Please allow me to make a few comments in response to Nick Welsh’s July 18 report, “Cool Reception.” I understand that newspaper journalists are given only limited space for their reports and that they therefore cannot include every element of a story. However, I believe that you overlooked a couple of significant aspects of the situation regarding the construction proposal for 1235 Veronica Springs Road.
First, let me assure you that the neighbors of Hillside House are fully supportive of the mission of Hillside House to serve the disabled. We applaud the excellent care that the staff provides for residents. I have lived on Veronica Springs road for 35 years. I have toured the present dilapidated facilities and I certainly agree that the residents need and deserve new facilities which will give them more spacious and attractive living quarters and up-to-date treatment equipment. No one in the neighborhood is opposed to the construction of new facilities for Hillside House residents.
We also understand that Hillside House needs to find a source of funding for the projects. And we appreciate its desire to guarantee a permanent secure stream of income. (In your words: “generate the funds necessary to sustain operations there in perpetuity.”)
Our concern about the current proposal is that it recommends sources of immediate funding and permanent funding that will have a significant negative impact – especially on traffic safety – in the neighborhood.
The proposal presents a plan to locate 17 buildings, for a total of about 260 bedrooms and 244 parking spaces. 260 bedrooms translates into about 400 residents. The proposal includes 45 three-bedroom apartments and two four-bedroom apartments. A three-bedroom apartment might well be rented by six college students or six working people. Most of them will own cars – and will use them, because 1235 Veronica Springs Road is, as one of the Planning commissioners noted, “a remote location.”
There are no employment opportunities, shopping areas, schools, medical or business services within walking distance of 1235 Veronica Springs Road. Metropolitan Transit District bus service runs just once an hour in each direction. (And budget deficits may cause further reductions, just as the Independent reported.) Several hundred residents will need to make frequent vehicle trips every day. There will also be frequent trips to the site by delivery, service, and transport vehicles.
Veronica Springs Road is a narrow, winding, hilly street. Its dimensions fall below the standards for a residential street. For most of its length, there are no sidewalks. It was intended, when built, to serve as a rural road, to serve a semi-rural population. Many of the existing single-family homes on Veronica Springs Road are on lots of .5 to 1.3 acres. Residents keep horses, donkeys, chicken, ducks, goats, and pigs, and have fruit and avocado orchards. The addition of several hundred vehicles on Veronica Springs Road will turn it into another Foothill road. It will be dangerous for us, and our children and grandchildren, and the proposed new tenants of the project, to walk and ride bikes on the street. Backing out of our driveways will be perilous.
In addition, I suspect that 244 parking spaces will not be sufficient for the tenants of the project. Some will be forced to park on Veronica Springs Road. However, when cars are parked on both sides of Veronica Springs Road, the narrow road is reduced to a single lane of traffic, thereby creating even more of a traffic hazard. I would not like to be one of the tenants of the Hillside House project walking at night from my parked car down the hilly, curving street with no sidewalks.
The residents of Veronica Springs Road are not concerned about whether it will take one more second to turn on to Las Positas. We have, again and again, for ten years, expressed to the developers and to the planning staff that our concern is with increased traffic and parking on Veronica Springs Road. Yet again and again the developers and planning staff have ignored our actual anxieties and have continued instead to talk about one-second delays to enter Las Positas. Surely you can understand our frustration about this process. (We were heartened, however, to hear at the Planning Commission meeting that the commissioners seem to have understood that Veronica Springs Road residents are worried about the traffic impacts on Veronica Springs, not Las Positas.)
Our concern about traffic is not focused only on the daily risks. When the Painted Cave fire in 1990 raced down toward Hidden Valley, Veronica Springs Road became a gridlock of cars trying to move toward Cliff Drive. How much worse would the situation be if 400 residents were added to Veronica Springs?
The developers have, moreover, proposed constructing a fire road from Palermo Drive to Veronica Springs Road, to allow egress from Hidden Valley to Las Positas in the case of a disaster. However, this proposal would only increase the gridlock. We would have the evacuating traffic moving down Veronica Springs, La Entrada, La Senda; and the traffic moving from Palermo (Hidden Valley) to Veronica Springs. And, in addition, there would be about 400 residents from the proposed development trying to drive on to Veronica Springs. What a nightmare!
Again, I hope that you can understand the frustration of VSR residents when planners talk only about one-second delays turning on to Las Positas, and refuse to tackle both the everyday and the disaster-related traffic problems on Veronica Springs which a dense housing development will cause.
Unfortunately, I see no easy solution to these problems of daily and disaster traffic. Veronica Springs Road is owned partially by the city (each end), and particularly by the county (middle). The city certainly does not have the money to embark on mitigation projects. It cannot even afford a roundabout at Cliff and Las Positas. Even if the two agencies agreed to cooperate on a traffic plan, improvement would be difficult. Veronica Springs could not be widened without appropriating property from current residents.
I hope my letter has helped to clarify the issues involved with this proposal for construction at 1235 Veronica Springs road. Thank you for taking the time to read it.