A coalition of merchants with businesses in the Fruitvale, San Antonio, and Eastlake districts along International Boulevard are calling for the city and AC Transit to offset what they see as negative impacts of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project.
Particularly impacted are business owners in the Fruitvale District, a section of International Boulevard with a dense concentration of thriving businesses. To publicize their concerns, the businessmen are holding a rally on Friday, June 6 at noon at the intersection of 38th Avenue and International Boulevard.
Raising awareness of the impacts this new system will have on local businesses and parking, especially in the Fruitvale area, these business owners are calling on Mayor Jean Quan and District 5 Councilmember Noel Gallo to commit to their proposals.
Organizers say that, so far, Gallo is responding to their concerns.
According to AC Transit, the project will cost approximately $200 million. It is planned to run 9.7 miles from Downtown Oakland to Downtown San Leandro with a loss of over 500 parking spaces along this stretch.
All left turns will be prohibited, and from 14th Ave. to 107th Ave. (7.1 miles) on International Blvd, vehicle traffic will be reduced from four lanes to two.
Construction on the project is set to begin in April 2015.
Merchant proposals to moderate these impacts are estimated at $6 million. They aim to help business owners continue their regular operations during and after BRT construction.
Businessmen say they need solutions to parking losses; increased public safety services for pedestrians; loading zones to offset the loss of traffic lanes; financial assistance and consulting for businesses that lose revenue; and a relocation fund for those businesses forced to close as an effect of BRT.
“This could destroy the area because there will be no parking. Right now, there are 149 parking spaces from High Street to 29th Ave. What is the solution for this? The city has no answer,” said Hugo Guerrero, CEO of the Merchants Association, who also says safety in the Fruitvale district is a big concern.
According to Sean Maher, communications director for Mayor Quan, the project will provide “more than $23 million in public infrastructure improvement for the 8.5 mile project corridor in Oakland, including roadway, bicycle, and pedestrian amenities and economic development opportunities.”
Three hundred businesses are at risk with this project, said Andy Nelson, staff member at the East Bay Asian Youth Center. He has been a supporter of the merchants, helping them organize to make their concerns heard.
Rather than the $6 million worth of requested changes, the city and AC Transit are offering $1 million for these 300 businesses and technical assistance, he said.
“It’s woefully inadequate, and these businesses don’t need [technical] assistance. They are viable now,” said Nelson.