Thursday, August 16, 2012

Evergreen Sidewalk : Response to Wendi Kallins of Safe Routes to Schools

There was a recent email flurry about the dreaded Evergreen sidewalk, the last of which was from Wendi Kallins of Safe Routes to School:
On Jul 27, 2012, at 5:27 PM, Wendi Kallins wrote
"Hate the sidewalk, love the sidewalk, hate the process or love it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But this demonizing of the county is really ugly. This project was done for one reason – because the people building it believed it would improve the safety for children traveling to and from school. There was no hidden agenda here. No one got rich from it. The price tag was high because sidewalks are expensive. I’d appreciate if you would stop projecting out what you think is in other people’s minds."
I was quite taken aback by her statement, but did not want to respond with an emotional, knee jerk reaction. Been there, done that.
Doing my best to move on and make the best of it, but feel the need to respond to this statement.
So, since she refuses to respond to any of my emails, here goes nothing:
Wendi : "Hate the sidewalk, love the sidewalk..."
Me : Hate the sidewalk. (duh)
Wendi: "...hate the process or love it."
Me : "Hate" is a bit strong to describe the lack of process. That said, you have to admit, the process can be improved by analyzing this project, and that will help everyone in future projects, won't it? 
For example - lack of community input before design resulted in a design that:
1) was more expensive than it had to be
2)  does not fit our neighborhood
3) is environmentally irresponsible
4) seems to have caused the DPW a lot of grief from an engineering perspective
5) polarized this community

Try as you might to blame NIMBY "pushback" for added expense, when you analyze this issue - it can all be traced back to the beginning of the process - or lack of desire for something that Safe Routes, MHS and a small group of people thought was the answer to the increased traffic problem from MHS and the occasional speeding driver along Evergreen.

Wendi : "Everyone is entitled to their opinion. But this demonizing of the county is really ugly. "
 Me : I agree with you, but that is the perception which comes from a lack of clear and honest communication and lack of process. The "demonizing of the County" pales in comparison to the demonizing of the citizens of Homestead who dared to question this project and ask that a sidewalk not be forced upon their frontage.

Wendi : "This project was done for one reason – because the people building it believed it would improve the safety for children traveling to and from school. "
Me : That is understood - Roz was scared to have the kids walk down the street. Just because SR2S wanted to add MHS to its roster of participating schools does not justify the forced construction of an impervious concrete slab onto Evergreen Avenue.  It does not excuse the complete disregard of the local ordinances.

Wendi : There was no hidden agenda here. 
MMT: Maybe from your perspective  - but what was hidden from those of us who would be most impacted until the County invested enough money and there was "no turning back"  - was the fact that a sidewalk project was in play at all.
MHS' agenda was traffic abatement to keep their Use Permit. Just because MHS can't handle their traffic issues does not give their friends at the County the right to force an impervious slab of concrete onto a street against the property owners who will bear the effects for many years to come. Good intentions are one thing - but was all this really necessary?

WK : No one got rich from it.
MMT : No one got rich from it - but everyone took a piece of  the pie - starting with the SR2S consultant. Who hired him? Did he work for free?
During construction - jobs were created - that is a good thing. But jobs are created whether construction companies built paths or sidewalks.
Wouldn't just as many jobs have been created if more small projects were constructed all over Marin or CA?

WK : The price tag was high because sidewalks are expensive.
MMT : Yes, the price tag was high because sidewalks are expensive - that is exactly the point.
The project was complete overkill - way more than was or is needed.
Was it the best use of time and resources? 

WK : " I’d appreciate if you would stop projecting out what you think is in other people’s minds." 
MMT: This is the most baffling statement to me-
Isn't the fact that you and a few others projected what you thought might help MHS decrease traffic into Homestead the very reason that caused all this turmoil in the first place? That is "if there is a sidewalk, we will use it..." True as that may be - build a path, they might walk on that!

Is it really "green" to cut down trees and pollute our creeks - in an attempt to get a few more people out of their cars?

Fact is - County and Safe Routes to Schools funding was used for benefit of a commuter school to inflict an unwanted impervious concrete sidewalk along a street that has never needed a concrete sidewalk before  - and already had a lovely, unique, dedicated path on most of the street.
There was no other reason to built THAT particular sidewalk other than funding was available for a sidewalk - or as Roz put it - "traffic abatement."

The road was paved - that is a good thing.
For the amount of funding it took to build that sidewalk that we never asked for and did not really need  - especially when you count all the resources used to deal with the uproar (pushback) defensive marketing strategies and County Counsel fees to fend off litigation -
could it be that County could have paved all THREE roads coming into Homestead AND improved the natural pathways?