Caucus Advocates for the Community
APADC Advocates for Oakland Chinatown Project
Caucus Successfully Advocates for Oakland Chinatown Project to Proceed
In October 2020, the Caucus urged the City of Alameda remove conditional roadblocks to the approval of a long-awaited project to reduce the severe impact that I-880 freeway access traffic has imposed upon Oakland Chinatown streets for decades.
Funding for the core of the Oakland Alameda Access Project (OAAP) would pay for a new roadway that brings drivers directly onto the I-880 on ramps north and south from the Posey tube at 5th street – thus eliminating the disruptive street traffic that currently cuts through 7th street separating homes and a major park from the rest of Chinatown.
Alarmed by Alameda’s decision to use approval of the project as leverage to force the county Transportation Committee to support a separate estuary bike/pedestrian only bridge project, Caucus board and general members joined with other Asian Alamedans to speak at three public hearings on the issue.
Behind the scenes, board member Sheng Thao who, as an Alameda County Transportation commissioner and Oakland city council member arranged a meeting between the county transportation commission executive director, Alice Lai-Bitker, the Mayor and herself, to convince the mayor to change her letter. Board member Ces Rosales also reached out to the transportation commission’s vice chair.
As a result, Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft changed the city’s approval letter to remove the contingency. The full council voted unanimously to accept the new letter at the Nov. 17 city council meeting.
Alameda’s Posey tube was built in 1928 to provide west Alameda access to Oakland. After the completion of Nimitz Freeway in the mid-1960s, access to the freeway from Alameda cut right through Chinatown creating a serious threat to the elderly, children, and families when they attempted to access the park and homes on the other side of the traffic.
While traffic planners had tried to craft a solution for over 30 years, it was not until an Alameda planner suggested a horse-shoe turn roadway and the Measure BB funds combined to form the beginnings of a workable plan in 2015.
The Posey and Webster tubes, however, were originally centered on transporting motor vehicles with bicycle and pedestrian walkways secondary and far from being a positive experience due to the noise and pollution.
Alameda bicycle advocates who have long advocated for a bicycle/pedestrian only estuary bridge connecting west Alameda and Oakland saw that Alameda could use approval of the OAAP contingent on support for a bridge project to accommodate bicycle and pedestrians. The first two drafts of the city’s support letter reflected the concerns of bike advocates and implicitly threatened to withdraw the $75 M allocated to the OAAP if funds for studies needed to move the bridge project were not promised. https://alamedasun.com/news/mayor-weighs-caltrans-project
Meanwhile, Oakland Chinatown has been severely impacted for 30+ years by the motor vehicles cutting through the local streets as they access the I-880 freeway via the Posey/Webster tubes. Oakland Chinatown is the most polluted neighborhood in Oakland and has the highest number of automobile-pedestrian accidents in the city. Moreover, Chinatown has been victimized by “urban renewal” – from the 2,000 homes destroyed by the I-880 freeway, to the 50 homes taken for the BART headquarters in the 1970s. For the past decade, Chinatown businesses have been hurt by a succession of city hall protests that attracted vandals when night fell and the disruptions spread to nearby Chinatown.
The mayor’s letter to the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) regarding the project is a key element to moving the project to its next steps and any contingencies on that support would have been likely to delay the project which is scheduled to be completed by mid- 2026.
Caucus believes that this is a social justice issue and that relief for Chinatown should not have been held hostage for a separate project that would not be realized for at least 20 years.