Meeting Notes, Mar 28, 2024

Watch replay here


East Richmond Heights MAC Presentation
Adams Middle School Update
Dollar Tree Update
McBryde Ave. Safe Roads to Parks Project
City Community Budget Meetings for Public Comment
General Updates
Action Items

Meeting Notes

Attendees (21): Jim Hanson, Nick Despota, Heather Bristow, Jon Sargent, Claudia Jiminez, Joann Pavlinec, Adele Ho, Buzz Vandershoot, Barbara Tanaka, Diane Adams, Ena Ferdinand, Jennifer Mills, Jim Sanders, Kristen Law, Lory Poulson, Michele Rappaport, Owen & Shirlee Martin, Rita Barouch, Susan Wehrle, Mike (last name not listed).

East Richmond Heights Presentation

Jon Sargent, Chair of East Richmond Heights Municipal Advisory Council (MAC) joined us to discuss common interests as our neighbors in East Richmond Heights and Hasford Heights. The Richmond Heights MAC serves as the advisory council to Supervisor John Gioia for neighbors who reside above Arlington Avenue.

    1. Wildcat Canyon Wildfire Group should reconvene again. Residents are encouraged to participate in the group for this coming fire season.
    2. Volunteers are needed for the East Richmond Heights Art and Music Festival: Sat July 27th, in front of the Gyuto Temple on Bernhard Ave. Restrooms will be available at the Gyuto Temple.
    3. Reach out to Jon Sargent with volunteer availability and/or common neighborhood interests at:, (510) 233-648.
    4. They meet every other month, on the 3rd Weds @ 6:30pm to discuss rotating topics including traffic concerns, reckless driving, potholes, County Fire, Sheriff’s Department, Highway Patrol, the Land Use Committee, The County General Plan, disaster preparedness, and historic presentations.

Adams Middle School

Last week, the School District’s “7-11 Committee” hosted a tour of the Adams Middle School Site. A local publication, Grandview Independent, wrote an informative article about it here.

Joann Pavlinec is on the MAC and has worked in urban planning for almost 20 years. The County’s draft General Plan increases the density on the Adams site from about 6-8 units per net acre to 10-30 units per net acre, and signifies the site to be mixed-use. She spoke to the significance of early community engagement with any development on the Adams site, including:

    • A Community Design Workshop: these are public meetings commonly used to provide open and creative collaboration between designers, community members, and any other stakeholders in the project. They’re often used to help resolve a feasible and actionable solution to an issue. Typically day-long, these workshops are led by consultants hired by the jurisdiction. Participants brainstorm in break-out groups on what they’d like to see on the site, including different project layouts.
    • Design Guidelines and Standards: these are photo and illustration-rich documents prepared by an architect to guide the School District and any developer on the look and character of the project’s buildings, circulation, and landscape within the East Richmond area and neighborhood.

Adele Ho suggested more than one day of Community Design Workshops. She and neighbors have also requested language in the General Plan that says that any development should include community input on designs that blend with the existing neighborhood. She also noted that schools are reviewed by the State architect (not the County), which points to how removed the process can become, thus more reason to include early community involvement.

The 7-11 Committee isn’t involved in the design of the eventual development. Joann Pavlinec recommended getting assistance from Will Nelson at the County and John Gioia’s office on how to proceed with early neighborhood involvement through design workshops and in the design guidelines.

Dollar Tree Update

Along with several neighbors, we saw construction activity was taking place at Barrett and San Pablo Avenue, the site approved – with conditions – for a Dollar Tree store. A check of the online City permit webpage revealed that the City recently approved “tenant occupancy improvements” by the Dollar Tree corporation at this site. We therefore invited the City’s project Planner to share the Traffic Safety Study required by the City Council following our appeal of the Conditional Use Permit, but no Traffic Safety Study has been done. Below are more details.

Background: Two years ago the Design Review Board and Planning Commission both approved property owners applications for a Dollar Tree store at Barrett and San Pablo despite neighbors’ strong opposition and issues with an intensive retail operation at this location. The Planning Department recommended approval of the project as an acceptable use stating that it complies with “Commercial Mixed-Use, Gateway Node” zoning for the property. Numerous issues were raised by the neighborhood council and neighbors, including the inadequacy of the traffic studies for this high intensive use on this segment of San Pablo that also directly adjoins residences (note; the Dollar Tree was allowed to conduct the traffic study). The Planning Commission approved the project with minor changes to the Conditional Use Permit.

The Neighborhood Council filed an appeal of the Planning Commission’s decision and it was heard by the City Council on March 1, 2022. Each of the Neighborhood Council’s changes to the Conditional Use Permit passed the City Council on a motion by Councilmember Claudia Jimenez (YES: Jimenez, McLaughlin, Martinez, Bates, Johnson, Willis was absent, NO: Butt). To operate here, the applicants would need to implement the results of a thorough traffic safety analysis to address the safety issues entering/existing the property’s driveway entrance, design and implement controls on any traffic that would try to use McLaughlin St to head south, control noise, prevent lighting glare to neighbors, close the store at 8PM (instead of 10PM), allow truck deliveries only to 9PM, and change several signs.

