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Richmond Greenway - The Rest of the Story

I believe a story (see below) in today’s West County Times,Safety, privacy concerns halt work on portion of Greenway,” requires some additional explanation.

Based on information I obtained from the city engineer, Rich Davidson, the construction delay on Phase 2 of the Richmond Greenway was not due to major design issues or to re-think how to address concerns from the community but instead to determining the best way to install wiring for the lighting that will be theft-resistant and to install surveillance cameras on the trail.

Neighborhood concerns are important, and they are being addressed. Virtually all of the current neighborhood concerns were previously discussed in the 2003 Richmond Greenway Master Plan. See http://www.ci.richmond.ca.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=1072&DL=1, page 27, “Community Concerns.” The plan is being implemented pretty much as adopted.

The design includes an upgrade of the chain link fence that separates the Greenway from back yards from 6 feet to 8 feet, which was made at the specific request of the surrounding community. There may not be enough money to further upgrade the fence to a steel picket design. Chain link is what was used on the West (Phase 1) part of the Greenway, and it is not even 8 feet high.

Regarding access points, the Greenway 2003 Master Plan is not explicit about access points but specifically shows one only at 33rd Street. I believe the most recent plan is to provide locked gates at streets other than 33rd Street for police and maintenance access and let the neighborhoods decide whether or not to unlock them after the Greenway is completed or any time in the future.


Any criticism that there have been no community meetings prior top construction is unfounded. See pages 6 and 7 of the Richmond Greenway 2003 Master Plan, which list 27 public meetings in the period 2000-2002. There have been more since then. The comments from the public meetings (page 7) mirror some of those voiced recently by some of the neighbors.


Both in the six-year-old Master Plan and in recent meetings, there has been discussion about providing privacy between the Greenway and abutting rear yards. The Master Plan recommended vegetation on the fence or adjacent to it to ensure privacy of existing residents. I have recommended that abutting neighbors with privacy concerns be provided hardy, fast growing trees such as redwoods(Sequoia sempervirens), poplars (Populus fremontii) or Populus trichocarpa). Both typically grow at a rate of 2 feet or more a year and would quickly exceed the height of the 8 foot fences. These would be planted in the neighbor’s backyards, and they would help care for them, including watering them for the first year to get them estab,lished. I talked to Kemba Shakur from Urban Releaf who said they could plant the trees employing Richmond residents. Urban Releaf has a $500,000 grant for trees in Richmond. I also encouraged the City to consider planting native vines, such as Western Virgin’s Bower (Clematis ligusticifolia). Some other choices might be morning glory (Calystegia spp), chaparral clematis (Clematis lasiantha) or California wild grape (Vitis californica). I’m sure the Watershed Nursery located in Point Richmond on City property would help with this.


Urban Releaf may be contacted at:

Urban Releaf
835 57th Street, Oakland CA 94608
117 Park Place, Richmond, CA 94801
T 510-601-9062 | F 510-228-0391
E info@urbanreleaf.org | http://urbanreleaf.org

Despite neighborhood concerns about crime, which are legitimate but based on long experience with the status quo, the prevailing wisdom is that the Greenway will be an asset to the neighborhood and probably reduce crime. Currently, the Greenway route is simply an abandoned, weed-infested, trash strewn former railroad right-of-way. There is supposed to be no public access, and anyone within the route is actually trespassing.  When it is completed, the Greenway will provide additional surveillance from legitimate users. Where there are currently no lights, it will be lighted at night, and there will be surveillance cameras. Weeds will be replaced by native grasses and landscaping maintained by the City of Richmond. Some or all portions of the trail will adopted by businesses and other organizations to provide additional amenities and care. Examples can be seen on the Phase 1 portion of the Greenway where several community gardens have sprung up.

Many studies have concluded that urban trails increase safety, increase property values, and make neighborhoods more attractive and desirable. For examples, see http://www.americantrails.org/resources/adjacent/sumadjacent.html and http://www.americantrails.org/resources/adjacent/OmahaStudy.html.

If you want to help make the Greenway a success, join Friends of the Richmond Greenway.

Safety, privacy concerns halt work on portion of Greenway

By Katherine Tam
West County Times

Posted: 05/12/2009 03:55:40 PM PDT

Updated: 05/12/2009 07:33:09 PM PDT


Construction of the eastern stretch of a planned walking and bicycling trail through Richmond has come to a halt amid neighborhood concerns.

Residents living adjacent to where the Greenway is planned, especially those whose backyards abut the trail, worry about safety and privacy. They do not want the city to open up streets, many of them dead ends, to create trail openings where pedestrians would be able to enter the path. In particular, they worry about the prospect of strangers and criminal activity near their homes.

"There are homes sitting right there on the trail," said Naomi Williams, Pullman Neighborhood president.

Officials have nixed 35th Street as a trail opening and will instead open the trail at 33rd Street, where there is already more traffic, City Engineer Rich Davidson said. Officials are considering abandoning other planned openings at 39th, 41st and 44th streets but have made no final decisions, he said.

Davidson did not know when these details would be resolved or when construction would resume.

The Richmond Greenway is a planned 3-mile trail surrounded by open space, designed to run along the abandoned Santa Fe railroad parallel to Ohio Avenue. It eventually will connect to the San Francisco Bay Trail to the west and the Ohlone Greenway in El Cerrito to the east, creating a seamless path for commuters and those out for recreation.

Financial and political hurdles spanning 25 years threatened the project before construction began in 2006. The western end of the trail from Garrard Boulevard to 23rd Street opened in May 2007.

The $1.3 million construction of the eastern portion from Carlson Boulevard to behind the Target store on Macdonald Avenue near 45th Street began earlier this spring.

Most of the trail is slightly elevated, but part of it drops down to meet local streets, mostly in the Pullman and Park Plaza neighborhoods.

Officials have changed the fence location so it is closer to the trail, which they think will alleviate safety concerns. They also have plans to repair drainage issues.

But some say the efforts aren't enough. Residents are seeking an 8-foot-tall wrought-iron fence between the trail and private backyards. A wrought-iron fence would be harder to scale and harder to cut than a chain-link fence, Williams said.

Police Chief Chris Magnus could not say whether crime increased at the western portion of the Greenway after the path was built.

Of safety along the Greenway, he said: "The Greenway takes on whatever characteristics of the area it's located."

Meanwhile, the city is still trying to complete two small but key gaps along the Greenway: a crossing at 23rd Street to connect the east and west Greenway segments, and another crossing at San Pablo Avenue linking to the Ohlone Greenway.

Reach Katherine Tam at 510-262-2787 or ktam@bayareanewsgroup.com.