Although Oakley has laid off its Planning Commission and closed City Hall one day per month to save money due to a budget shortfall, the City Council agreed last week to pay a law firm $325 per hour for advice on legal options after eBART concerns were not addressed to the council’s satisfaction.
The outside counsel (Remy, Thomas, Moose & Manley) is being hired because City Attorney Bill Galstan has a conflict of interest, having once also been the city attorney for Antioch, where the planned eBART station and nearby transit village would be located.
On Nov. 3, Oakley City Manager Bryan Montgomery sent a letter to BART commenting on the draft environmental impact report (EIR) for the eBART station. It asked for more information on the anticipated ridership and its impact on the amount of parking at the station, which Oakley feels is “very inadequate,” as well as the traffic impact on local roads.
The response in the final EIR states there will be fewer daily riders in the year 2030 at the Hillcrest eBART station (8,200 riders) than currently at the Pittsburg/Bay Point BART Station (10,000), but more parking spaces at Hillcrest (2,600 spaces) than there are at Pittsburg/Bay Point (2,000).
It also states that a little more than one in five of the riders will come from Oakley, while nearly half will come from Antioch and about a quarter from Brentwood. Tri Delta Transit will provide increased bus service from far East County to the Hillcrest Station.
That response did not satisfy Oakley officials, so on April 14, Community Development Director Rebecca Willis wrote a more detailed letter to Antioch Assistant Economic Development Director Victor Carniglia that emphasized Oakley’s concerns about the increased traffic congestion and decreased safety the city fears will occur on rural, two-lane Oakley Road, which may become one of the main routes to the station and transit village.
Willis pointed out that the transit village would be a major development, possibly including 1 million square feet of retail space, 1.2 million square feet of office space and 2,500 apartments and condos. The children living in the village will likely be attending the K-8 Orchard Park School in Oakley – walking, bicycling and being driven to and from school on Oakley Road.
“Oakley Road is currently a two-lane, rural road without sidewalks from Highway 4 to Live Oak Avenue,” Willis stated. “We feel the EIR does not adequately address the impacts to traffic and circulation, including safe routes to school, that may be caused by the change in land use (to a transit village). Therefore, it is unknown if Oakley Road is adequate to handle the traffic in its present condition or needs to be expanded to accommodate the change in use.”
The station/village plan shows Oakley Road becoming a four-lane thoroughfare on the west (Antioch) side of the Antioch Bridge but remaining two lanes on the east (Oakley) side of the bridge. “Why is there no longer a need for four lanes of traffic, a median and sidewalks within the Oakley City limits?” Willis asked.
She concluded by asking Antioch’s City Council to not approve the EIR and station/village plan until these concerns are addressed. But the Antioch council did approve those at its April 14 meeting after Carniglia said he thought the EIR “adequately addresses” Oakley’s concerns, but “as a courtesy” he would meet with Oakley officials to further discuss them.
In a phone interview Tuesday, Carniglia said that he has been talking with Oakley officials. “I think where we have been going with this thing is probably working toward a memorandum of understanding between the two cities,” he said. “Essentially coming up with a strategy to talk about how to address their concerns when actual development does come forward out in the area.
“The plan was not an actual development plan. We don’t have any development applications in. The concerns they raise relate to how things would be handled when actual development came in. That’s been the focus of what we have been talking about. I am not sure exactly where it’s headed, but one likely result would be an MOU between the two cities to address the issues they raise in their letter.”
Despite the Oakley council having just given the OK to bring in legal muscle, Montgomery emphasized comity in an e-mail when asked to comment on the situation: “We have been meeting with the folks from the City of Antioch on the Hillcrest EIR, and it looks like we are on a path to resolve our concerns. We have a good relationship with them and are confident things will work out.”