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Possible Changes to Alpine Blvd. Due to Powerlink

Upcoming Possible Changes to Alpine Blvd. due to the Sunrise Powerlink
(see before & after photos below)

There has been a lot of concern among Alpine residents regarding the the changes to the street and trees that are going to be removed on Alpine Blvd. due to the Sunrise Powerlink…George Barnett of the Alpine Planning Group explains in detail what is going on in the information and photos provided below:

More than 10 years ago, there was a movement to improve Alpine Boulevard. The output of the effort was a long drawing showing possible improvements along Alpine Boulevard from Tavern Road to South Grade Road near the current Albertsons. I don’t know what happened, but those plans and ideas seemed to go into hibernation.

Dianne Jacob started the Alpine Revitalization program in May of 2004. That effort included a Committee for Community Development. That committee picked-up the earlier improvement map, and held two major community workshops in 2005 and 2007 (as I recollect). Part of the output of that effort was a new map of Alpine Boulevard proposing improvements. The County also performed a survey of Alpine Boulevard to determine precisely where the right-of-way existed relative to current buildings, parking and so on. The survey found that over the years development in Alpine encroached on the county road right-of-way in several areas. The County obtained two different sets of grant monies for which to pay for further studying the improvement of Alpine’s down town.

On set of funding paid for consultants to prepare a visualization study of what Alpine Boulevard might look like if it were to be improved to the concepts the Revitalization workshops. Here are some summary pictures;

This is a current view of Alpine Boulevard looking west from a vantage point near the California Banking & Trust.

This is what that same view could look like with appropriate traffic land management, walkways, pathways, crosswalks, landscaping and so on.  Note the concept of center dividers to provide dedicated left-turn lanes needed in order for straight-ahead traffic to keep flowing.

The Alpine Planning Group endorsed this ‘vision’ for Alpine Boulevard. In addition, the right-of-way for Alpine Boulevard is wide enough to accommodate 4 lanes of traffic; two lanes in each direction. But no one wanted that, and the APG approved a 3-lane road concept (east-west lanes plus a left-turn lane) for basic planning purposes to be included as policy in the County’s General Plan Update – the updated planning basis for the next 20-year period of town planning. The County accepted that APG decision, recognizing that with three lanes the traffic will be a bit congested during morning and evening rush hours. However, the future designs around the current 5-way stop light in the center of town had to accommodate new left turn lanes so that traffic was not grid-locked. That widening would require removal of some of the eucalyptus trees in that area.

So, all this planning was performed, reviewed in a number of community workshops, at various subcommittees of the APG, and eventually approved by the APG itself.

The county then got some additional grant money to perform a more detailed plan of vehicle and pedestrian traffic around the central part of Alpine. The idea was to walk around Alpine with a town circulation consultant and look for ways to promote pedestrian safety, walkways, mini-parks, and traffic. This also was presented to the APG, and received its endorsement.

When the Sunrise PowerLink project was heading Alpine’s direction (high voltage electrical transmission line project), the Revitalization Committee saw that the SDGE power project represented a way to actually pay for improvements as SDG&E would be required to mitigate the adverse impacts of the project on Alpine. At their request, the county began an engineering study called the Preliminary Engineering Report. The PER would provide fairly detailed designs to improve Alpine Boulevard to the level generally depicted in all the foregoing design work over nearly a decade. The PER was presented and reviewed at two different AGP meetings, which doubled at the time as “town hall meetings”. Following those meetings and the comments by the community members that participated, the APG Circulation Subcommittee twice (as I recall) visited the County to further refine the designs. The current PER has become the basis of negotiating with SDGE, and they have agreed to pay for perhaps 95% of all the work in order to mitigate the impacts of the power project on Alpine. This was presented to the APG at open meeting a couple of months ago by both the County and with the endorsement of SDGE. The APG voted again, accepting all the work done to date, including the negotiations with SDGE by the county.

There have been two areas of unavoidable problems in all of this work. Certain eucalyptus trees encroach severely on Alpine Boulevard and have to be removed to allow all of the improvements to occur. However, most of the eucalyptus trees are getting into old age, and becoming maintenance issues. In fact, some trees have already been removed in front of the Alpine Womans Club at their request because the trees were becoming a danger to pedestrians. The other unavoidable conflict is that some perpendicular parking spaces at the center of town have to disappear in order to permit dedicated left-turn lanes – so that left-turning traffic does not impeded traffic going straight. In addition, certain center barriers have been put into the designs to permit a controlled U-turn capability in the center of town needed to enhance access to businesses whether coming to town from the west or from the east. These limitations were made public at all the various public forums, and the APG voted to accept those parking slot losses as they were needed to make the greater traffic flow better.