It’s no mistake that, given the lack of an adequate analysis and mitigation for traffic safety issues in the planning process, first priority was that requirement for a traffic safety analysis with mitigations be first reviewed by neighbors before store opening with final determinations made by the Planning Director so that they could be implemented as part of tenant occupancy improvements.

We invited Senior Planner Hector Lopez to the March meeting expecting that a traffic safety study would be completed to be reviewed. However, we received an email back indicating that the City does not yet have a traffic safety study and suggesting that the Dollar Tree corporation would be doing it. We believe this contradicts the intent of a new requirement added into the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to have a traffic safety completed, reviewed by neighbors, specified by the Planning Director, and implemented with any construction on the site.

How Dollar Tree passed: Zoning basically allows private property owners to develop and occupy properties with certain uses, except that certain reasonable conditions can be applied to foster compatible development between different uses that is consistent with the city’s General Plan. It was also visibly evident to everyone involved in this that the owners were represented by an attorney at every step.

In other words, despite overwhelming opposition from East Richmond residents, unless there’s an ordinance against dollar stores in place, the City has very little to no power to prevent Dollar Tree from ultimately moving in, and refusing their business could potentially open the City to a lawsuit.

Barring an ordinance, if a property has been zoned for a certain use, the only power the City (and Neighborhood Council) ultimately has is: 1) a Conditional Use Permit with very specific conditions that need to be met to proceed and stay in operation, which can be reopened at any point in the future if Conditions do not continue to be met after the store opens; 2) As a group of neighborhood council members, push City Council for a moratorium on any new dollar stores, to prevent this from happening again nearby (or again in this location, particularly if the Dollar Tree leaves or goes out of business).

Dollar Tree Follow-up Meeting

On April 9, 2024  East Richmond Neighborhood Council officers Jim Hanson, Nick Despota, and Heather Bristow met with Planning Director Lina Velasco and Senior Planner Hector Lopez and with Councilmember Claudia Jiminez at city offices to discuss unmet conditions of the Dollar Tree CUP. We added some new requests in light of the City permitting the Dollar Tree to proceed with construction absent traffic safety measures reviewed the Neighborhood Council, mandated by the Planning Director, and in place as part of any tenant occupancy improvements:

    1. That the City be the one that conducts and oversees the traffic safety study to avoid a conflict of interest. One of the major issues we raised from the beginning is that the City relied on a traffic safety study by Dollar Tree that glossed over traffic issues we and neighbors reported at this location.* We also requested a meeting with the City’s traffic consultant to communicate our neighbors’ specific concerns as outlined in the appeal letter (the city does not have a traffic engineer position).
    2. A pole-mounted camera be mounted on the west side of San Pablo Ave, aimed at the parking lot exit/entry and the DT store entrance. Camera recordings could provide RPD, the Planning Dept., and Public Works visual data to observe traffic behavior, including safety issues that require additional measures.
    3. A baseline traffic count: A car traffic counter be installed at Roosevelt and San Pablo to take a baseline traffic count before the store opens, and over six months after the store is open, to determine if the City’s measures to control store traffic into the neighborhoods is effective, or needs added controls. Traffic volume at this location would be shared with the Neighborhood Council and as requested by neighbors.
    4. A baseline sound measurement: Take independent baseline decibel measurements over several weeks before the store opens for neighbors surrounding the loading dock and parking lot (in the evenings when construction work is not taking place), and that these readings be compared once the commercial soundwall is constructed at the loading dock.
    5. Signage: Dollar Tree signage must revise and comply with CUP specs for height, placement, and illumination (including a non-lit sign on south-facing wall). Current signage plans, per plan sheet A1.1 dated 5.4.22:
      • 24” tall at street
      • 30” tall facing parking lot
      • Unilluminated logo only on Barrett Ave at front corner of building (per graphic in neighborhood council’s appeal letter).
    6. Lighting – Control Total Lumens: We are requesting a redetermination of the Planning Department’s application of the Building Code concerning lighting in this project to code specifications of 20,000 maximum total lumens for “Mixed Use and Residential.” Also, that the City notify the applicants of the maximum lighting lumens allowed, that the applicant submit a lighting plan that complies with this requirement, and that the plan be shared with East Richmond Neighborhood Council with associated details on lighting fixtures and compliance with the CUP.
    7. Crime Prevention: That the City schedule a follow up review by RPD Crime Prevention on crime deterrence measures that will be instituted by DT, and re-review the window visibility requirements into the store so that police can see into the store and protect the public in the event of  any potential incident.The Neighborhood Council looks forward to a detailed response from the City to these requests. Additionally, there are a few takeaways from the meeting. 1) It was made clear that the CUP can be re-opened at any point in the future, and that this is the point of a CUP – the conditions must continue to be met while the business is in operation. 2) The need for a median/barrier to prevent southbound cars taking a left turn off San Pablo Ave to enter the property parking lot is still a concern for the City and Neighborhood Council.*At the Neighborhood Council meeting, it was also noted changed street conditions with the recent repaving on San Pablo Ave. A solid white stripe line was added by Caltrans on San Pablo Avenue for the right hand lane leading to the freeway onramp. While not illegal in California, crossing a solid white line is discouraged because it’s considered unsafe. Yet, using this exit/entrance driveway requires patrons to cross traffic entering this onramp lane, often going at high speeds.

