"AROUND SUNOL" by BREE K. JAMES


November 26

SUNOL CONTIUED TO BE the "most meetings per capita" capitol of the Bay Area while I was on my little sabbatical from writing this column. The Times has kept you abreast of some of them but there is always a more personal side to such meetings, and that's where your community chatterbox, er, uh, columnist comes in.

At the October 26 school board meeting, for example, newly elected trustee Bob Foster made some very touching remarks. "At first," he said, "everyone was talking about the recall. But then something happened. People began to want to get to know me and were interested in me as the right person to do this. It's the nicest thing that's ever happened to me."

Foster then presented flowers to "the women behind the man," his wife and mother. When trustee and new board president Gerry Beemiller joked that they had to hurry the meeting along because he was on his lunch hour from work - the meeting was at noon on a Friday - Foster got up and returned with a big tray of veggies and dip for his colleagues, and later, the audience, to snack upon.

There are still some thorny issues to address, and the healing process will likely continue for some time, but the atmosphere was positive and productive, and at moments, downright silly. At one point, Beemiller actually broke into song. Trust me, nobody has been singing at school board meetings during the past year, and the relief and good humor in the room was tangible.

At a November 6 meeting with Supervisors Haggerty and Steele and representatives of the county Public Works Agency, an update was presented on the Transportation for Living Communities (TLC) grant the county applied for on Sunol's behalf last spring. That application was denied and revisions must be made to submit the application again this March.

Robin Engeman, chairperson of the Sunol Traffic and Safety Committee, said, "It is so frustrating to be having the same discussion with the county that we have been having about these issues for almost two years with no action." Among the concerns discussed and debated once again are the rush hour commuter traffic flow through Sunol, crosswalks, street lighting, and the ever-in-demand stop sign on the Route 84 east bound exit to Main St.

County representative Bob Preston stated the traffic count did not meet the requirements for a stop sign at this location. Groans ensued. Thankfully, Supervisor Steele suggested that an administrative decision to overrule this requirement might be in order. Mr. Preston stated this could be done and Supervisor Steele has begun a follow-up with Cal Trans and Alameda Public Works. New drawings and descriptions will be made in preparation for the new grant application, and there will doubtless be more meetings and, yes, more frustration, before we're through.

Sentiments were similar at the November 13 meeting regarding scenic highway status for Route 84. The road was made eligible for the special designation by a bill authored by Assemblywoman Delaine Easton in 1989. The process has limped along these dozen years, with no noticeable activity at all since 1993. The ball has finally been picked up again by county planner Lisa Asche, transportation planner Cindy Horvath, and consultant Jay Claiborne of JWC Urban Design.

The three explained the status of the project, the steps necessary to complete it, the elements of protection afforded Scenic Highways, and the role of community input in the process. The audience had many questions about the impact of the designation on the potential quarrying of Water Temple Field, development on the Vargas Plateau, and, of course, why this is all taking so long.

The meeting served to get a good dialog going between the citizens and the project presenters. Asche, Horvath and Claiborne agreed they needed to research the historical and political issues the audience brought up. Stressing that this was the first of numerous such meetings, they promised to come back with answers to many of the questions raised. The next meeting is planned for early spring.

 

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