As to the trees, the Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) targets these trees for removal (all on the north side of Alpine Boulevard):

1 eucalyptus in the vicinity of Alpine Community Center 4 eucalyptus in the vicinity of the Alpines Womans Club 3 eucalyptus in the vicinity of Alpine Liquors ingress/egress 4 scrub oaks in the vicinity of Howell’s Opal Shop

At the last presentation of the plans to the APG, at a public meeting, the county said that they would work with the community to replace removed trees to the community’s wishes; and with native trees of sufficient maturity (not saplings). The county also said they would consider relocating oaks, rather than just removing them. There are plenty of native tall trees such as coastal, interior and Engelmann oaks and California sycamore, and so on. There are a number of smaller, faster growing scrub oak varieties. Removing the eucalyptus trees that encroach on the road right-of-way is more of an opportunity than a loss as there will be the ability to replace them with trees appropriate to Alpine’s environment.

So where we are today, is that Alpine has the real opportunity to improve Alpine Boulevard in both appearance and its ability to handle traffic – and to get it paid for by SDGE. Concurrent to all of this work is the under-grounding of all overhead utilities along Alpine Boulevard at the same time everything else is being constructed. To this end the county has approved the formation of an Alpine Underground Utilities District and has allocated $4 million to the effort. My guess is that including the costs to be paid by SDGE for the general road improvements, Alpine could see $8-10 million in total improvements.

But that is not the end. Revitalization and the APG is already working with the county on performing a detailed block-by-block town plan, and in getting more sports fields built. That sort of work will require grant writing by the town and by the county for design work, then property purchases, then actual construction. If Alpiners at that future time wish to proceed with direct beautification projects and with additional sports fields, citizens will have to determine how that work will be funded. There is no provisions in existing county ordinances to raise funds or tax for that kind of improvements. It will be up to the residents. One way of funding the maintenance and operation of beautification and sports projects is for voters to approve a ballot measure to establish a beautification district and a sports district. That means taxing in some manner. But it’s way too early in the process to start looking at funding. The first concrete steps are in getting the Alpine Boulevard improvements finalized and built.

So, this is what I think the current planning situation is. Alpine residents who want to be involved should contact the APG and its Circulation and Public Actions subcommittees, and to volunteer to work on those committees. * There is a  VERY IMPORTANT Alpine Planning Group Sub-Committee meeting this Thursday, Oct 21st,  5:30pm, at the Alpine Community Center.

They will be discussing the re-design of Alpine Blvd post the Power Link construction.
If you are a business owner along Alpine Blvd this re-design will affect  parking and access to your business.

The regular Alpine Planning Group meeting is also an important meeting to attend on October 28, 6:00 pm, at the Alpine Community Center. The County will be present. Alpine Businesses need to present.

For more information call the Alpine Planning Group at 445-6641

Best regards,

George Barnett BigG88882@cox.net

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8 Comments

  1. As I was driving East on Alpine Blvd. a few days ago, I was stopped in a line of traffic waiting for the light to change. There were some workmen doing something by the Eucalyptus trees. My first thought was, “Oh no, they are actually beginning to take down the trees.” My heart sank, as I imagined a vista devoid of our beloved trees. Turns out the workmen were finishing up some other project and for the moment the trees were safe.
    But it raises the point, are we going to let these gorgeous giants be cut down? These trees have sheltered and shaded many a pedestrian, and untold numbers of bicyclists. Their roots are deep. Do we just cavalierly cut them down to rearrange our town? And what goes up in their place? Young saplings, tied to sticks and planted in sidewalks with designer metal grates? Our town will be hot and dry and dusty without those magnificent trees.
    What if there is a way to keep them, and still make some improvements? Sidewalks can be made to curve around. Our town could become known as innovative and creative by building sidewalks around the trees.

  2. Hi,
    The drawing reminds me of several small towns and is very nice. Even if Alpine did not look like this it would be beneficial to all to finally get some sidewalks and crosswalks, and interesting stores up and down the boulevard to increase a community feeling, and success of business.
    Perhaps some bike lanes as well so we can all get some safe excercise.

  3. There is something to add to my recollections that have been published on the Alpine Community Network; an expansion of comments on future plans. The County intends to work with Alpiners in preparing a “Town Center Plan”. This is technically called a “form-based plan”. The process will to be to work with property owners and towns people to examine land use options block by block and street by street through the town center. This will commence next year following the County’s approval of the high-level General Plan Update. The GPU covers the entire county and provides general high-level policy direction regarding future development. I understand that the Board of Supervisors were scheduled to vote approval on the GPU at their meeting today.

    I recall that across the county, only Ramona has had a town center form-based plan prepared. This will be a great opportunity for Alpiners to finally participate in detail on the street by street planning for their town. My personal inclination is that the town needs off-street parking. To get anticipated future traffic flows properly managed, the town is going to need left-turn lands, a U-turn or so, and a general widening of Alpine Boulevard. But to retain a rural character as much as possible, Alpiners have rejected initial County plans to widen the boulevard to four full lanes. The county has agreed in concept to the future use for central Alpine – the town center – of a new land use designation provisionally termed “C-5 Residential/Commercial Mixed Use”. C-5 would permit a mix of residential use and commercial use on the same property or on adjacent properties; including the concept of a commercial frontage for the building with residential behind, or even on the 2nd floor. Sort of the English shopkeeper that also lives on the premises. That type of land use encourages a better in-filling of undeveloped properties in town, or miss-used properties, and/or properties that are vacant and/or run-down. The planning yet to come poses the opportunity to set in place designs that reflect the town character town people wish for Alpine. In this planning effort there has to be a recognition that Alpine also serves as a regional commercial hub for Backcountry folks on out to Jacumba. It is thought that within the time frame of the General Plan Update the number of Backcountry residents visiting Alpine for commercial, social and educational purposes (such as for the new Alpine high school) will double, and that expectation is one of the drivers to improving traffic along Alpine Boulevard.

