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 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
George Barnett BigG88882@cox.net