Saturday, March 23, 2019

PRNC to hear reports on BNSF diesels-in-Miller Knox and officer elections Weds.

POINT RICHMOND - A report about last Tuesday's East Bay Regional Park District meeting on Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad's plans to expand use of diesel engines and trains in Miller Knox Park will be part of Wednesday's regular meeting of the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council.
     The meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in the Point Richmond Community Center and is open to the public.
     The report on the EBRPD meeting will be given by the PRNC's Buzz Baylis who attended the meeting and was one of about dozen people who offered testimony opposing diesels in the park.
     Baylis is scheduled to give his report at about 8:50.
     The PRNC will also be discussing election of officers, a report from the Richmond Police Dept. and the newly opened Point Richmond Social Club.

Interior of the newly opened Point Richmond Social Club on S. Garrard

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Meeting next Thursday to discuss potential Interstate 80 traffic corridor improvements

   PINOLE - A town hall meeting to discuss opportunities to improve traffic along the Interstate 80 corridor will be held Thursday, March 28.
Assemblywoman Wicks
     The open-to-the-public meeting will include a panel discussion featuring  newly elected State Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, BART Director (District 7) Lateefah Simon, WestCAT Board Chair Chris Kelly, Pinole Councilman Roy Swearingen and WCCTAC Executive Director John Nemeth.
     The meeting will be from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Pinole Council Chambers, 2131 Pear Street, Pinole.
     In addition to the panel discussion, the representatives of the various agencies will be available to answer questions about local and regional transportation issues.
     For questions about the meeting, contact Uche Uwahemu in Assemblywoman Wick's office by telephone at 510-286-1400 or via email at:
     The event will be televised locally, Uwahemu said.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

EBRPD okays Miller Knox land use plan, vows to fight diesel trains in the park

     OAKLAND - The East Bay Regional Park District board of directors unanimously approved a land-use plan amendment for Miller Knox Park Tuesday.
     The board also vowed to fight Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad's stated intention of running diesel engines and railcars along the shoreline in the park from Point Richmond out to Ferry Point.
     At a standing-room only meeting at EBRPD headquarters, more than a dozen members of the public spoke in favor of the land use plan - and against BNSF.
     "They have not been good neighbors to Richmond," Jordan DeStaebler said of BNSF.
     In late February, the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council voted unanimously to oppose the railroad's plans. PRNC OPPOSES.
     Speaker after speaker spoke passionately about how important the park is to the community and that having diesel engines and railcars blocking public access to the water was simply unacceptable.    
     Several also spoke in favor of the section of the plan that calls for removal of abandoned tracks within the district's jurisdiction to allow for development of a section of the San Francisco Bay Trail between Keller Beach and Ferry Point.
     While no representatives of BNSF spoke at the meeting, EBRPD District Counsel Carol Victor said the district had just received a 17-page letter from the railroad's attorney's objecting to adoption of the plan.
     District Board member Colin Coffey - a practicing attorney in Walnut Creek - said he thought the letter was "at best fantasy, at worst dishonest."
     In an earlier letter to the board, BNSF's attorney L. John Nelson IV said expanding business operations required use of the tracks in Miller Knox Park.
BNSF's tracks along the shore at Miller Knox Park
     "BNSF has not recently operated trains within the easement area, but it has notified the Park District of its expanding business at Richmond Terminal, necessitating the reactivation of its rail use within the easement in the near future," Nelson said.
     Nelson is with the legal firm of Lewis, Brisbois, Bisgaard & Smith.
     BSNF's historic easement along the shore was contingent on the railroad having industrial customers to serve, several district officials commented during the meeting.
     But with no more industrial activity in that area - or any projected - the easement is not needed, they said.
     Audience member DeStaebler also testified that he believes if BNSF is simply looking for more space to shuttle freight cars, it could easily add track in its existing yards.
     The tracks BNSF said it wants to reactivate have been out of use for several decades.
     EBRPD Chair Ayn Wieskamp thanked the meeting participants and the public before declaring a recess.
     "We are doing the right thing," she said. "And we are going to need doers and supporters in this."

- Michael J. Fitzgerald

Sunday, March 17, 2019

East Bay Regional Park District to discuss BNSF plans to run diesels in Miller Knox

   OAKLAND - The East Bay Regional Park District board Tuesday is expected to discuss plans announced by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad to run diesel trains along the shoreline in Miller Knox Park.
     The discussion is expected to be part of the board's adoption of a new land use plan for Miller Knox.
     The railroad corporation's plans for trains in the park have already received a unanimous thumbs down from the Point Richmond Neighborhood Council at its Wednesday, Feb. 27 meeting. LINK: PRNC votes to oppose.
     KCBS radio ran a report on train proposal Saturday March 9: LINK to KCBS story.
Railcars being pulled into the tunnel to Miller Knox Park
     The EBRPD's Tuesday meeting is open to the public and begins at 1 p.m. at the district's headquarters, 2950 Peralta Oaks Court in Oakland.
     "It would be good for residents to show up to support the (land use) plan and oppose BNSF,"  Eric Zell of Point Richmond said. Zell is assisting the district in efforts to keep BNSF from running diesels through the park.
     BNSF is expected to show up to oppose the board's adoption of the new land use plan.
     The district's plan for improving the 295-acre park includes a major sprucing up of the lagoon, construction of more parking and picnic facilities and adding a path from Ferry Point to the lagoon trail.
     But BNSF says the railroad needs to use the shore for a rail line in an area where company  representatives say they hold rights to do so.
     "BNSF has not recently operated trains within the easement area, but it has notified the Park District of its expanding business at Richmond Terminals," attorney L. John Nelson said in a letter to the EBRPD. He said that expansion is "necessitating the reactivation of its rail use within the easement in the near future."
     "Near future" has not been defined specifically by BNSF and is likely to be part of questions the board will bring up.
     This Sunday (March 17) traffic was backed up on West Richmond Avenue for 20 minutes when BNSF used the tracks that run through the tunnel to the park.
     Board members are also expected to ask questions about details of how many trains, railcars and hours of operation BNSF is considering.

Cars were backed up for 20 minutes Sunday, March 17 on West Richmond

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Purim carnival & festival Sunday March 17

   RICHMOND - Temple Beth Hillel will hold an open-to-the-public Purim carnival Sunday, March 17 from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.
     Carnival attendees are encouraged to wear costumes and masks - and bring noisemakers for a fun-filled afternoon celebrating freedom from religious prosecution, carnival organizers say.
    There will be a reading of the Megillah - the biblical story of Esther - along with activities such as crafts and games.
    There will be home-baked goods and lunch available.
    Temple Beth Hillel is located in the Hilltop district at 801 Park Central.
    For more information, call 510-223-2560.