    A first step in this is getting the so-called “hardscape” of Alpine Boulevard improved. That includes walkways, pathways, crosswalks, water run-off features such as curbing, storm sewers, pedestrian and vehicular safety, and so on. And, the entire length of Alpine Boulevard will be repaved using state-of-the-art “rubberized asphalt” that produces less noise, better traction, and is self-repairing (cracks caused by heavy vehicles, etc. “self-heal” back together – minimizing roadway deterioration and consequent maintenance). The county has completed negotiations with SDGE and SDGE has agreed to pay for the vast lion’s share of the costs – as long as the construction can be integrated into the work for the Sunrise PowerLink project. With the approval of the California Public Utilities Commission, SDGE has begun issuing “Notices of Construction” for portions of the project. It seems that SDGE are not going to await the settlement of court challenges being raised against the project. With that in mind, I personally think the excavation of Alpine Boulevard is more or less imminent – starting before or around year’s end.

    I hope this recollection helps folks planning on attending the APG Subcommittee meeting Thursday. I hope there’s an acceptance of sorts that the design project is imperfect in the sense that not all individual wishes can always be accommodated in a plan that hopefully benefits the entire town. And hopefully there is also the realization that the work done by SDGE is not the end of the process. The community and the County will be working together to prepare the detail “Town Center Plan” for the future.

    I know this doesn’t help every instance where roadway improvements affect parking at certain shops. There may well be partial solutions that the business community can plan for; that could include sharing of parking, access and so on between generally neighboring businesses. I hope that such planning for mutual cooperation has started because the Sunrise PowerLink construction long Alpine Boulevard in my personal view poses extensive and prolonged traffic interruption to all of our town’s businesses. To that end, the Revitalization Committee for Community Development mailed, emailed and delivered to ~250 businesses a proposal to collaboratively work together to lessen the impact of the construction. So far, I believe less than 15 responded. But we’re hopeful more will eventually agree.

    These are my recollections and personal thoughts on this complex matter, Angela. I’m not speaking for the Alpine Planning Group, the County, or for SDGE. But I do want concerned folks to have a bit broader understanding of both the problems and opportunities the town has before it before they attend the APG Subcommittee meeting Thursday. I will not be able to attend, in part because a have a commitment with the Grossmont District concerning pushing the new Alpine high school project forward.

    Thanks.

    George

  4. well presented explanation of the current and future status of the Alpine and village center circulation plans. The only point I would like to point out is that we have explored the idea of a community development taxing district for sports fields and abandoned the plan because the cost to build the said fields would be triple if tax money was involved. Costs to build our needed sports facilities will be much less if funding comes from contributions in that prevailing wage restrictions would not be relevant. Mr. Barnett has done a terrific job on this entire project and we commend him for his efforts.

    Chuck Taylor

    President

    PLAY, Parkland for Alpine Youth, Inc. A non profit public benefit 501C-3 Corporation

    619-251-6998

  5. Pretty picture, if only the businesses had parking in back like the Alpine Inn does. Unfortunately, most of them do not. Look at the number of cars on the road. Don’t you immediately “assume”, looking at the picture, that this is just casual parking, not business parking?

    Our businesses, for the most part, do not have parking In the back, and will not survive the reduction in angled parking. Besides that, this picture is fiction because these business buildings would not be allowed to be built because they do not have adequate parking (county codes).

  6. The price of revitalization

    It takes some years to fully understand that there is a price for everything. Here’s my perspective on the “Trees on Alpine Blvd” issue:

    After the 2003 Firestorm Joe and Rita Sterling hosted a Peutz Valley community shelter of sorts, a place where we could go to share information helpful to restoring the lives of those who had lost their homes. Taking the framework of minds that were now open to change and the empowerment to “re-think” their environment, Joe, whose occupation was a business and community facilitator, hosted the meetings that George Barnett is speaking about. Peutz Valley was a forerunner to other community meetings that dreamt, envisioned and planned an Alpine that would work for everyone.

    In other words we can only blame ourselves for opening Pandora’s Box. Some of us would like to see the center of Alpine as a thriving, yet earth-friendly place for businesses as well as pedestrians. Then … who came along? SDG&E, who never miss an opportunity to exploit their growth and power, offering to pick up the tab on the biggest nonsense our town has ever had to address – the Sunrise Power Link Project.

    So, this is how “Progress” happens. It’s sort of like making coleslaw, and in this case Peutz Valley and other rural areas will be shredded. Your choice!

    -Wendy Padilla Fenner

    Peutz Valley resident since 1977

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