port, which is why CAAC has proposed converting Middle Harbor Road/Maritime Street into an expressway by adding a single lane to the existing five. This alternative (with the transit, bicycle, and TDM improvements mentioned above) would satisfy the real goal and still give the community maximum protection from the traffic (as well as save millions of dollars of public funds that could be put to better use than building more freeways).

The community, through CAAC, has been fighting back in every way possible. Committees of residents and activists are focusing on Lobbying, Media, Events, Phone Banking, Outreach, Fundraising, Research, and Legal efforts. The committee chairpersons and others meet twice a month in a Coordinating Committee chaired by Chappell Hayes. Three fundraising events have been held, and support (including money) has been acquired from numerous environmental, transit, and other groups. A lawyer has been lined up and has familiarized himself with the environmental documents, comments on them, and other possible suable issues, so that when the final EIR is released, we can file any suit that is necessary. We have fleshed out the expressway design and are preparing to present it to interested parties. We have studied the Port's concerns and how we can address them.

But all of this will undoubtedly not be enough. We need the support (financial, political, and intellectual) of other powerful groups and individuals. We will need a considerable amount of money (we are shooting for $100,000) for a lawsuit. Any assistance you can give will be greatly appreciated!


Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.

Chairman, Legal Committee, CAAC