McBryde Ave Safe Roads to Parks Project

In summer of 2022, the Neighborhood Council voted in support for the City’s application for a McBryde Ave Safe Roads to Parks Project. Council President, Jim Hanson, also distributed project maps to McBryde residents, several of whom supplied support letters to the City. While the City’s application is funded, Councilmember Jimenez said that, according to a recent update from the Deputy for Public Works, the city will first need to comply with additional requirements arising from Federal funding before work can proceed, therefore their estimate is that the project can be bid and constructed in 2025-2026 (Note: at the Tuesday, 4/16 Council meeting, Public Works provided an update in their list of 84 scheduled projects that shows a new schedule for the McBryde project – 15 months for design starting in 2025, followed by a 9 month bid process, and construction during 2027). In the meantime, potholes will be repaired until the McBryde project begins. There is a description of the project in this article from the Grandview Independent.

    1. Local resident Ena Ferdinand has a wealth of knowledge on the McBryde Ave traffic and pedestrian safety issues that burden McBryde Ave. To support her neighborhood improvement efforts on McBryde, email Ena at:

City Budget Meetings happening now. For additional traffic/pedestrian safety issues in other areas (i.e. Solano Ave was brought up), NOW is a great time to be vocalCity staff will begin drafting the budget this month, with budget presentations in May, and approvals in June. 

    1. Community Budget Meeting on April 24 @ 5:30pm. A brief rundown on the City’s finances, with opportunities to ask questions and make comments.
    2. If you have a traffic issue in or near your neighborhood, submit it on Public Work’s online Traffic Calming Program webpage. If several inquiries are reported about a specific issue, it’s inherently likely to receive more attention.
    3. Councilmember Jiminez has informed us that she wants the Council to bring in grant writers to apply for traffic improvement funds that the City of Richmond is well-positioned to receive, but currently lacks the staffing to prepare the often complex applications. She also raised the proposal for a Traffic Division with staff dedicated to work on traffic calming and issues. Currently, the engineer has 13 other public works projects in addition to the 18 traffic calming projects added by the Council in 2022, of which two have reportedly been completed. The Public Works director reported that they have been building up the department’s engineering staff from a very small remaining staff since he joined.

General Updates

  • Home Electrification Fair: April 20th, 2pm – 5pm @ Brower Center, Berkeley. Nonprofits are giving information about rebates and credits for home electrification projects such as induction stoves, heat pumps, water heaters, or other projects that involve moving away from gas. Contractors will also be present to discuss costs.
  • A member announced that Councilmember Claudia Jiminez will be launching her re-election campaign with music, tapas, guests, and childrens activities on Friday April 12th, 5pm, at the Richmond Art Center.
  • The 7-11 Committee met again on April 9th to continue planning around the Adams Middle School site.
  • The next two East Richmond Neighborhood Council meetings: April 25th and May 23rd, 7-8pm.
  • General Reminder: East Richmond Neighborhood Council meets the last Thursday of the month @ 7-8pm, for 6-8 months of the year (not including Summer months and November and December). We are tentatively scheduled for January, February, March, April, May, June, September, and October every year, though this schedule is subject to change.
  • Look for Meeting Minutes via the newsletter after each meeting. They’ll also be posted to the website.
  • Encourage neighbors to join the East Richmond Neighborhood Council mailing list for meeting reminders, meeting minutes, and the most up-to-date developments.
  • Dumpster Day Reminder: Sat, August 20th. Four-five people will be needed to help direct traffic. More planning to come as we get closer to the date.

Quick & Impactful Action Items for Neighbors

  1. Budget Meetings: Now is the time to be vocal about additional budget and traffic safety improvements for the City. Staff will begin drafting the budget this month, with budget presentations to the Council in May, and budget approval in June. Next (and last) Community Budget Meeting for public comment: April 24th @ 5:30pm.
  2. Traffic Calming Division of Staff and Grant Writers: Councilmember Jiminez has informed us that she wants the Council to bring in grant writers to apply for traffic improvement funds that the City of Richmond is well-positioned to receive, but currently lacks the staffing to prepare the often complex applications. She also raised the proposal for a Traffic Division with staff dedicated to work on traffic calming issues, particularly the 18 traffic calming projects added by the Council in 2022, of which two have reportedly been completed due to impacted workload and staff.

If you want to support these proposals, the best next step, according to Councilmember Jiminez, is to make public comment at
1) the next Community Budget Meeting, and
2) an upcoming City Council meeting in May (date TBD) for City budget allocation. In your comment, ask for:
• A dedicated division of staff within Public Works to deliver already approved and newly requested traffic calming projects.
• Grant Writer staff to obtain federal funding that Richmond is well-positioned to receive.